Monday, February 20, 2012

Tara's King's Cake

Mardi Gras! Fat Tuesday! The day that winds up the official Carnival season that started in January. It's not too late to whip up a cake now and enjoy a slice with the great reading material you can download.

The official day for the beginning of the Carnival season is Twelfth Night -- twelve days after Christmas. In European countries, the coming of the Wise Men bearing gifts to the Christ Child is celebrated on Epiphany, or Twelfth Night. People would gather to exchange gifts and celebrate. One of the most popular customs was the baking of a special cake in honor of the three kings -- A King’s Cake. The Europeans hid a bean in the cake, and the person receiving the bean must portray one of the kings. Latin Americans put a small figure inside the cake representing the Christ Child. Good fortune awaits the lucky person who gets the figure. In Louisiana, they want to make sure the celebration continues year after year. If you find the baby in the King’s Cake, you are responsible for next year’s King’s Cake.  

The traditional King’s Cake is a biroche style coffee cake made in a circular shape, representing a crown, and is decorated with a sugar icing and colored sugar sprinkles in the Mardi Gras colors of purple (for justice), green (for faith), and gold (for power).

This cake should not be prepared or served before Twelfth Night (January 6) or after Mardi Gras day!

King’s Cake

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 to 5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind (orange rind works fine!)
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
  • 5 egg yolks
  • Cinnamon (depends on taste)
  • 1 King Cake Baby (or dried bean, or pecan half)
Preheat the oven 350 degrees when you set cake to raise.
Combine the warm water, yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside to a warm place for about 10 minutes. Combine the 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, nutmeg lemon (or orange) rind and add warm milk, melted butter, egg yolks and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top.
Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch down dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a large rectangle, about 30 inches long. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Shape the dough into a cylinder, about 30 inches long. Place the cylinder on a buttered baking sheet. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Press the King Cake Baby, pecan half or dried bean into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. (preheat oven)
Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow the cake to cool. For the glaze: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. Drizzle cake with the glaze. Sprinkle with sugar crystals, alternating colors.
  • 3 Cups Confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 - 6 Tbsp water.

Combine sugar, lemon juice and 3 Tbsp. water. Mix until smooth. If icing is too stiff, add more water, little at time, until spreadable. Spread icing over top of cake. Immediately sprinkle colored sugars in individual rows, consisting of about 2 rows, of green, purple and yellow.

The cake is served in 2” - 3” pieces


  1. I'm glad to discover that finding the baby in your slice of cake only means you have to bring the cake next year. I can handle that. When I bit into my slice yesterday and found the baby, I was afraid it meant I was going to have one within the next year. I tried to give it back. LOL

  2. LOL, Susan. Happy you found the baby though. This is a great recipe. Have fun making your cake next year. Thanks for visiting!

  3. Tara, what a wonderful recipe and all the history behind the cake. Sounds so scrumptious. You're our master baker. :)

    1. Only because I can't find other baked goods I like. You would think that would be enough to steer clear of them.

  4. This sounds really good. Love a cake with history...ok love any cake.