Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

King Cake for Mardi Gras

King Cake is a brioche dough with a ribbon of brown sugar cinnamon (or praline sugar) running through it, baked in an oval shape, glazed with royal icing, and sprinkled with Mardi Gras colors.

By The Pastry Chef's Baking / February 12, 2013

The colored sugar sprinkles topping King Cakes for Mardi Gras each have a meaning: purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.

The Pastry Chef's Baking


Happy Mardi Gras! During my recent culinary trip to New Orleans, my friend Jen who lives locally brought me, among other things, a slice of King Cake from Gambino's Bakery. There's nothing like tasting authentic king cake from a fabulous bakery during Mardi Gras season. 

Skip to next paragraph

The Pastry Chef’s Baking

Carol Ramos trained to be a pastry chef at the Culinary Institute of America and has her certification in baking and pastry arts, but she has never baked professionally. Baking is just something she loves to do. Her blog chronicles her baking odyssey as she tests out different recipes. Her goals are to share her love of baking and convert people into becoming bakers, one dessert at a time.

Recent posts

And then I did something unusual. I bought a cake mix. Yes. Even though I usually bake all my desserts from scratch, a mix seemed like the easiest way to try and make a King Cake mix on my own at home.

RECOMMENDED: 13 Mardi Gras recipes

There are plenty of recipes out there for making King Cake from scratch.  And someday I want to try this one from Emeril Lagasse. Even though I eschew cake mixes, I broke down and bought one for two reasons: (1) it was locally made and certified to have been made in Louisiana, (2) I didn't want to go out and buy purple, green, and yellow sugars separately. It's much easier to get them all in one package.

King Cake is essentially a brioche dough, with a ribbon of brown sugar cinnamon (or praline sugar) running through it, baked in an oval shape, glazed with royal icing, and sprinkled with Mardi Gras colors. Tradition decrees that a plastic baby (or sometimes a pecan) is hidden among the slices and whoever finds that plastic baby in their piece is responsible for hosting the next round of Mardi Gras parties. 

Note to any novice bakers: Do not bake the plastic baby inside with the cake, it will melt and make your cake unsafe to eat! The baby is usually tucked underneath the slice of cake after baking and serving.  I'm a personal fan of the Mardi Gras colors and I like a good brioche as much as the next person so it's hard not to like King Cake.

The mix made for a soft dough, which was a little concerning but I followed the instructions to the letter and hoped for the best.  After the first rising, the dough was still soft so I had to flour it liberally to handle it. I didn't bother with a rolling pin since it was so soft and I was able to shape it out into a rectangle with my hands, brush it with melted butter, sprinkle the praline sugar all over it and roll it up, jelly roll style.  With careful handling, it wasn't too hard to bring the ends together to form an oval and pinch the edges shut. Then I let it rise a second time until it had doubled in size before setting in the oven to bake. 

I didn't bother brushing with egg wash to make it brown nicely since it was going to get covered in glaze anyway.  The glaze packet also came with the mix and was likely just powdered sugar. I added vanilla and a little milk to until it was the consistency I wanted.  The fun part was sprinkling the colored sugars on top: purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.
The King Cake from the mix actually wasn't bad. It was a little more cake-y than the one from Gambino's bakery in New Orleans, but still tasty and the "cake" (more like a brioche) was complemented nicely by both the sweetness of the glaze and the crunch of the colored sugars. 

Next time I definitely want to make one from scratch and see how it turns out.

RECOMMENDED: 13 Mardi Gras recipes

Read about The Pastry Chef's Baking culinary trip to New Orleans here.

Sign-up to receive a weekly collection of recipes from Stir It Up! by clicking here.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of food bloggers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by The Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own and they are responsible for the content of their blogs and their recipes. All readers are free to make ingredient substitutions to satisfy their dietary preferences, including not using wine (or substituting cooking wine) when a recipe calls for it. To contact us about a blogger, click here.


  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer


Doing Good


What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!