9 King Cake Recipes That Reign Over Mardi Gras
Colorful, ring-shaped king cake is the essential Mardi Gras dessert. King cakes vary from baker to baker, but their dough tends to resemble brioche or French bread. We're sharing our favorite king cake recipes with plenty of tips to help you make one for your Fat Tuesday festivities. And, we've included some tidbits about this traditional pastry so you'll know what to say when people ask you about it.
The tradition behind the king cake
The king cake tradition began in France in the 19th century. The cake's three colors represent justice (purple), faith (green), and power (gold). The cake's ring shape, too, is significant, symbolizing the unity of all Christians as well as the shape of a king's crown.
Why the plastic toy baby?
Mardi Gras season begins on the Epiphany, a Christian feast day that commemorates the Magi (the three kings) meeting the infant Jesus. The plastic baby that people add to king cakes represents the Christ child. Today, people of all faiths enjoy king cakes between Twelfth Night (Epiphany) and Mardi Gras.
It doesn't have to be a baby
Just insert the toy baby into the cake while the cake is still slightly warm from the oven. The icing and sugar decoration should cover your tracks. If you're worried about a choking hazard, substitute an orange wedge or pecan halves for the toy. In fact, before plastic babies, bakers added dried peas, pecans, beans, coins, and other small trinkets to the cake to bestow wealth and luck — and to decide the Mardi Gras king and queen.
You can't go wrong with a classic. Cut into this king cake to find a delicious cream-cheese filling.
Buttermilk King Cake with Cream Cheese Filling
"Not too sweet, not too bready, with a rich, tender crumb and the traditional lemon/nutmeg flavors of a genuine NOLA king cake. Great with coffee. Best eaten same day but pretty darn good the day after. Enjoy, y'all!" — mississippimarion
King Cake in a Bread Machine
Here's a non-traditional way to make a very traditional cake. Use your bread machine to mix and knead the dough. Fill the dough with a buttery cinnamon-pecan filling.
Super Easy Mardi Gras King Cake
King cake on the quick! Prepared sweet-roll dough and colorful frostings speed up the cake-making process. "Beads, additional plastic babies, curly ribbon, and other festive trinkets can be used to decorate the cake." —BUDDHAFULDREAMER
Galette des Rois
In France, Galette des Rois (translation: king cake) is baked during the pre-Lenten season. The tradition behind this dessert includes hiding a bean or fève (a small trinket) in the cake, recipe creator ULYBERT explains: "The person who finds the fève in his or her slice becomes king or queen for the day."
Slim Fit King Cake
This colorful king cake has less sugar than the traditional cake and calls for reduced fat margarine instead of butter. Banana and pineapple give the cream-cheese filling a fun, fruity twist.
King Cake Cupcakes
Vanilla, nutmeg, lemon, and buttermilk flavor these cupcakes, which take less time to bake than king cake.
Mardi Gras King Cake
"Better than bakeries! Living and eating in New Orleans for my entire life I was a bit skeptical if I could actually pull off a king cake," writes New Orleans local and home cook Laur5270, who recommends omitting the raisins to make the recipe more traditional.
The Best Cream Cheese King Cake
With sour cream baked into the dough, a praline-cream cheese filling, and a creamy vanilla glaze, this king cake tastes extra decadent.