Mardi Gras King Cake


King cake is a New Orleans tradition that involves a pastry, a tiny plastic baby, and a party! The cake is baked with a tiny plastic baby hidden inside; whoever gets the slice with the baby in it has to host the next party. Make sure to buy a new tiny plastic baby so you can get the full effect from this cake! Sprinkle with purple, green, and gold sugar, or decorate with whole pecans and candied cherries. 

Prep Time:
45 mins
Cook Time:
30 mins
Additional Time:
3 hrs
Total Time:
4 hrs 15 mins
2 cakes

Let the good times roll with this authentic king cake recipe! The famous Mardi Gras dessert is surprisingly easy to make at home.

Mardi Gras King Cake with purple, yellow, and green icing

What Is a King Cake?

A king cake is a type of cake that's associated with Mardi Gras, New Orleans, and parts of the Gulf Coast. It's a ring-shaped pastry that's usually covered in icing, then topped with yellow and purple edible glitter or sprinkles. The cake traditionally contains a porcelain or plastic baby that is supposed to bring good luck to whoever winds up with it in their slice.

King Cake Tradition

The tradition of the king cake dates back to the Middle Ages. It was originally made to celebrate the Catholic Epiphany, a.k.a. Three Kings Day. French settlers brought the cake (and the traditions behind it) to Louisiana in the 1800s. So what's the meaning behind the baby?

Some say the tiny token represents the Baby Jesus, while others believe it comes from another Louisiana tradition of hiding a bean or trinket in one slice of cake during the king's ball — whoever found the trinket would be crowned the "king" or "queen" of the ball. Regardless of its origins, the baby is said to bring good luck and prosperity.

How to Make King Cake

You'll find the step-by-step recipe below, but here's a brief overview of what you can expect:

1. Make the pastry and activate the yeast.
2. Add the pastry to the yeast mixture and whisk in the eggs. Stir in remaining sugar, salt, and nutmeg.


· Be sure to tell everyone to inspect their piece of cake before they begin eating it or use a plastic toy baby that is too large to swallow.
· You can also hide an orange wedge (or three to four pecan halves) inside the cake to avoid items that may hurt someone's teeth. Place the toy baby on top of the cake for all to see and adore!

close up view of a Mardi Gras King Cake
Jann Elaine Eleodinmuo

How to Store King Cake

Store your leftover king cake in an airtight container at room temperature for two to three days.

Can You Freeze King Cake?

Yes, you can freeze unfrosted king cake. Wrap each slice individually in storage wrap, then follow it up with at least one layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to three months.

Allrecipes Community Tips and Praise

"This is a great recipe, a family favorite," says Lisa Kotyko. "The only modification I make is to double the filling recipe. Can't have too many pecans. Scrumptious."

"I have been making this recipe for a while," according to Erin Reeves Denk. "It is easy and delicious! And I am from Louisiana and it tastes like home."

"Easy recipe with helpful video that I really appreciated," raves Maddie Lynn. "I subbed pistachios for the pecans and dried cranberries for the raisins. The finished pastry was much like a coffee cake, light and tasty. I'll definitely make it again."

Editorial contributions by Corey Williams



  • 1 cup milk

  • ¼ cup butter

  • cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

  • ½ cup white sugar, divided

  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt

  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  • 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour


  • 1 cup packed brown sugar

  • cup chopped pecans

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour

  • ½ cup raisins

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

  • ½ cup melted butter


  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar

  • 1 tablespoon water

  • 1 plastic baby doll


  1. Make pastry: Scald milk over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.

  2. Stir together warm water, 1 tablespoon white sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

  3. Add cooled milk mixture to yeast mixture and whisk in eggs. Stir in remaining white sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Beat flour, 1 cup at a time, into milk/egg mixture. Once dough comes together, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.

  4. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl; turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.

  5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

  6. Make filling: Combine brown sugar, pecans, flour, raisins, and cinnamon in a bowl. Pour melted butter on top and mix until crumbly.

  7. Roll each piece of dough into a 10x16-inch rectangle. Sprinkle filling evenly over dough and roll up tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at a wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval-shaped rings.

  8. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors, make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1-inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

  9. Bake in the preheated oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Check often for doneness so the ring doesn't overbake.

  10. Make glaze: Stir together confectioners' sugar and water in a bowl until smooth.

  11. Push doll into bottom of one warm cake. Drizzle glaze over both warm cakes.

    round iced cake with purple, gold, green sugars


Be sure to tell everyone to inspect their piece of cake before they begin eating it. To be extra careful, use a plastic toy baby that is too large to swallow, or hide an orange wedge or 3 to 4 pecan halves inside the cake (avoiding items that may hurt someone's teeth), and then place the honorable toy baby on top of the cake for all to see and adore!

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

418 Calories
13g Fat
69g Carbs
7g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 16
Calories 418
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 13g 17%
Saturated Fat 6g 31%
Cholesterol 47mg 16%
Sodium 301mg 13%
Total Carbohydrate 69g 25%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 31g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 53mg 4%
Iron 3mg 16%
Potassium 175mg 4%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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