Louisiana - King Cake

Louisiana - King Cake 

Fat Tuesday is next week which means we are in the heart of Mardi Gras season!  I thought that would be the perfect reason to skip ahead to Louisiana and the King Cake!  One of my friends is from New Orleans and she suggested King Cake as her home state sweet.  I whole heartedly agree!  Each year her Father ships a King Cake from Randazzo’s Bakery in New Orleans to her, and she was generous enough to share it with us!  It was delicious, and I was so excited to taste an authentic King Cake!

What is it?
A King Cake is a ring of rich pastry, similar to brioche or Danish, filled with Cinnamon and Sugar, Cream Cheese or other fillings like Praline or Apple.  It is then coated with a sugary icing and sprinkled with purple, green and gold sugar.

What do the colors represent?
Purple - Justice
Green - Faith
Gold - Power

History of the King Cake
Since I had the pleasure of eating one of Manny Randazzo’s King Cakes, I thought I would consult his website to learn where this treat originated and what role it plays in Louisiana culture today.

“The Mardi Gras or Carnival season officially begins on January 6th or the "Twelfth Night," also known to Christians as the "Epiphany." Epiphany comes from a Greek word that means "to show." Jesus first showed himself to the three wisemen and to the world on this day. As a symbol of this Holy Day, a tiny plastic baby is placed inside each King Cake.

The King Cake tradition is thought to have been brought to New Orleans from France in 1870. A King Cake is an oval-shaped bakery delicacy, crossed between a coffee cake and a French pastry that is as rich in history as it is in flavor. It's decorated in royal colors of PURPLE which signifies "Justice," GREEN for "Faith," and GOLD for "Power." These colors were chosen to resemble a jeweled crown honoring the Wise Men who visited the Christ Child on Epiphany. In the past such things as coins, beans, pecans, or peas were also hidden in each King Cake.

Today, a tiny plastic baby is the common prize. At a party, the King Cake is sliced and served. Each person looks to see if his piece contains the "baby." If so, then that person is named "King" for a day and bound by custom to host the next party and provide the King Cake.

Mardi Gras Day has a moveable date and may occur on any Tuesday from February 3rd to March 9th. It is always the day before Ash Wednesday, and always falls 46 days before Easter.”

The Recipe
There are tons of recipes out there for King Cake!  Since this was my first time making one, I decided to use trusty Southern Living’s recipe.


16 ounces Sour Cream
1/3 cup Sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt

❉ Cook these ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts.  Set aside, cool mixture to 100 - 110 degrees F. 


   2 (1/4 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup warm water (100 - 110 degrees F)

❉ Stir together in measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes

Before 5 Minutes 

After 5 Minutes 

Working with yeast can be tricky so a few notes: 
1. Two things kill yeast - direct contact with Salt and Liquids that are too hot (generally above 110 degrees F)
2.  If the yeast has not bubbled and increased in size significantly (mine almost doubled), after you have fed it with the water and sugar and given it some time to grow, you have a problem - do not proceed with that yeast.   Always check the expiration date on the yeast but know that fluke things happen and even “current” yeast can be a dud.   So if you don’t see activity at this stage, there won’t be activity in the oven.  boo!

Don’t be scared... let’s move on!  

2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 - 6  1/2 cups of Bread Flour *
*All Purpose flour can be substituted, but it will result in a more dense cake.  

❉ Beat sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs and 2 cups flour at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until smooth.  Reduce speed to low, and gradually add enough remaining flour ( 4 - 4 1/2 cups) until a soft dough forms.

❉ Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes)

(Consider this your tricep work out for the week!)  OR (and this is my recommendation) switch over to the dough hook on your electric mixer and let it knead for 7 - 8 minutes.  I tried both ways and was more successful using the machine.   ; )

❉ Place in a well greased bowl , turning to grease top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk.  (I find the oven to be a good nook)



This recipe makes enough dough for 2 King Cakes, so I decided to make one Traditional (Cinnamon / Sugar) and one CREAM CHEESE!!!!!  The recipes below make enough filling for two cakes.  You can choose to do one or both and just have some leftover filling.

Cinnamon Sugar Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
1  1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I actually used a bit more - closer to 2 teaspoons)
1/3 cup butter, softened

Cream Cheese Filling:
2 - 8 ounce packages Cream Cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

❉ Beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla extract at medium speed with electric mixer.

Rollin’ and Shapin’
We’re getting close now!  Time to punch down the dough and start rolling!

❉ Punch down dough, and divide in half.  Roll each portion into a 22 x 12 inch rectangle.
❉ Spread butter (for Traditional) or Cream Cheese filling on dough, leaving a 1 inch border
❉ Mix together sugar and cinnamon (for Traditional) and sprinkle over butter

❉ Roll up each dough rectangle, jelly-roll fashion, starting with 1 long side.  Place one dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bring ends of roll together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal.  Repeat with second dough roll.
❉  Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees F), free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
❉ Before putting in the oven, I brushed the dough with an egg wash so that it would be golden brown and have a nice sheen after baking.

❉ Bake at 375 for 20 - 30 minutes until golden.  (SL’s recipe says 14 - 16 minutes, but mine took longer)  Just keep an eye on it and see how your oven does. 
❉ Slightly cool cakes still on pans and on wire racks.

Creamy Glaze & Decorations

3 cups powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 4 Tablespoons milk 

❉ Stir together first four ingredients.  Stir in 2 Tablespoons milk, adding additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until spreading consistency. 

I ordered my sugar crystals from King Arthur’s Flour and found a 12 pack of babies (sounds weird) at Party City in the Baby Shower section.

❉ Gently lift part of the cake off of the baking pan and press un petite bebe inside the cake.  Press it far enough in that the cake sits flat, but not so far that an arm pokes out the top!  
❉ Drizzle Creamy Glaze evenly over warm cakes; sprinkle with colored sugars, alternating colors and forming bands.  Let cool completely.

King Cakes are “supposed” to only be made between January 6th and Mardi Gras Day so if you are a strict rule follower, you have 7 days to make your own King Cake this year!  


Grace P.
tres delicieux! i thought this was up there with the randazzo's cake. the cream cheese and cinnamon really came through. by the way, i'm enjoying the blog (and tickled to be a part of this one!). such a clever way of presenting ingredients with photos, i've never seen that before. and i love the embroidered state napkins. looking forward to following your future baking projects!
Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - 08:51 PM
Thank you Grace!  And thank you for the HUGE compliment - to even be close to Randazzo's is an honor!  I loved the cream cheese version too - but I'm a sucker for anything with a cream cheese filling!
Thursday, March 3, 2011 - 08:59 PM
Love the way you not only tell us about the King Cake, but, lucky me gets to taste it as well!  Very awesome.  Looking forward to the next tasting!  Keep up the sweet work.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 01:19 PM

1 comment:

  1. This was sooooo good - the cream cheese version was my fav - but I love cream cheese :) and I agree with Grace - def up there with randazzo's!!!