Feb 5 08
by cara
at 11:50 PM
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Mardi Gras King Cake

Mardi Gras always brings back memories for me.  My family spent many years living in Lafayette, Louisiana when I was younger, and my brother was born there.  Mardi Gras is a big deal in Louisiana, obviously in New Orleans, but many other Louisiana towns celebrate Mardi Gras with parades and parties.  In fact, I remember having Fat Tuesday off from school  and going to family friendly parades every year.  We also celebrated at school (in elementary school particularly) with a King Cake.  Typically, a small plastic baby is hidden in the cake, and whoever gets the baby in their slice of the cake has to provide the King Cake the next time around.  The King Cake is not so much a cake as it is a bread swirled with cinnamon (and sometimes filled with cream cheese, fruit, or a combination of the two).  It typically has a confectioner’s sugar frosting similar to a cinnamon roll, and is decorated with purple, green, and gold sugar.  Purple, green, and gold are the colors of Mardi Gras, representing justice, faith, and power.

Sadly, it has been many years since I’ve had King Cake.  Mardi Gras isn’t as big of a deal here, though they do sell King Cakes at the grocery store.  This year when I noticed the King Cakes popping up the grocery store, I decided I wanted to try to make my own for the first time.  I chose Paula Deen’s recipe from Paula Deen Celebrates!, her event-themed cookbook.  In addition to King Cake, her Mardi Gras menu includes lots of other things I love: Muffaletta Sandwiches, Jambalaya, Shrimp Etouffee, Red Beans and Rice, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce, French Quarter Beignets, and Cafe au Lait.  Certainly an excellent variety of food for any Mardi Gras party.

My first attempt at King Cake turned out nicely, but I definitely had my doubts as it was coming together.  Since this is really a yeast bread and not a cake, the dough had to rise twice.  My dough never rose quite as much as it probably should have, even though I made certain that the yeast I used was active.  Additionally, I had some difficulty with the assembly technique for this Cake.  You are supposed to split the dough in half, create two jelly-rolls, then twist them together.  THEN you shape that into a circle.  Let’s just say mine was a little sloppy and sad looking before going into the oven.  Luckily, the oven worked its magic, and my King Cake, once frosted and decorated looked pretty good.   I was happy with the results, and will definitely make this again next year for Mardi Gras.


Mardi Gras King Cake

from Paula Deen Celebrates!


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast, regular or rapid rise
  • 3 eggs
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 egg white, for glazing

Cinnamon-Sugar Filling:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

White Icing:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk

Colored Sugar


  1. Melt the butter in the microwave in a medium mixing bowl  Add the evaporated milk, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt.  Stir so that the sugar dissolves.  Allow to cool.
  2. Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water and stir in the remaining teaspoon sugar.  Allow to stand for 10 minutes, until foamy.  If the yeast does not foam up, it is no good, so you’ll have to start over with new yeast and sugar.
  3. Add the yeast mixture to the butter and milk mixture.  Add the eggs and lemon zest and whisk together vigorously, until well blended.
  4. Whisk in the flour, 1 cup at a time, until you have a thick paste–about 3 cups flour.  Then switch to a wooden spoon and continue adding flour and mixing well.  Do not add more than 6 cups flour, or your cake will be too dense.  When you have added all the flour, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured wooden board and knead it with your hands, which you have dusted with flour, until the dough is smooth and elastic, about a dozen turns.
  5. Place the dough into a large clean bowl that you have sprayed with vegetable oil cooking spray.  Turn the dough to coat all sides with spray.  Cover the bowl with a tea towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  6. Make the cinnamon-sugar filling: Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small dish and stir well.
  7. Punch the dough down and divide the dough in two.  Roll out each half into a 10 by 15 inch rectangle. Brush each rectangle with half of the melted butter and then sprinkle each rectangle with half of the cinnamon-sugar filling mixture.  Roll up along the long end like a jelly roll.  Press the roll together at the seam, sealing with water if necessary.  Wind the two rolls together, forming one thick piece.  On a baking sheet sprayed with vegetable oil cooking spray, form the dough into a circle and seal the ends together.
  8. Cover with a tea towel and allow the cake to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour (when it rises, the center will close up and it will look like a bumpy “cake”), until it almost doubles in size.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk the egg white with 1 tablespoon water.  Brush  the top of the cake with the egg white.  Bake the cake for 35 minutes, until it is browned and sounds hollow when tapped.
  10. Make the white icing: Combine the sugar and milk in a small dish and whisk until smooth.  If the mixture seems too thin, add a little more sugar.  If it won’t drizzle, add a little more milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time.
  11. Allow the cake to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack.  Drizzle with icing and sprinkle the colored sugar in random patterns over the white icing.  Slice across the width of the cake into thin slices to serve.

Makes about 24 thin slices.

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From cake, dessert

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