Mardi Gras king cake on a white cake pedestal on a wooden table

Mardi Gras King Cake

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Are you celebrating Mardi Gras? Maybe you are going to New Orleans for the famous Mardi Gras celebration? Whatever the case you need an awesome Mardi Gras king cake.

A king cake is a bread-like cake eaten between King’s day and Fat Tuesday. There is traditionally a small plastic baby hidden in the cake. Originally the baby represented baby Jesus. Today the baby symbolizes good luck and fortune and prosperity to whomever finds it.

Also, that person that finds the baby is considered a “King” for the day and oh yeah responsible for bringing a new king cake to the next party. Some sources have said “Next year’s” party and but closer to NOLA tradition is the very next mardi gras party, so I have been told. There is much more information online that you can find about this tradition if you like. On to the king cake!

While this is called a king cake the traditional Mardi Gras king cake is more of a sweet roll or cinnamon roll than a classic cake. It is really easy to make, if I can do it, you can do it. Let’s get baking!

Step 1: Gather the tools and ingredients

In order to make this delicious Mardi Gras king cake you need the following ingredients:

  • Milk – I always use whole milk but other milk can be used as well.
  • Yeast – Active dry yeast is my preference but rapid rise or instant will work too.
  • Butter – The butter will add flavor as well as help to produce a more tender crumb.
  • Sugar – The white granulated sugar will add sweetness and help to make it soft and tender.
  • Sour cream – The sour cream will help add moisture. But this ingredient is optional and can be left out if desired.
  • Eggs – The eggs will aid in the rising of the dough as well as help make the dough more tender.
  • Flour – The main base ingredient for this cake/sweet roll.
  • Salt – Salt balances out the sweetness of the dough. As well as enhances the flavors of the other ingredients.


  • Brown sugar – The brown sugar makes for an amazing filling, white granulated sugar can be used as well.
  • Ground cinnamon – The cinnamon makes the filling super flavorful.
  • Softened butter – The butter will add lots of flavor to the filling and help the filling stick to the dough.


  • Powdered sugar
  • Milk – Almond milk or other non-dairy milk can be used.
  • Vanilla extract – adds flavor.
  • Colored Sanding sugar – These sugar colors give the top of the cake that traditional look.

Step 2: How to make a Mardi Gras king cake

Begin by preparing the yeast. Heat up the milk to 100 to 110 F (37 to 43 C). Then add a pinch of the sugar to the milk along with the yeast. Mix the yeast in a little bit with a fork. Allow the yeast to stand for 10 minutes or so until it gets nice and foamy.

If it doesn’t get foamy after 10 minutes start again. Either the yeast was bad or old or the milk was too hot or not hot enough.

Step 3: Other wet ingredients

Melt the butter until just completely melted, but not super hot. Then add the melted butter to the yeast mixture. Also add the sugar, sour cream, and eggs. Whisk all those ingredients together.

The sour cream is optional, but I like to add it.

Step 4: Complete the Mardi Gras king cake dough

Mardi gras king cake dough in a large bowl on a wooden table

In a separate bowl combine the flour and the salt. Then add the flour mixture about 1/3 of it at a time to the other bowl until the dough forms and is slightly tacky. Pour the dough out onto a floured surface and knead the dough for 8 minutes.

Hand kneading the king cake dough on a floured wooden table.

To knead the dough fold it over onto itself and then push it out with your palm slightly stretching it, then turn it a quarter turn and repeat. If you don’t want to hand knead the dough use a stand mixer with a dough hook.

Step 5: Allow the king cake dough to rise

Risen king cake dough in a large bowl

Place the kneaded dough into a large bowl that has been lightly greased with cooking oil. Make sure to move the dough around in the bowl to fully coat the dough. The light coating of oil will help the dough to not dry out.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and allow the dough to rise somewhere warm for 1 hour to 1 and a half hours. You may also use a dough proofer if you like. I love my dough proofer and use it all the time.

Step 6: Roll out that king cake dough

Using a rolling pin roll out the dough on a floured surface. Try and make it around 10 inches wide by 18 to 20 inches long. It doesn’t have to be exact.

Step 7: Filling

cinnamon and sugar filling basted on the top of the king cake dough

In a small bowl combine the softened butter, brown sugar or use white granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Then spread it out on top of the rolled out Mardi Gras king cake dough. Use a spatula or basting brush. You may also baste on the softened butter first and then just sprinkle on the cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Step 8: Roll it up and let it rise

Rolled king cake dough in a circle shape on a sheet pan covered with plastic.

Now roll up the king cake dough fairly tightly lengthwise. Pretty much exactly would you would do with cinnamon rolls. Then place it onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Now bring the ends together and pinch them. The shape kind of reminds me of a neck pillow.

Fully risen king cake dough ready to be baked, on top of a silicone mat lined sheet pan.

Next, loosely cover it with plastic wrap and place it somewhere warm to rise. Allow it to rise for 1 to 1 and a half hours until it doubles in size.

Step 9: Bake that Mardi Gras king cake

Baked Mardi gras king cake with a hand holding a plastic baby.

Preheat the oven to 375 F/176 C. Then bake the cake/sweet roll for 25 to 30 minutes until nice and brown. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for about 15 minutes.

Next, cut a slit in the middle of the cake or you can turn it upside down and make the slit on the bottom. Now stuff the little plastic baby in the cake. This is a tradition, but the baby is optional. The little babies can be found in the cake decorating section at Walmart, online, or other stores.

Again whoever gets the baby in their slice of cake will have a good fortune and prosperity that year and is responsible to throw the party and bake the cake the next time.

Step 10: Glaze and color that Mardi Gras king cake

In a small bowl add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and milk. Mix it well with a fork or small whisk, adding more milk as necessary to get your desired thickness.

Next, pour it all over the top of your Mardi Gras king cake. Now, add colored sugar sprinkles on top, alternating with the colors. The classic colors are yellow/gold, green, and purple.

The colors actually have a meaning behind them. Yellow/gold for “power,” green for “faith,” and purple for “justice.”

Completed Mardi Gras king cake with a hand holding a slice on top of a cake pedestal and wooden table.

Once you are done decorating the top of the cake it is ready to serve. Enjoy!

How long will the Mardi Gras king cake last?

Cover the king cake with plastic wrap and it will stay fresh for 2 to 3 days at room temperature. If you refrigerate it, it will last about a week. If frozen, it will last about 3 months.

Mardi Gras king cake on a white cake pedestal on a wooden table
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4.80 from 5 votes

Mardi Gras King Cake

You can't celebrate Mardi Gras without an awesome king cake! This king cake is amazing and is colorful and tasty. It is the perfect treat to celebrate the season. Don't forget to include the plastic baby inside. Whoever finds it will have good luck and prosperity that year and is supposed to throw the next year's party and make the cake.
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time3 hours 20 minutes
Course: Bread, Cakes, Dessert
Cuisine: American, European, French
Keyword: cinnamon, easy, glaze, soft, sweet
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 379kcal
Author: Matt Taylor


  • Bowls
  • Whisk
  • Wooden spoon
  • Plastic baby (optional/traditional)
  • Plastic wrap
  • sheet pan
  • rolling pin



  • 3/4 cup of milk whole, 2%, etc. (177ml)
  • 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast rapid rise or instant yeast as well (8g)
  • 1/4 cup butter melted (55g)
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar 50g
  • 1/2 cup sour cream 120g (optional)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour 360 to 420g
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2g


  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar 135g
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon 5g
  • 6 tbsp. softened butter 85g


  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar confectioners, icing (120 to 180g)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp. milk 15 to 22ml
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 2ml
  • Colored Sanding sugar


  • Heat up the milk in the microwave or stovetop to 100 to 110 F/37 to 43 C. Then sprinkle on the yeast and a pinch of sugar. Let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes until it gets foamy.
  • Now add the sugar, melted butter, sour cream, and eggs. Whisk to combine. The sour cream is optional but I always add it.
  • In a separate bowl combine the salt and the flour. Then add the flour 1/3 of it at a time, stirring it in with a spoon, or use a stand mixer. Once the dough has come together and is slightly tacky it is ready to be kneaded.
  • Knead the dough for 8 minutes on a floured surface or use a stand mixer with a dough hook. Adding a bit of flour as needed to keep it from sticking.
  • Place the dough into a large bowl with a little bit of oil in it. Roll the dough ball around so it gets coated with the oil. This will help it to not dry out while it rises. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and place it somewhere warm and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until doubled in size.
  • Punch down the dough and place it on a floured surface. Use a rolling pin and roll it into roughly a 10 inch by 18-inch rectangle.
  • In a small bowl combine the softened butter and brown sugar and cinnamon. Spread it onto the rolled out dough.Alternatively, you can baste the dough first with the butter and then sprinkle on the cinnamon and sugar mixture.
  • Now, start at one end and roll up the dough fairly tightly lengthwise. Then place it onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Curl it in creating a circle and crimp together the to ends. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for another hour. Remove the plastic wrap and it is ready to go. Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C.
  • Bake the cake/giant cinnamon roll for 25 to 30 minutes until nice and brown on top. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for 15 minutes. Tradition calls for a little plastic baby to be put in the cake. Originally symbolizing baby Jesus.
  • Now cut a slit into the middle of the cake, and stuff the little baby inside. Or you can turn the cake over and cut the slit in the bottom somewhere and stuff it in there.
  • In a small bowl mix together the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and the milk. Add more milk or powdered sugar as necessary to get your desired thickness. Cover the top of the cake with the glaze. Then sprinkle on the colored sanding sugar, alternating between the colors. The classic colors are yellow, green, and purple.
  • The Mardi Gras king cake is done and ready to serve. Enjoy!


How to make King Cake | Easy Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe


List of nutritional facts for Mardi Gras king cake
Tried this recipe?Mention @WPRecipeMaker or tag #wprecipemaker!


Calories: 379kcal

Do you like this recipe? Please give it a rating and comment down below, I really appreciate it.  If you make it tag me on Instagram @inthekitchenwithmatt. Also, sign up for the newsletter so you won’t miss out on any of my new posts and recipes.

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Mardi Gras king cake pin for Pinterest
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  1. Barry Miller

    4 stars
    Thanks for the brioche recipe.
    The person getting the baby buys the next cake the following WEEK, continuing till Fat Tuesday. Whoever told you ‘next year’ is probably from Peoria or Minot.
    You might post that recipe next January or so. Just like CARNIVAL MUSIC, King Cake DOESN’T EXIST between ash wednesday and twelfth night. Gone. Verboten.
    Same thing with beads.
    (BTW, it is bad gris-gris to wear purchased beads. Caught beads only.)
    Thanks for listening. Cultural anthropologists have a field day in NOLA. The Yats are quite particular about their dear quirky customs.

    Barry Miller
    Algiers Point

  2. 5 stars
    Looks amazing! Can’t wait to try this one.

  3. 5 stars
    This is SOOO fun and sooo delicious! We’re obsessed! Thanks for sharing!

  4. 5 stars
    So fun and you make it look so easy! With all the step-by-step pics I have the confidence to give this a try!

  5. Carrie Robinson

    5 stars
    Such a fun cake! 🙂 Perfect for Mardi Gras.

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