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Traditional New Orleans King Cake


  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup warm 2% milk (110° to 115°)
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3-1/4 to 3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • GLAZE:
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons water
  • Green, purple and yellow sugars


  • 1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 1/2 cup sugar, butter, milk, egg yolks, salt, lemon zest, nutmeg and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).
  • 2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  • 3. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 16x10-in. rectangle. Combine cinnamon and remaining sugar; sprinkle over dough to within 1/2 in. of edges. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seam to seal. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet; pinch ends together to form a ring. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Brush with egg.
  • 4. Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. For glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice and enough water to achieve desired consistency. Spread over cake. Sprinkle with colored sugars.

Nutrition Facts

1 slice: 321 calories, 9g fat (5g saturated fat), 73mg cholesterol, 313mg sodium, 55g carbohydrate (28g sugars, 1g fiber), 5g protein.


Average Rating:
  • robbrd
    Feb 25, 2018

    I've wanted to make this for years and finally did it this year for Mardi Gras. Everyone enjoyed it. I followed the recipe as is and it turned out just fine.

  • Feb 14, 2018

    I made this for our annual Mardi Gras dinner and according to my guests - it was better than the ones you purchase in a stores. Excellent and easy to make

  • nancy
    Feb 20, 2017

    this was my first king cake. and it was a recipe for disaster. i followed the instructions exactly but found it needed a bit of extra (sifted) flour. the dough was quite soft and i wasn't sure i'd kneaded it enough and the proofing area was cool so it took longer to rise. i laid it out for the second proof and it looked all right. i forgot the egg wash. when it come out of the oven it was quite late, the hole in the middle had disappeared and i really didn't know if it was done. (does anyone use a bundt pan for these things?) i left it overnight to cool and haven't iced it yet but had to have a taste. i searched a lot of recipes before deciding on this one (5 egg yolks for the 1st try - nope) and the only change i made was adding approx 1/2 tsp more cinnamon to the filling and the bit of extra flour. i don't need to search any longer for a king cake recipe. this is delicious - a nice hint of lemon. soft texture (it WAS a bit underbaked). and delicious. doesn't need and probably shouldn't have a fancy filling. and now to add the glaze and sugar sprinkles!

  • NDachshund2
    Dec 31, 1969

    This recipe is similar to one I use every year. My children absolutely love the tradition of King Cake and look forward to this once a year treat!!!!

  • KimNewcomb
    Feb 28, 2014

    I also live in New Orleans ... 47 years and Mckenzies had the best King Cakes. King Cakes are traditionally a brioche bread with sprinkled sugar. Tastee Donuts has the Original King Cake recipe now. Now a days King Cakes taste like Cinnamon rolls and are stuffed with Cream Cheese and fruit filling and frosted. It takes away from the French bakery experience altogether, which is a shame.If I want an Italian Coffee cake I will go to Randazzo's. If I want a real King Cake I would find a Brioche bread braid recipe and top it with fine colored sugar and 4 candied cherries.

  • sweetwee314
    Jan 12, 2013

    I live in New Orleans, and I think Randazzo's Bakery makes THE best King Cakes in town. They are a little pricey and don't sell year round, so I made this recipe to see if it would be good. This recipe is excellent! I agree with TriciaBaker that more cinnamon should be added for a stronger flavor. I added about a cup more confectioner's sugar and added a tsp of vanilla to the icing to give it more of the traditional icing I wanted. Overall, this recipe is an absolute success!

  • pat o
    Mar 8, 2011

    THANK YOU for answering my question ellenhguidry.

  • ellenhguidry
    Mar 8, 2011

    The baby is hidden inside cake(push into cake from underside, so it won't show). Tradition says whoever finds baby provides next King cake!

  • pat o
    Mar 8, 2011

    Where do you put the baby?

  • TriciaBaker
    Feb 16, 2010

    I have made this 4 times. It is excellent. I do think that next time I will add more cinnamon for a stronger flavor. If using freshly grated nutmeg, double the amount called for to 1/2 tsp.

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