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Soft & Moist Mardi Gras King Cake

king cake sliced into pieces with one slice on a plate with forks

While the rest of the world is coming up with its new year resolutions, my hometown New Orleans is getting ready for its biggest party season of the year – and it’s a delicious one at that! Mardi Gras is an amazing time of year in Louisiana, particularly for the infamous Mardi Gras King Cake that graces our grocery stores and bakeries every January.

E very New Orleanian has their favorite King Cake, and yes, we feel very strongly about it. Hands down, my favorite king cake is from Dong Phuong (DP) in New Orleans East, a Vietnamese-French bakery that I grew up across the street from for most of my childhood. Their king cakes gained cult popularity in 2018 and for good reason! It’s incredibly soft on the inside, not a dry bite to be found, and smeared with the most luxurious icing in all the land. They are untraditional in that they are not braided and have no ring in the middle, which I think lends to their super soft texture.

a slice of king cake suspended over a larger cake

What is king cake?

The version of king cakes we know today is an oval-shaped brioche cake, akin to the taste and texture of cinnamon rolls! They’re decked out with green, gold, and purple sprinkles on top. The first king cakes were made in Europe to celebrate the Catholic Epiphany, and the French brought it over to Louisiana in the 1870s.

Today, king cake is synonymous with the celebration of Carnival season in New Orleans, leading up to Fat Tuesday, better known as Mardi Gras.

What is king cake made of?

King cake is essentially a giant cinnamon roll made with an enriched yeasted dough, brown sugar cinnamon filling, then topped with icing.

Many king cake adaptations will include a filling such as pecan praline or cream cheese. The icing is sometimes swapped for a cream cheese frosting as well.

How is king cake different from cinnamon rolls?

Besides shape and decoration, king cake dough is the same as cinnamon roll dough. Both doughs are enriched and require the same proofing methods.

Unlike cinnamon rolls which are cut cross-wise, king cake is kept whole and baked in an elongated oval shape. Many king cakes are braided into an oval shape for more visual appeal.

Dong Phuong King Cake

How is this king cake different?

When developing this DP-style recipe, I prioritized two things: (1) texture and (2) flavor. Because of that, this Mardi Gras king cake is not made like your average one, but it will be the softest and most flavorful king cake you’ll ever make at home. Here’s what’s different about this king cake:

  • No ring in the middle: less surface area in the center means more soft and fluffy dough on the inside!
  • No braiding: instead of braiding, I cut slits around the outer edge to encourage even baking while preserving the soft center.
  • Brown Butter Cream Cheese icing: this is the icing that’s on my Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, and it’s simply the best icing I’ve ever had. There’s a deep nutty flavor from the browned butter and the sugary sweetness is balanced with tangy cream cheese. It goes beautifully with this king cake! If you make anything from this recipe, MAKE THIS ICING!

How to make king cake

Today, I’m sharing with you a recipe I’ve developed for quite some time that’s inspired by how DP makes their Mardi Gras king cakes! The dough and icing recipes are my own, and the techniques used in shaping the cake and the desired textures and flavors were modeled after DP’s king cakes!

The recipe block at the bottom lists the full recipe with ingredients, but for helpful tidbits and photos, I’ve included this photo tutorial to help you make the best king cake possible!

There are three parts to the King Cake:

  1. Enriched Dough
  2. Cinnamon Sugar Filling
  3. Brown Butter Cream Cheese Icing

This recipe requires that the dough rest in the fridge overnight or up to three days, so plan accordingly! I love overnight doughs because you can break up the time in the kitchen. This is the schedule I normally use when I make the cake:

Example Schedule

The night before: mix dough at 6pm, finish all folds by 8pm, and refrigerate overnight.
The day of: shape the dough at 9am, proof til 10:30am, baked cake by 11am.

Step 1: Warm milk and bloom the yeast.

  • Warm milk and honey to 100º F -110º F in the microwave, not any hotter or it will kill the yeast. I use a thermometer to test this!
  • Add the yeast and mix it in. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes until foamy. If it doesn’t foam, start over with fresh yeast as your previous batch likely died.
  • When foamy, add the eggs (room temp), and whisk to combine.

Step 2: Combine wet and dry ingredients. First proof.

  • Mix flour and salt in a stand mixer. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour on low speed. Add the room temp butter one piece at a time.
  • When the butter is all in, increase the speed to medium, and beat for about 1 minute until the butter is fully incorporated and the dough is stringy and very sticky.
  • Use a spatula to spoon the sticky dough into a large greased bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest and rise for 30 minutes.

Step 3: Apply folds. Rest Overnight.

  • After 30 minutes, apply the first fold by placing your fingers under one edge of the proofed dough, pulling the dough up, and folding it back over itself. Repeat this around the entire perimeter, about 6 times. The dough will be very sticky, that’s how it should be!
  • Cover the bowl again and rise for another 30 minutes. Repeat this folding step 3 more times, waiting 30 minutes in between each fold for a total of 2 hours and 4 folds.
  • Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate overnight or up to 72 hours to develop flavor!

Step 4: Brown butter & cool overnight.

  • Melt unsalted butter over medium heat. It will make crackling sounds as the water evaporates from the butter. Simmer until the crackling sounds reduce and the butter gets a faint tint of brown (see pic above), about 5-8 minutes.
  • Remove from heat before it burns, pour into a heat-safe bowl, and cover at room temp to solidify overnight. You can also do this the next day – I just find it more convenient to do it beforehand!

Step 5: Roll out the dough, shape & proof

  • On the day of, punch down the cold dough and knead about 10 times to wake up the yeast. Roll out the dough into a 14-inch by 18-inch wide rectangle. Use a fork to gently poke holes all throughout the dough to help with even baking. Brush the melted butter and heavy cream on top. Sprinkle cinnamon/brown sugar/salt mixture evenly over the top and press with your hands to adhere.
  • To roll, start with one of the long edges, and roll into a tight log and stop when you’ve reached the middle of the rectangle. Do the same on the other side to create two logs in a scroll shape. Carefully transfer the dough log to a lined baking sheet, scroll-side down, and shape into a U. If you’d like it to be a full oval, pinch the two ends together. Use a knife to cut 1.5-inch slits about 1.5 inches apart around the entire perimeter of the cake. Then cut a slit in the thickest part of the cake in the center.
  • Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the cake rise one last time in a warm spot until fully proofed, 1 to 1 1/2 hours!

Step 6: Bake Cake & Make the Icing

  • Preheat oven to 350º F.
  • To make icing, cream the room temp brown butter and cream cheese in a mixer. Add powdered sugar and milk. Mix just until combined, you’re not looking to whip it too much. Add more powdered sugar or milk as needed for desired consistency. This icing is more like frosting, so the consistency will be more voluminous like a buttercream.
  • Bake the cake uncovered for 32-38 minutes at 350º F, rotating the pan halfway through, until golden brown on top.
  • When cake done is baking and still warm, brush on 1/4 cup of heavy cream all over the cake. This is what prevents a hard crust from forming and adds extra moisture to the cake. It’s a gamechanger!
  • When the cake is completely cooled, spread on the icing and top with sprinkles.
Print
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king cake sliced into pieces with one slice on a plate with forks

Soft and Moist Mardi Gras King Cake

  • Author: Maria Do
  • Prep Time: 3 hours
  • Resting Time: 12-72 hours
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 35 minutes
  • Yield: 1 large king cake, 14-16 slices 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Cuisine: American, French, New Orleans
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This soft, moist, and fluffy king cake recipe is inspired by my hometown bakery in New Orleans East, Dong Phuong Bakery. The brioche, ring-less king cake is a unique take on the traditional and is absolutely delicious! Recipe makes a large king cake, great for groups. See notes for making a smaller size.

Example Overnight Schedule: Mix dough at 6pm the night before, roll out and shape at 9am, bake at 10:30am, finished king cake by 11am.


Ingredients

Scale

Dough

  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (568 g)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 3/4 cup warm whole milk (100110 Fº)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (7 g)
  • 4 large eggs, room temp
  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temp, cut into 1-inch pieces (1 1/4 sticks)

Cinnamon Filling

  • 1 cup dark or light brown sugar, (110 g)
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp salted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream

Icing & Sprinkles

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened to room temp (1/2 block)
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 tsp whole milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, for brushing on top after baking
  • sanding sugar or sprinkles (purple, green, gold)

Instructions

The Night Before – Mix the dough to rest overnight

  1. In a large glass measuring cup or bowl, pour in 3/4 cup milk and microwave or heat to 100ª F – 110ªF. Any hotter and the yeast will die. To the same cup, add 1/4 cup honey and 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast, then whisk to combine. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes until foamy. If it doesn’t foam, your yeast may have died, so start over with fresh yeast! When the mixture is foamy, crack in the 4 room temp eggs, then whisk to combine.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add 4 1/2 cups flour and 2 tsp kosher salt. Stir on low to combine. With the mixer on low speed, pour the wet honey/milk/egg/yeast mixture into the flour to combine. Then add 10 tbsp room temp butter one piece at a time. When the butter is all in, increase the speed to medium, and beat for about 1 minute until the butter is fully incorporated and the dough is stringy and very sticky. Use a spatula to spoon the sticky dough into a large greased bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest and rise for 30 minutes.
  3. After 30 minutes, apply the first fold by placing your fingers under one edge of the proofed dough, pulling the dough up, and folding it back over itself. Repeat this motion around the entire perimeter of the dough, turning the bowl as you go, until it’s completely folded over itself, about 6 times. Cover the bowl again and rise for another 30 minutes. Repeat this folding step 3 more times, waiting 30 minutes in between each fold, for a total of 2 hours and 4 folds. Cover the bowl, and refrigerate overnight or up to 72 hours. This resting time allows your dough to develop serious flavor!
  4. Use the downtime in between folds to brown the butter for the icing since it will need to solidify again. Melt 6 tbsp unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat until the butter gets a tint of brown, not too dark, about 10 minutes. It will smell nutty and delicious! Pour into a heat-safe bowl, and cover at room temp to solidify overnight.

The Day Of – Shape & Bake the King Cake

  1. Line a 18″ x 13″ baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix 1 cup brown sugar, 1 tbsp cinnamon, and a pinch of kosher salt. Set aside.
  2. Retrieve your cold dough from the fridge. Punch down the cold dough to knock out the air and knead about 10 times just to wake up the yeast. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 14-inch by 18-inch wide rectangle. Use a fork to poke holes every 2 inches or so throughout, then brush 2 tbsp heavy cream and 2 tbsp melted salted butter on top. Sprinkle cinnamon mixture evenly over the top, and press it in lightly with your hands to adhere to the butter and cream.
  3. To roll, start with one of the long edges, and roll into a tight log and stop when you’ve reached the middle of the rectangle. Do the same on the other side to create two logs in a scroll shape.
  4. Carefully transfer the dough onto your lined baking sheet, scroll side down. You can use a bench scraper or small cutting board to help with the transfer. Form the dough into a U-shape. If you’d like it to be a full oval, pinch the two ends together. Carefully stretch the thicker end of the U out so that it’s generally level with the other side. It’s okay if it’s not perfect; we’ll cover the cake in icing!
  5. Use a knife to cut 1.5-inch slits about 1.5 inches apart around the entire perimeter of the cake. Then cut a slit in the thickest part of the cake in the center (see photo). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rise one last time in a warm spot until fully proofed, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. While the cake is proofing, mix the icing.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, add the solidified browned butter you made the night before and room temp cream cheese. Beat until combined. Add 2 cups confectioner’s sugar and 2 1/2 tsp whole milk. Mix just until combined, we don’t want this to be super whipped. Add more powdered sugar or milk as needed for desired consistency. This icing is more like frosting, so the consistency will resemble a buttercream. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350º F (180º C).
  7. Bake the proofed king cake for 32-38 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through until golden brown on top. When the cake is done and still warm, brush on 1/4 cup of heavy cream all over the cake. This keeps it soft and prevents the crust from developing any more. It feels wrong, but do it anyway! It should absorb fully after 15 mins. When the cake is cooled completely, spread on the brown butter icing. Decorate with the purple, green, and gold sprinkles. Slice & enjoy!

Notes

Small king cake: This recipe can be halved to make a smaller king cake. Everything stays the same except the ingredients and baking time! Halve all of the ingredients for the dough and icing, but keep proofing and overnight resting time the same. When rolling the dough out, roll in the exact same 14″x18″ rectangle as you would the large one (this one will just be thinner), and shape the cake in the same fashion. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350º F until golden brown, not too dark or it will be dry. 

Keywords: dong phuong, king cake, New Orleans king cake, traditional king cake

FAQs – Equipment

  • What if I don’t have a stand mixer? You can make this recipe without a stand mixer for sure, but it will take time to mix the butter into the dough by hand. Worth it though!
  • Can I use a hand mixer instead? No, hand mixers won’t be able to handle the dough. Just use those arm muscles and knead! For the icing, a hand mixer is totally fine.

FAQs – the dough

  • Why do we knead cold dough? With enriched doughs, the butter and cream make it harder for yeast to bloom. So, giving the dough a quick knead after it’s been in the fridge overnight helps waken the yeast and gives it a jump start.
  • Is the dough supposed to be sticky? Yep! The stickiness gives the cake its soft, fluffy, and moist texture. I suggest rolling out the dough when it is chilled because it is much, much easier to handle.
  • What does folding do? Folding builds gluten (think of it as lazy kneading). It helps build the dough’s structure, making it easier to handle and gives the cake its pull-apart, stringy texture.

FAQs – Ingredients

  • Can I add other fillings inside the cake? Yes! But pay extra attention to the rolling process, making sure you have a tight roll since the cinnamon filling is on the dry side and more toppings will not adhere as well. You’ll want to make sure your king cake is still tight and compacted.
  • What if I have active dry yeast, not instant? Active dry yeast will work in this recipe, too! Let the active dry yeast rest in the warm milk and honey for 10-15 minutes until foamy, before the eggs are added like the recipe states.

    A while ago, I bought a 1 lb bag of yeast and thought it was excessive, but I just hated buying the yeast packets one roll at a time. So I’ve just kept that bag of yeast in my freezer. When COVID struck in 2020 and yeast started selling out, I counted my baking blessings. Haha. If you bake at all, I would recommend purchasing in bulk and keeping it in your freezer. It’s perfectly fine in there and the $9 price tag will pay off in 5 bakes or so. Totally worth it. You can purchase the yeast brand I use, Red Star, on Amazon!
  • Can you use Gluten-Free flour with yeast? I haven’t tested this recipe for gluten-free alternatives, but if I did, I’d suggest going to King Arthur Baking’s Gluten-Free Yeast Baking for tips.

For High Altitude Bakers

I developed this recipe in my previous home in Louisiana and have made it many times in high altitudes in Colorado. I don’t change ingredient ratios to keep things simple, but I do notice the dough proofs faster which is a bonus! The lower air pressure definitely contributes to the quicker rise.

If you have altered recipes for high altitudes before, I would recommend checking out King Arthur’s High Altitude Baking post to plan for any minor adjustments.

For more cake and bread recipes like this, check out the bread and dessert categories on my site!

Loved this recipe? Leave me a ⭐️ rating in the comments below!

Your comments and ratings help so much, so thank you in advance for letting me know what you think.

CategoriesBreads
  1. MJ says:

    Outstanding recipe, you will not be disappointed. This is the first king cake we’ve ever made, and I am so glad out of all the recipes we found, this is the one we chose to make. I was going for a full days’ worth of authentic Mardi Gras food for Fat Tuesday. I read this recipe countless times and absolutely LOVED all the information and details about the history and the process. I watched the video too, which was incredibly helpful, as I am a visual learner. I liked the idea of a soft pillowy dough, and the ingredients weren’t complicated. The attention to detail and thorough explanation of the process definitely made this so much easier to complete. I have to admit, I took on more than I had time for and even though I started this dough two days before Mardi Gras and had done everything up to the brown butter, time got the best of me, and I didn’t get to make the cake until five whole days after Mardi Gras. I was so worried that my dough wouldn’t work out, having sat in the fridge for nearly seven days, but my 13-year-old desperately wanted to help, so I let her finish the recipe. She took over beginning with step five, (day of), and followed the rest of the recipe to a T and let me just say, that my children LOVED this King Cake! The dough rose beautifully, and the end result was a gorgeous masterpiece that they all oooh’d and ahhh’d over, before proceeding to devour it! I was so impressed and delighted; my family gives it a 10/10! 100% FIVE STARS! I will definitely be making this again! Thanks so much for a phenomenal recipe!

  2. Katie says:

    I’m not sure what I did wrong, I followed the recipe but my dough isn’t near as sticky and stringy as yours. And as it sits, it’s not changing much. But I know the yeast was good because it bloomed in the warm milk. 😩 pray for me. My dough feels tough. I used a hook instead of the paddle. Think that was it?

  3. Rick Irizarry says:

    I made one exactly as instructed and another one without the addition of heavy cream on the inside of the dough. What I found is that if you brush heavy cream inside the dough before adding the cinnamon sugar, the cake is a bit doughy on the inside giving the sensation that the cake is undercooked. My people much preferred the second modified version with no heavy cream brushed on the inside of the dough. Use melted butter instead.

  4. Teri says:

    I used your recipe, followed the directions to the letter and I have to say, it was perfect. I was in charge of bringing the King Cake to a Mardi Gras party last night and it was a huge success. Many compliments about taste and texture, it was so moist and had wonderful flavor. Yes it takes time and patience, but in our family that equals love and we say love is the secret ingredient. I can not thank you enough for sharing this recipe.

  5. Denise Freitas says:

    I made a half recipe for my grandchildren and they all agreed that it was delicious (I live low carb so I didn’t taste it and will take their word for it). I was afraid my yeast wasn’t foamy enough, because it was so slow rising. The dough barely rose at all during the overnight rest in the fridge. The stiff dough this morning was a bit tough to work with and I had to work to get it to roll out to the 14/18 rectangle. I wonder, would it be better to let it rest a bit outside the fridge before trying to knead and roll it out? I didn’t do the browned butter this time, just made regular butter & cream cheese frosting. I will try the browned butter next year. I started late so it was a late night getting the 4 folds in.

  6. Erika says:

    I’ve been looking for the perfect king cake recipe and this looks absolutely incredible!! Question: was this recipe based off of Sarah Kieffer’s cinnamon rolls? The recipe and method look so similar!

  7. Mstv says:

    I enjoyed making and trying this recipe. I baked it for exactly 32 minutes even though it was golden brown before that. I really think I overbaked it based on the texture (a bit dry). Not sure if I will make it again but if I do I will definitely divide the the dough in half and make 2 smaller king cakes.

  8. Lindsey says:

    I am a south Mississippi native and have eaten countless king cakes over the years. This recipe produces by far the best cake I have ever eaten! We have a few birthdays in my family the week of fat Tuesday, so their request was a homemade king cake in the place of a traditional birthday cake this year. To say your recipe was a hit is an understatement! We will definitely make this for years to come. Thank you so much for sharing!

  9. Candi says:

    For my first try at making a King Cake, I researched many recipes before settling on this one. It was intimidating at first, but the instructions, tips, and video walked me through it start to finish. My first King Cake was a wonderful success! Thank you, and congratulations on being featured on CBS Sunday Morning today.

  10. Sam says:

    Hi! This recipe looks great. I was wondering if I could substitute Steen’s syrup in place of the honey for the dough? It reminds me of childhood and I like to add it to recipes when I can. Thank you!

    1. Maria Do says:

      Hi! I’ve never actually used Steen’s syrup, so I can’t actually say, but if I were baking it myself, I would try a 1:1 replacement. Let me know how it goes 🙂

  11. Noreen says:

    Hi Maria, I’m a Louisiana native and this is the BEST king cake I have ever eaten! I love everything about it from the tender dough, moist layers and flavor packed cinnamon filling to the sprinkles on top.
    Would you recommend allowing the dough to reach room temp before rolling to help hold that 14×18” rectangle shape? It tends to spring back while cold.
    Thanks for sharing your recipe❤️😊

    1. Maria Do says:

      Hi Noreen! Yay, thank you 🙂 Rolling the dough cold is better because this dough at room temp is SUUUPPPER sticky as you know. A trick I use to roll out cold dough is to press my rolling pin down into the dough to create a series of “speed bumps” like in this photo! Then roll out flat. The bumps prevent the dough from shrinking back into itself.

    2. Lauren says:

      I agree, This is the best recipe I’ve found and tried… I’ve tried a lot of them over the past decade.

      I only had one question. (I made mine a braided/twist style) Do you have any suggestions for preventing any filling from coming out at the seam? That is the only issue I have with all recipes and then it creates almost a toffee layer at the bottom.

      Thanks for any help 🙂 This will be for sure my go-to recipe that I use and recommend to people.

    3. Angela G says:

      This was phenomenal!! And that browned butter in the frosting, holy smokes 🤩 This was the first time I’ve made anything with yeast in over ten years, and your instructions were great and easy to follow

  12. Sarah Morgan says:

    Hey! I made this a week ago and it went perfectly and everybody loved it! Last night I struggled with the yeast foaming and finally got it right but it was incredibly late. How many hours does it need to rise? It says overnight or up to 72 hours and I’m wondering how long is long enough?
    Thank you and you’re amazing for sharing this fantastic recipe!

    1. Maria Do says:

      Hey Sarah! So happy your yeast finally foamed 🙂 I had an experience recently where the exact same thing happened with active dry yeast. For this recipe, overnight means at least 8 hours, so that’s the minimum I’d suggest! The fridge time does wonders with ensuring the structure of the king cake + boosts flavor.

  13. Meghan says:

    Hi! This is my 3rd time making this king cake! I love it! I’ve been adding orange zest to the dough and it tastes delicious. Question: this round I lost track of time and forgot to apply the folds for about an hour and half! I gave it one fold just now, but not sure if I should keep it out the refrigerator until the folds are completed, or just do one more (total of 2 folds) and put it in the fridge.

    1. Maria Do says:

      Hey Meghan – sorry this is coming later than I would have liked! What did you end up doing? I’m curious. Personally, the folds are more important than how long it stays out at room temp. Since the dough goes in the fridge overnight + is punched of its air in the AM, there’s no danger of over-proofing in the folding stage. So even if it takes you 3 hours to finish folds, that’s fine!

  14. Linda says:

    The cake came out delicious and very moist. My only disappointment is that the frosting is not like Dong Phuong’s. Theirs is much more whipped and light, with more cream cheese flavor. But, not a crumb was left so it’s definitely yummy.

    1. Maria Do says:

      Hi Linda! Thanks for your feedback. You can definitely make some modifications to meet your needs! For a more whipped frosting, whip it more in the stand mixer to add air. The only drawback is it will have small bubbles if you don’t mind that. I’ve also tested this recipe with more cream cheese, and it was tangier than I preferred, but if you’d like you can swap the butter + cream cheese amounts to 4 oz butter and 6 oz cream cheese. 🙂

  15. Kathy says:

    When you say fold it over 6 times do you mean a total of 6 folds or go around the bowl 6 times (folding as I go each time)?

  16. Amy says:

    Great brioche! This was a much thicker king cake than I had expected. As an avid baker and professional macaron baker, I embellished with the blueberry and cream cheese filling I have used for king cake for many years. This rolling, scrolling, and snipping method didn’t work well for a filling. It turned out looking like a loggerhead turtle but it was the fluffiest and lightest texture and taste of my lifetime of king cakes. The browned butter and cream cheese icing was not my favorite for the king cake, but I’m going to use it for a macaron filling.

  17. Anne says:

    I made this last year with my 11-year old grandson and it came out perfectly! This time I am wondering if I could brush the baked king cake with cream, and then, 4+ hours later when it has cooled, frost it then, since I have to drive with it. Also, how will I know when the final rise is enough, before baking. 60-90 minutes is a big window! Thanks for your explicit directions!

    1. Maria Do says:

      Yes, you can definitely frost it later! I do it all the time 🙂 Brush with cream like you mention (to prevent a hard crust from forming), then cover for your drive. For the final rise, many bakers have their own way of telling how dough is proofed, but mine is to poke it with your finger. If it bounces back a little but still retains some of the indentation, it’s ready. If the indentation goes away completely, it needs more time. If it doesn’t bounce back at all, we’ve over-proofed it, but go ahead and bake it asap! Over-proofed dough collapses in the oven a little so it won’t rise as high, but I find it’s not been a huge deal for the taste of this king cake.

  18. Robyn says:

    Every other recipe I have tried so far has been dry. Not this one it is a great recipe – worth the time and effort. The directions are clear and easy to follow. The cake is moist and so yummy. Thank you for sharing.
    Questions:
    Are the slits necessary? filling ran out.
    Is there anyway for the filling not to run out (or minimize the leaking)

    1. Maria Do says:

      thank you!! it’s normal for some of the filling to run out. The slits help the king cake bake evenly and quicker. I do find that if you make the slits smaller (like 1/2″ even), it helps alleviate the leaking 🙂

  19. Kimmy Pham says:

    Amazing turn out. The bread was moist as promised and the brushing of heavy cream towards the end really does lock in the moisture yet keeping the crisp of the exterior! The video was super helpful as well. I think my number one problem was the yeast rising but that’s default on my behalf. And if you’re asking if it taste like Dong Phuong’s… I would say it’s a close contender… the brown buttered cream cheese FIRE.. I actually put 1/2 c less powdered sugar because I like less sweet desserts. I can’t wait to share this recipe!

  20. Erica says:

    I made a half recipe this weekend in Oslo because I had a serious craving after seeing all my friends in New Orleans eating king cake. I’d made the Southern Living king cake recipe years ago and it was so dry that it was almost inedible. This one hit the spot and the brown butter cream cheese frosting was a game changer! Thanks Maria!

  21. Erica says:

    I made a half recipe this weekend in Oslo because I had a serious craving after seeing all my friends in New Orleans eating king cake. I’d made the Southern Living king cake recipe years ago and it was so dry that it was almost inedible. This one hit the spot and the brown butter cream cheese frosting was a game changer! Thanks Maria!

  22. CYNTHIA L ACUFF says:

    I don’t know why it won’t allow me to leave a star rating, but my rating is 5!
    I followed this nearly to a T — only change I made was to add some toasted pecans.
    This was DELICIOUS! I learned a few things (e.g. I want to roll it tighter next time), but unlike most things I make, I didn’t have several critiques against myself.

    I had never had brown butter frosting and OMG, that is the BEST frosting I’ve ever had in my life!

    I used gel dye with sanding sugar to make the three colors. It was easy.
    I want to make this again soon, but I’m running out of neighbors and co-workers who want dessert every week. 🙂

    Off to check out other recipes here. Thank you!

    1. Cindy says:

      I’ve now made this three times. I learn a little more each time, and each time it has come out with a better texture, at least partly because I’m getting better about trusting baking times. The first time I overbaked it out of fear of it being underbaked. The third time, I added a homemade apple filling. I’m making it again this weekend for the last time this season and I will be splitting the dough in two so I can give one away without it being cut. I also used this frosting on a carrot cake–soooooooo good!

  23. Savannah Clary says:

    Amazing!! I had been searching for a good homemade king cake recipe and this is the one. Forever and always. Thank you for sharing this with us! I so appreciate all the pictures, videos, and details… so helpful!! It was my first time to work with yeast and I was so scared but you made it easy! Here’s to many more king cakes!

    1. MJ says:

      Yes, the photos, videos and details gave us confidence that we could do this successfully and we did! So worth the time and effort! Brilliant results. So happy!

  24. Lisle says:

    As a Cajun expat living in Oklahoma, I try a different king cake recipe every year. No more, this will forever be my recipe – my search is over. All 4 of my Louisiana babies all gave it two thumbs up. The browned butter cream cheese icing is absolutely delicious. Merci!

  25. Lindsay says:

    This cake is delicious!!! I actually did use a hand mixer on the dough, also with the spiral attachments (whatever those are called), as I didn’t read your recommendation to do it by hand until after baking it. It worked fine for me to do it that way with a paddle to help scrape and turn things. I loved the details in the recipe! I’m a science nerd, so I love to know the science behind my bakes.

    1. Cinde Shockey says:

      Does this cake need refrigeration? How long will it stay fresh at room temperature? Can’t wait to try it out! Thank you for sharing it!

  26. Rachel says:

    Hi! I’m super excited to make this king cake! I made the dough last night, but it hasn’t risen as much as your pictures. It’s maybe 50% larger, but not double. Should I just give it more time or is there something else I should try?

    1. Maria Do says:

      Hey Rachel! thanks for asking – if it has risen 50%, then I believe your yeast is okay! You might just have some environmental factors reducing its rise.
      After shaping your final cake, try proofing it in the oven! To encourage a rise, I sometimes preheat my oven to the lowest heat possible temperature then shut it off w/ the door cracked open. Put the shaped cake in there w/ the door cracked open to see if it proofs faster.

      1. Rachel says:

        I ended up scraping the first batch and starting over with new yeast. This recipe is soooo good! I grew up in New Orleans but live in NC now. We usually splurge on one shipped king cake a year, but this will be our go-to now. My husband says it’s the best he’s ever had! Already making plans to bake a second one.

    2. Ryan says:

      As a New Orleans native living far away, I’ve been searching for years for the king cake recipe that reminded me of all my favorites from home. I have tried many many recipes, tweaked things here and there, but THIS is the final recipe for me!! It’s absolutely perfect! The texture and consistency is on point. Maria has figured out the magic!

      1. erika says:

        i split the dough in half and make two cakes from one recipe. it makes the perfect size and doesn’t dry out before we can finish one.

  27. Karla Raettig says:

    I made this today after having Dong Phuong delivered last year. I was intimidated by the recipe but followed your steps and timeline and it worked out great! The family loved it!

    1. Barbara says:

      I’ve tried many different recipes over the years for our annual Mardi Gras party and this has become the hands down favorite. It takes me forever to roll it to the right size. Maybe I need to work on upper body strength. Thank you! Happy Mardi Gras!

  28. Lauren Matamoros says:

    I’m almost two years late to the “Covid baking party” but I joined about a week ago and just in time for KING CAKES! I have this dough in the fridge now! I am in the midst of a omicron isolation and don’t have a big ole pan like you require. If I can’t get one from door dash, do you think I could split the recipe into two? How long would you bake it like that? Can’t wait to taste a little piece of home! 💖

    1. Maria Do says:

      Hi Lauren! Yes, you can split the recipe in half. I included tips about this in the recipe notes! Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350º F until golden brown, not too dark or it will be dry.

  29. Michelle says:

    Maria, can you put a layer of almond paste such as in your croissant recipe or will the cram & butter suffice? I do love some creamy inside but regardless, I’m going to make it this year in hopes that Covid doesn’t destroy Mardi Gras again! TIA & I’ll post again once made!

    1. Maria Do says:

      I’ve personally not tried fillings, but many other people who have tried on this recipe have had success! The cake is moister than the average king cake (because we brush cream on the inside and outside), so no worries there. But if you do want to include the almond filling, it should work fine!

  30. Ali says:

    This was absolutely amazing — my friend and I moved away from New Orleans this year and have been missing King Cake season like crazy. This was the best way to bring a little New Orleans to us! The recipe was SO easy to follow and understand, and the pictures were so helpful. The brown butter cream cheese frosting is EVERYTHING ❤️ and it all tastes incredible! Thank you so much!

  31. Craig Peyton says:

    Dong Phuong sprays something on before baking looks like cream ! They also laminate the dough. They spread butter and milk for adhesion of cinnamon filling according to the owner after docking dough ! They are fantastic I hope to try your receipt soon ! Thanks

  32. Christie Weeks says:

    Omigosh–first King Cake I’ve ever made (though like most Louisianians I can’t count how many I’ve bought.) Well worth the effort and the overnight/longer break is fine and provides good flexibility for working into one’s schedule. Didn’t have sprinkles, but that doesn’t impact the taste. Many thanks!

  33. Allison says:

    This recipe is the best!! I am not a skilled baker, but Maria’s instructions and pictures made every step crystal clear. I’m picky about king cake, and I appreciate this one being the real deal. It’s flavorful, not too sweet, and has the most satisfying texture. It turned out beautifully, and I will be making it again!

  34. Ezra Remer says:

    I’ve eaten/made many a King Cake throughout my life here in New Orleans. This recipe is hands down the best king cake I’ve ever tasted! I bought a Dong Phuong for comparison and all my friends/family agree that this recipe beats it out, which is quite a feat! That brown butter icing really brings this moist cake to the next level 🙂

    1. Maureen Delahanty says:

      I’ve sampled many king cakes and made a few, and have not been impressed. This was better than any I’ve ever tasted…and it appeared complicated, but the directions were great and it really wasn’t bad once you got going. Thanks for the clear information, pictures and videos! Lesse le Bon Temps roule .💛💜💚

  35. Ricki Smith says:

    I am a seasoned King Cake baking vet. This recipe is aces. It’s easy, flavorful, and incredibly fluffy. I enjoyed baking it and will be using this as my go-to from now on. I’m not very fancy so I just rolled my cake into the classic oblong ring. It’s was a knockout nonetheless!

  36. Diana says:

    One of the best king cakes I have ever had! (And I have had many!) I love how easy to follow this recipe was. The author was even considerate enough to break up the timing needs for each step. The pictures made it easier to follow along too. I made this for my coworkers and family and everyone loved it! Well done. Well written.

  37. Laurel says:

    Love love love this recipe! I had never made a king cake until this recipe. Very easy to follow, great pictures for the step by step direction. The cake comes out perfectly every time, lives up to its soft and fluffy name, and the brown butter cream cheese icing is amazing. Can’t recommend this recipe enough!

      1. Mary says:

        This recipe is amazing on so many levels. First, the icing. WOW. So good. Then the cake – perfectly soft and fluffy. As a novice baker, I appreciated the thorough step by step directions and visuals! It made everything much less intimidating. This king cake is 110% worth the prep time in my book.

  38. Theresa says:

    As a south Louisiana native, I’m a King Cake connoisseur and this cake is delectable! I’ve spent many an early morning in the Dong Phuong line in hopes to nab one, but now I can spend that time in my own kitchen making memories.
    The recipe is easy to follow and not too difficult for any level baker to attempt. It makes a huge cake, so be ready to share with friends and family!

      1. Nguyen says:

        Made this King Cake last week, first time baking anything. Instructions were really clear and the pictures helped a ton! One small nitpick is to include the amounts of each ingredient within the instructions just to avoid a lot of scrolling and cross referencing. The King Cake was amazing! Frosting was definitely my favorite thing! I added double the recommended cream cheese and it did not disappoint haha. I will definitely be making this again, maybe this time I won’t burn anything. ????

      2. Jessie says:

        South Louisiana lady here- I am so grateful I found your king cake recipe! I have a passion for homemade cooking & have always wanted to create an authentic bakery level/quality cake! Can’t wait to try… thank you so much for sharing your talent with us! Happy Mardi Gras! 💜💚💛

  39. Ally says:

    This recipe is top notch!!! I was blown away by the flavor and the texture. As a rusty baker, this recipe is easy and simple to follow. I plan to make this pretty frequently for friends, family and neighbors. You’ve got to give it a try, you will not be disappointed.

      1. Lamia says:

        Do not sleep on this king cake. Definitely at least on the top 3 king cakes I’ve ever had and definitely the best that I’ve made. It might actually the be the best king cake I’ve had but saying that feels like bragging.

        I worried that my cold proof wasn’t long enough because the dough seemed a bit stiff when rolling it out but it turned out beautifully fluffy and perfect. I also forgot the fork hole-poking step and it was fine.

        I may try a layer or two of lamination next time to see if I can get it more Dong Phuong-y since I remember theirs being flaky. But this one is amazing as-is.

        The icing is the star of the show. Amazing. Probably the only icing I’ll ever make again.

        I made sanding sugar by adding a few drops (3-4) of food coloring to about 1.5 tablespoons of sugar. Sugar in the raw worked well for green and yellow. I had to use plain white granulated sugar for purple and still had a hard time getting purple tbh. I think I ended up using a bit more red than blue.

        Honestly a very approachable recipe with minimal dishes if you play it right. (For example I used the same small pot to brown the butter for the icing, then to melt butter for the filling, then for the whipping cream to brush on top. Browned butter went directly into the kitchen aid bowl for the icing later.) Cleaning up as you go during the downtime also helps and is easy to do.

      2. Jessica says:

        Maria, this looks like a wonderful king cake recipe and I am looking forward to making it. I would like to fill it though with a fruit filling but I’ve done one before and it didn’t come out that well. Do you have any tips or tricks to assist me in making sure my king cake is a success? Thanks in advance!

      3. Maria Do says:

        Hey Jessica! Fruit filling should work fine. Would you mind telling me why it didn’t turn out well last time? That would help me provide any tips!

    1. Kayla Painter says:

      I love this king cake recipe. This was my first time ever making a king cake and I would recommend giving this recipe a go. The instructions were easy to follow and I appreciated the pictures that are included. I was able to double check the pictures for reference to make sure I was on track. Give this recipe a try!

  40. Daniel says:

    this king cake is hands-down the best one I’ve ever had! It is so soft, and the icing is one-of-a-kind. better than Dong Phuong

    1. Zoe says:

      First king cake I’ve ever made and I was so happy with how well it turned out! Though somewhat time consuming, the recipe itself is easy for beginner bakers and definitely pays off! 10/10 reviews from myself and everyone who’s tried it, and I’ll definitely be making more of these.

      1. Hannah Estopinal says:

        My first time making a king cake was so easy and fun with this recipe. It came out DELICIOUS! As a beginner baker, the pictures throughout the narrative were top notch and helped me greatly to know what in the world I was doing or if I was doing it right (I was! yay!). As I no longer live in Louisiana, Mardi Gras season is always a little sad for me, but my first bite of this king cake took me instantly back to my roots! Happy to be sharing some Louisiana love to my friends and neighbors in DC.

    2. Miranda says:

      First Kings Cake I’ve ever made and it is perfection! Had to do it with Gluten free flour (used cup 4 cup) definitely saving for next year! Thank you for the wonderful recipe!

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