Mardi Gras King Cake

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I have been lucky enough to travel all over the world, I once counted how many countries I have visited and it was over 42. I have travelled to almost all US states except Louisiana. I really would love to visit New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Since I won’t be experiencing the Mardi Gras this year I thought I would at least try to celebrate by baking the famous King Cake.

When I searched the internet the King Cake was defined as an oval-shaped bakery delicacy, crossed between a coffee cake and a French pastry. But after looking at several recipes it was apparent that this King Cake was not a cake at all but an enriched bread. It was extremely similar to Brioche.

It is thought to have been brought to New Orleans from France in 1870. It is always 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 hidden in each King Cake. Today the common prize is a small plastic baby. At a party, the King Cake is sliced and served. Each person looks to see if their 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.


Brioche Recipe


Part 1 – sponge

255g all-purpose flour

255g – whole milk (heated to 95F)

27g instant yeast

Part 2 – dough

600g all-purpose flour

200g whole large eggs (about 4)

100g egg yolks (about 5)

80g sugar

15g salt

5g lemon zest

5g almond extract

320g butter (softened and cut into small cubes)

Egg wash

Filling (make filling while dough is resting)

8oz cream cheese (softened to room temperature)

201g sugar

9g almond extract

1 egg

  • With an electric mixer beat cheese and sugar until well blended
  • Add almond extract and egg and beat until combined


Method Part One (sponge)

  1. Heat milk (I just placed in microwave on high for 45seconds
  2. Place flour in bowl and add yeast and roughly mix
  3. Add milk to flour
  4. Cover with plastic or cloth and sit in a warm spot – let sponge rest until double is size and bubbling (about 30-45min)


Method Part Two (dough)

  1. Using a stand mixer with a bread hook add sponge to bowl with flour, sugar, salt, lemon zest, almond extract
  2. Mix on low speed for about 2 min
  3. Add eggs and egg yolks
  4. Mix on low speed for 4 min
  5. Turn mixer to high and mix for another 6min
  6. Turn mixer to low and slowly add the butter cubes until well combined into the dough
  7. If dough is not coming together on hook (meaning it is stuck all around on side of bowl) sprinkle flour around sides of bowl and continue to mix on low until dough comes together
  8. On a floured surface cover dough and let sit in a warm spot to rest for 30min
  9. After 30min punch down dough and divide dough into 2 equal pieces
  10. With one piece of the dough – roll out into a large rectangle /should be about 2cm thick
  11. Dough will be VERY sticky so continue to flour surface and rolling pin
  12. Place filling on rectangle and spread with an off-set spatula
  13. Roll dough starting at widest side (like when you make cinnamon buns OR a jelly-roll)
  14. Attach ends to form a circle and place in prepared pan ( I used a springform pan) ENSURE pan is well greased – I spray with baking non-stick spray
  15. Brush top with an egg wash and sprinkle sugar on top
  16. Cover with cloth and let sit in a warm spot until roughly doubled in size
  17. Bake at 375F for 25min
  18. Cool completely then remove from pan

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56g tablespoons milk

56g tablespoons white rum (I used cherry)

520g icing sugar

purple-green-gold sanding sugar

  • Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until consistency is pourable
  • Pour over cooled brioche
  • Immediately sprinkle the sugar in alternating colours
  • I did not have green sanding sugar so I used sprinkles instead ( I wouldn’t recommend as it did not look great)
  • Let icing sit for 30min – should get firm


As you can see I did not add the plastic baby. To be honest the plastic baby kind of creeped me out. I think the tradition is very cool but I think I would prefer to add a bean instead.

I have made this brioche recipes hundreds of times as it never fails. It was a recipe from my bread class at George Brown in Toronto. I searched the web for filling ideas and it seemed like the traditional filling was either a cream cheese or an almond paste. I do love my almond but I opted for the cheese since using my brothers Cèstbon chevre was a natural. I am not sure if it was the cheese filling or the way I rolled and placed in the pan but it seemed like where the cheese was in the bread it did not cook properly. (was doughy) If I was to make this cake again I would omit the cheese filling and maybe try the almond paste instead. It was still delicious, I really like the contrast of the slight almond flavour of the bread with the contrast of the cherry rum icing.

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