Mardi Gras King Cake

Mardi Gras is tomorrow, and I’ve been dying to make a homemade king cake. Searching the Internet for recipes, an Emeril Lagasse one was sure to pop up. Since he’s somewhat of an expert on New Orleans cuisine, I figured it had to be good. It definitely delivered, and the king cake is quickly disappearing. There are a few things I added to the recipe, and I’m also including how to make colored sugars for the topping, so you’ll have the basics for making a king cake all in one place. There’s also a video of Emeril making a king cake if you’re interested.



  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 4 – 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind (~1 whole lemon)
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 king cake baby (can also use a dried bean or pecan half if you’re out of babies or don’t want to risk accidentally eating a baby)

Filling (optional)

  • 8 oz. cream cheese (optional)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 cup jam (optional)


  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (~1 lemon)
  • 2 Tbsp water

Colored Sugars

  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • Red, yellow, green, and blue food coloring


  1. Combine warm water, yeast, and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside to someplace warm for about 10 minutes.
  2. In an electric mixer with dough hook attachment, combine 4 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon, milk, butter, egg yolks, and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough remaining flour until the dough isn’t sticky. Continue kneading until smooth and elastic (~10 mins). Place the dough in a well greased bowl. Flip over so the greased side is on top.
  4. Cover dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. (~90 minutes)
  5. Optional for filling: Combine cream cheese and 1/2 cup powdered sugar until smooth. Punch down the dough. Roll it out to about 1/2 inches in height and spread the cream cheese mixture all over the top of it. Add jam in spoonfuls and spread all around.
  6. Punch down the dough. Knead a few more times. Shape it into a cylinder and bring the two ends together to form a ring. Place the ring on a greased baking sheet and place a large metal coffee can in the middle of the ring to hold the form while baking. (I used a pie tin that I formed into a more cylindrical shape.)
  7. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Cover the ring with a towel and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the can immediately, and allow the cake to cool.
  8. For icing, combine the 2 cups powdered sugar, lemon juice, and water in a medium bowl. Drizzle icing over top of cake and sprinkle green, yellow, and purple sugars in a pattern.
  9. For sugars:
    • Purple: In a tablespoon, combine 18 drops red food coloring and 8 drops blue food coloring. Swirl around with a toothpick until well combined. Combine the purple food coloring combination and 1/4 cup white sugar in a small zip bag. Massage until all sugar is colored.
    • Yellow: Combine 5 drops yellow food coloring and 1/4 cup white sugar in a small zip bag. Massage until all sugar is colored.
    • Green: Combine 10 drops green food coloring and 1/4 cup white sugar in a small zip bag and massage until all colored.
  10. Enjoy! If you find the baby/bean/pecan, that means you are the king for the day and you get to provide the king cake for the next Mardi Gras gathering!

If you prefer, you can skip the filling, just don’t forget the baby!


2 thoughts on “Mardi Gras King Cake

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