King cake, a delicious variation of cinnamon rolls, is served at Mardi Gras and Epiphany. You don’t have to go to Louisiana to enjoy this soft, fluffy bread with a cinnamon filling and lemon icing. Making this traditional New Orleans dessert from scratch is actually really easy!
For the Bread Dough
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (43g)
- 3 tablespoons lard (30g)
- 3/4 cup whole milk (177 ml)
- 4 cups + 2 tablespoons bread flour (500g)
- 2 teaspoons fine salt (10g)
- 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast (10g)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar (50g)
- 2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 1 medium lemon)
For the Filling
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed (100g)
- 2 teaspoons ground Saigon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted (14g)
For the Icing
- 1 1/2 cups icing sugar (165g)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2-3 tablespoons milk
- Green, yellow, and purple colored sugar for decoration
Making the Dough (25 min + 1 hr proving)
- Dump the butter, lard, and milk into a small saucepan and put over medium heat until melted. Let the mixture cool to 115 F.
- Pour the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl, then stir in each one with your finger.
- Add the sugar, butter, lard, eggs, and lemon zest and mix on low speed until combined, then gradually trickle in the warm milk until a soft, slightly sticky dough has formed.
- Switch attachments to the dough hook and knead on medium-low speed for 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and isn't sticky to the touch. It should also pass the windowpane test. Check this by breaking off a lump of dough and stretching it between your hands to form a windowpane. If the dough can stretch to be translucent without breaking, it's kneaded enough; if not, knead for a minute longer and check again.
- Shape into a ball, place in a buttered bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside to prove in a warm place until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Shaping the King Cake (15 min + 45 min proving)
- Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon until well blended.
- Punch down the dough, then roll out to a 24x8-inch rectangle. Brush with the melted butter and spread the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly on top.
- Roll up the dough tightly from one of the long sides, pinching the seam and ends to seal. Shape the log into a circle, squeezing the ends firmly together.
- Place on a 11x17-inch cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and let prove again in a warm place until springy to the touch, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Baking & Decorating the King Cake (30 min baking + 45 min cooling + 15 min decorating)
- Preheat the oven to 375 F.
- Stack the cookie sheet on top of another one and bake at 375 F for 30 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and has an internal temperature of 190 F. Let cool completely on a wire rack, about 45 minutes.
- Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix with the lemon juice and milk to form a thick icing. Spread it on top of the cooled king cake and let it set for 3 minutes.
- Sprinkle with purple, yellow, and green sugar to decorate. Use pieces of plastic wrap to keep the sections distinct.
- Slice the king cake and serve at room temperature with butter. Don't forget to place a baby Jesus beside the cake!
- Always use bread flour, not all-purpose, for the best rise and texture.
- Slow rising dough? Put it in a cold oven with a pan of boiling water on the shelf underneath.
- For a gooey filling, use 3/4 cup (150g) of brown sugar and 4 tablespoons (57g) of softened butter. Feel free to add an extra teaspoon of cinnamon.
- Let it cool completely before putting on the glaze, or it may absorb it!
- Keep the baby Jesus separate so it's not a choking hazard for young children.
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: recipe, new orleans