King Cake

Jan 24th, 2011 by Gemma

Back in February last year, before I was blogging regularly on here, I made a mention of king cake. Well, that time of year has rolled round again, it’s the season for parades and partying, and throwing beads and cups at people, Mardi Gras!

I’ll direct you back to last years post for the history of the king cake, this year  I wanted to go into how to make them a little more.

King cake is generally referred to as a coffee cake style dough, but the more I make it the more I think of it (this version at least) as a brioche, it’s a touch more bread like, but still perfect with a cup of coffee or tea, as dessert or a snack.

So, without any more ado, start by dissolving the yeast in warm water and let it sit for 10 minutes or so until it starts to foam. This serves two purposes, it gets the yeast active and moving after being dried out, and it lets you see that your yeast is alive and well, removing the risk of using old, dead yeast and having your dough not rise.

Meanwhile, put your flour, sugar and salt in the mixer and get it going with the dough hook.

Combine warm milk, sour cream, eggs and lemon zest and whisk together. As the flour is mixing slowly pour in the liquids. This will start to form the dough but it will be a little dry.

Next, like a brioche, add in the softened butter, in chunks. This will moisten up the dough, making it soft and sticky, but it will hold it’s shape. Cover and proof until doubled in size.

Turn out on to a floured surface and knock down, divide into to. Roll out to equal lengths, between 4 and 6″ wide.

Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (or spread with a cream cheese filling or a fruit preserve), leave one edge clean.

Roll up, so the clean edge is on the outside, and pinch to seal (the lack of filling along that edge helps it to seal). Twist the two lengths together, if you can keeping the seal on the bottom.

Twist into a circle, tucking the ends under, I like to arrange the ends so it continues the spirals. Cover with oiled cling wrap and leave to double again. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect we’ll hide it in a bit!

Bake until it’s nice and golden, we leave it on the parchment to cool.

We make up the icing while it’s cooling then when it’s ready we zig-zag it across the cake. We aim for a consistency that flows easily but stays where we want it rather than flowing off the cake!

Sprinkle with your coloured sugars, purple green and gold. We make ours with fine caster sugar and a few drops of airbrush dye. Most store bought king cakes use a coarser sugar, but we found the crunch jarring and not fitting with the cake.

This is where being on the parchment still helps, all the excess icing and sugar builds up around the edge and in the centre. Just lift the cake off and onto a board and suddenly it’s all neat! It’s like magic!

It really is enjoyed best within a day or two of making, though a quick blast in the microwave freshens it up if it lasts longer than that.

Enjoy your Mardi Gras and don’t forget to order your king cake before Fat Tuesday.


  1. Curious Confections » ‘Tis The Season said:

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