king cake with decorations

Easy King Cake

Cakes, Southern Desserts

This super easy King Cake recipe is everything you need to celebrate Fat Tuesday in style! Save some of your Mardi Gras beads to decorate this tasty and festive cake.


History of the King Cake

The King Cake that we love to enjoy on Mardi Gras has an interesting past. It’s originally known as the Three King’s Cake, named after The 3 Wise Men who visited the baby Jesus, also known as The 3 Kings.

The cake was first baked in Europe during the Middle Ages. When Europeans colonized America, they brought along its recipe.

The cake usually contains a figurine of a baby, representing the Christ Child. It’s said that whoever receives the slice with the baby will have very good luck!

Cake Variations

The King Cake is consumed in many countries, and has many styles. In the US, it’s the traditional cake for Mardi Gras celebrations, and is prepared as a ring of twisted cinnamon roll dough.

Inside can be any of the following fillings, or really whatever type of filling you fancy.

  • cream cheese filling
  • melted butter mixture
  • praline
  • cinnamon sugar

For our version, we’re making a tasty cream cheese and cinnamon filling with brown sugar, pecans, raisins, and orange zest.

The King Cake is then topped with icing and granulated sugar. The traditional Mardi Gras colors are always used:

  1. purple for justice
  2. green for faith
  3. gold for power

These cakes can be expensive to buy from a bakery, so you’re generally better off baking one yourself. The traditional King Cake recipe is somewhat complex to make though, so put away your flour. We’re making things easy by using crescent roll dough. 

We hope you’ll enjoy our easy King Cake recipe!

new orleans king cake for mardi gras

Directions for Making the King Cake

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 3 (14 ounce) cans of refrigerated crescent roll dough (like Pillsbury)
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tsp orange zest
  • ⅔ cup finely chopped pecans
  • ½ cup raisins

Frosting:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • purple, green, and yellow sanding sugar or sprinkles

Directions

Making the Mardi Gras King Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer to combine together the softened cream cheese, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Stir in the orange zest, chopped pecans, and raisins.
  4. Unroll the canned crescent rolls. On a floured surface, align the rolls’ dough into a 20-by-7-inch rectangle, with the long edge facing you. Pinch the seams together, using a little water to seal.
  5. Spread the cream cheese mixture in an even layer over the dough, leaving 1-inch borders along the top and bottom long edges with no filling.
  6. Fold the bottom side halfway up over the filling, and then fold the top side down to meet the other side, making a roll. Pinch the sides together, again using a little water to seal.
  7. Transfer the roll with the seam-side down to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bring the ends together to form a ring, and tuck one end into the other. Pinch it closed, using a bit more water.  
  8. Bake the dough in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. Toward the end of the cook time, monitor for doneness so it doesn’t over-bake. 
  9. Place on a wire rack and cool the cake completely. Then move the cake to your serving plate. Cut a small slit into the side of the cooled cake and insert the king cake baby, far enough so that it’s hidden. (Be sure to warn your friends that it’s in there before they dig in!)

Frosting and Decorating Your King Cake

  1. In a small bowl, stir the confectioners’ sugar, melted butter, and vanilla extract together to make the glaze. Stir in 3 tablespoons milk. Add very small amounts of additional milk, just until the glaze becomes pourable. Pour it evenly over your cooled cake. 
  2. Sprinkle the cake with the colored sugar, alternating the colors as shown in the picture.
  3. Decorate your cake with beads and other festive goodies.

Try some other traditional Mardi Gras food for Fat Tuesday!

  • Pancakes are a traditional dish for Mardi Gras, also known as Pancake Tuesday. Add a few drops of purple, yellow, and green food coloring to your batter, and swirl to make a festive breakfast.
  • Cajun jambalaya with andouille sausage is Creole perfection for Fat Tuesday.
  • Shrimp po’ boy with crab aioli can’t be missed when you’re celebrating Mardi Gras.

We hope you’ll enjoy our Easy King Cake!

king cake with decorations

Easy King Cake

This easy King Cake recipe is everything you need to celebrate Fat Tuesday in style! Save some of your Mardi Gras beads to decorate this tasty and festive cake.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, Southern
Servings 12
Calories 502 kcal

Ingredients
  

Cake

  • 3 cans crescent dough
  • 8 oz cream cheese softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 tsp orange zest
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

Frosting Topping

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter melted
  • 3 tbsp whole milk
  • purple, green, and yellow sanding sugar

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer to combine together the softened cream cheese, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Stir in the orange zest, chopped pecans, and raisins.
  • Unroll the canned crescent rolls. On a floured surface, align the rolls' dough into a 20-by-7-inch rectangle, with the long edge facing you. Pinch the seams together, using a little water to seal.
  • Spread the cream cheese mixture in an even layer over the dough, leaving 1-inch borders along the top and bottom long edges with no filling.
  • Fold the bottom side halfway up over the filling, and then fold the top side down to meet the other side, making a roll. Pinch the sides together, again using a little water to seal tightly.
  • Transfer the roll with the seam-side down to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bring the ends together to form a ring, and tuck one end into the other. Pinch it closed, using a bit more water.  
  • Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. Toward the end of the cook time, monitor for doneness so it doesn't over-bake. 
  • Place the cake on a wire rack and let it cool completely. Then move the cake to your serving plate. Cut a small slit into the side of the cooled cake and insert the king cake baby, far enough so that it's hidden.
  • In a small bowl, stir the confectioners' sugar, melted butter, and vanilla extract together to make the glaze. Stir in 3 tablespoons milk. Add very small amounts of additional milk, just until the glaze becomes pourable. Pour it evenly over your cooled cake. 
  • Sprinkle the cake with the colored sugar, alternating the colors as shown in the picture.
  • Decorate your cake with beads and other festive goodies.

Notes

Be sure to warn your friends that the King Cake baby is somewhere inside the cake! 

Nutrition

Calories: 502kcalCarbohydrates: 68gProtein: 4gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 511mgPotassium: 122mgFiber: 1gSugar: 45gVitamin A: 354IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 42mgIron: 1mg
Keyword cinnamon, cream cheese, crescent rolls, mardi gras, pecan
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