The King of Cakes

With Fat Tuesday right around the corner and several other shops on Main Street celebrating Mardi Gras we decided to join the festivities!  What better way to celebrate with our customers than offering a traditional King Cake.  We began baking and sampling throughout the day.  I know we are on the Eastern Shore and nowhere close to New Orleans, but what amazes us is  how many customers know enough about Mardi Gras and yet have no idea what King Cake is!

The King Cake tradition came to New Orleans with the French settlers and is part of the family celebrations during Mardi Gras.  In the 1870’s the Twelfth Night Revelers held their ball.  Instead of choosing a sacred king to sacrifice, they would place a bean in the King Cake and who ever was served that piece would be the queen of the ball.  This tradition carries on today except that the bean has been replaced with a small porcelain baby.   Whoever gets the baby is suppose to hold the next party.

King Cake is not made with cake batter, although some of the local grocery stores have tried to “pass it off” as one.  King Cake is a sweet yeast dough that is rolled out into a large rectangle, filled with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nuts, maybe even raisins and then rolled into a log shape, formed into an oval and baked until golden brown.  It’s finished with a sweet sugar glaze and Mardi Gras colored sprinkles.  The following recipe is the one that we use, although we substitute the glaze with our Cream Cheese Buttercream.  Don’t let the list of ingredients deter you, serving King Cake is a fun and delicious way to celebrate the season of Mardi Gras.


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water


  1. Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  5. To Make Filling: Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
  6. Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10×16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push the doll into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners’ sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.