How to make a festive Mardi Gras king cake

I am always searching for the ultimate Kings Cake. There aren't as many recipes out there as you may think. John Besh has his, then there is Emeril, Lottie and Doff and other well known chefs and blogs. Sandra Lee even has a semi-homemade version. But seriously Sandra- nothing beats the real thing!


  • ½ cup HOT WATER
  • 1 pkg Active Dry yeast
  • 2 TBSP Sugar
  • 2 TBSP All Purpose Flour
  • 4 TBSP Butter
  • 4 TBSP Cream Cheese
  • ¼ cup Skim Milk
  • 3½ - 4 cup Flour (plus extra for kneading)
  • 2 large Eggs, slightly beaten, room temperature
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • Filling
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Icing
  • 2 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 4 TBSP heavy cream


  1. Place yeast, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 2 tablespoons of flour in a medium sized bowl and stir to combine. Be sure that water is between 105 and 110 degrees F and pour it over mixture. Stir to combine and set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Mix butter, cream cheese and milk in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Stir and mash the cream cheese until all ingredients are smooth and blended together. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Mixture should be cool to room temperature before using. Combine 3 cups of flour, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add eggs, yeast mixture and cooled butter mixture. Stir to combine. Add additional flour until mixture is tacky but not sticky (you may add as much a 1 full cup). Knead dough for about 10 minutes, adding additional flour if necessary, until smooth. Form dough into a ball.
  3. Butter the bottom and sides of a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and roll it in butter on all sides. Cover with a towel and let dough rise for 1½ hours, until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down and then roll it out on a large work surface to form a 20" x 14" rectangle. Brush the surface with the 3 tablespoons of melted butter. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the ingredients for the Praline Filling until it forms a paste. Press the paste gently all over the rectangle of dough.
  4. Starting on one edge, roll the dough into a 20" long tube. Pinch the seams to seal the tube along the length. Twist the dough starting on one end and ending with pinching both ends together and shaping the dough into a circle. Place on baking sheet -cover with a towel and let dough rise for an additional 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Once dough has risen, bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown and cake has a hollow sound when you thump it. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
  6. To make colored sugars, place ½ cup of granulated sugar in each of three sealable plastic bags (or containers). Add 12 drops of yellow food coloring in one bag. Seal the bag and shake vigorously to evenly color the sugar, being sure to break up any clumps with your fingers. Repeat the process with a second bag using 12 drops of green food coloring. With the last bag, combine 10 drops of red and 6 drops of blue food coloring to create purple. Set sugars aside.
  7. In a medium sized bowl, combine powdered sugar, vanilla and cream. If it's too thin, add more powdered sugar.Using a pastry brush, drizzle and liberally brush the icing on all sides of the cake. Use all of the icing, even though some with drip onto the parchment. Immediately sprinkle sugars over icing in alternating rows of green, yellow and purple.

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