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Traditional New Orleans King Cake

Get in on the fun of traditional king cake by hiding a little toy baby in the cake. Whoever finds it has one year of good luck! —Rebecca Baird, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Total Time
    Prep: 40 min. + rising Bake: 25 min. + cooling
  • Makes
    1 cake (12 slices)


  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup warm 2% milk (110° to 115°)
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3-1/4 to 3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • GLAZE:
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons water
  • Green, purple and yellow sugars


  • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 1/2 cup sugar, butter, milk, egg yolks, salt, lemon zest, nutmeg and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).
  • Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  • Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 16x10-in. rectangle. Combine cinnamon and remaining sugar; sprinkle over dough to within 1/2 in. of edges. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seam to seal. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet; pinch ends together to form a ring. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Brush with egg.
  • Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. For glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice and enough water to achieve desired consistency. Spread over cake. Sprinkle with colored sugars.
Nutrition Facts
1 slice: 321 calories, 9g fat (5g saturated fat), 73mg cholesterol, 313mg sodium, 55g carbohydrate (28g sugars, 1g fiber), 5g protein.
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  • Butcher2boy
    Feb 17, 2021

    Never had a King Cake nor heard of it until I saw an episode on NCIS New Orleans. Researched it and made it for Fat Tuesday this year. No plastic baby! I put more lemon juice in the icing, and it had a great flavor. And will be on our yearly Fat Tuesday dinner from now on. VFE

  • Joanna
    Feb 16, 2021

    This is the first King Cake I've made. It turned out ok - good flavor - but was quite a bit drier than I remember King Cakes being. The only part of the recipe that was ambiguous to me was "Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky)." I ended up using about 3 1/2 cups flour, plus whatever got in during the kneading process (maybe just under another 1/4 cup). I'd be curious how much flour others use and if anyone has tips about what could prevent it from being so dry. Thanks!

  • dandflynn
    Feb 23, 2020

    Easy,great flavor.

  • MsB2
    Feb 12, 2020

    I made the King Cake for a friend's birthday because that year it fell on Mardi Gras. I even hid a toy baby inside. It was hit. She had spent time in New Orleans for work. The person who gets the baby also has to make the next year's King cake. ??

  • Naomie
    Feb 11, 2020

    Having enjoyed many King Cakes throughout the New Orleans area over the years - Randazzo's, Joe's Cafe, Maurice's, Gambino's, Tastee Donut among a few, this is a fantastic recipe. This year my ex husbands birthday falls on Fat Tuesday, and I will be preparing this for his birthday. Made a test last weekend and will use more lemon zest, cinnamon and nutmeg to suit our preference. I always order from Gambino's as I am in Los Angeles and order 25 for our office celebration. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  • Lisa
    Feb 9, 2020

    Made this cake for a banquet yesterday and it was gone before I could taste it! Everyone kept saying how awesome it was. So, making it again today so I can have some ??

  • Two Funny Girls
    Feb 12, 2019

    Loved this recipe so much I included it on our blog - it goes perfectly with our custom Mardi Gras plates and will be the perfect addition to my upcoming Mardi Party! Here's the link to the blog - thanks:

  • robbrd
    Feb 25, 2018

    I've wanted to make this for years and finally did it this year for Mardi Gras. Everyone enjoyed it. I followed the recipe as is and it turned out just fine.

  • katfritz
    Feb 14, 2018

    I made this for our annual Mardi Gras dinner and according to my guests - it was better than the ones you purchase in a stores. Excellent and easy to make

  • nancy
    Feb 20, 2017

    this was my first king cake. and it was a recipe for disaster. i followed the instructions exactly but found it needed a bit of extra (sifted) flour. the dough was quite soft and i wasn't sure i'd kneaded it enough and the proofing area was cool so it took longer to rise. i laid it out for the second proof and it looked all right. i forgot the egg wash. when it come out of the oven it was quite late, the hole in the middle had disappeared and i really didn't know if it was done. (does anyone use a bundt pan for these things?) i left it overnight to cool and haven't iced it yet but had to have a taste. i searched a lot of recipes before deciding on this one (5 egg yolks for the 1st try - nope) and the only change i made was adding approx 1/2 tsp more cinnamon to the filling and the bit of extra flour. i don't need to search any longer for a king cake recipe. this is delicious - a nice hint of lemon. soft texture (it WAS a bit underbaked). and delicious. doesn't need and probably shouldn't have a fancy filling. and now to add the glaze and sugar sprinkles!