When it comes to Mardi Gras food, it’s hard to choose a favorite dish among so many standouts, but king cake may be the most festive choice, with its purple, green, and gold decor. It’s delicious, but admittedly difficult to make, and hard to come by outside of New Orleans (unless you order online). So we collected 12 king cake recipes from the traditional to the quick-and-dirty, so you can get your fix no matter where you are or what your skill level.
As to whether or not to incorporate a plastic baby into the more non-traditional options, the choice is yours.
Read up on the history of king cake if you’re new to this New Orleans treat.
If you’re up for a bit of a project and you’re comfortable working with yeast, bake a real-deal king cake at home. Our version packs a buttery, orange-scented brioche pastry ring with a cinnamon and toasted pecan filling, and tops it off with a sweet, bourbon-spiked glaze—as well as the traditional tri-colored sugar sprinkles, of course. Get our Mardi Gras King Cake recipe.
Gambino's Filled King Cake, $59 on Goldbelly
You can also just have an authentic king cake delivered.
These tender cream cheese and cinnamon scones come straight from a New Orleans pastry chef, and they’re a far lighter, far less sweet alternative to the usual super-rich slice of king cake. Make like you would with a beignet and enjoy with a cup of chicory coffee. Get the King Cake Scones recipe.
Christmas crack (or brittle, if you prefer the less-offensive name) is way too good to relegate to one month of the year. But it’s fun to dress it up for different occasions—here, it gets a cinnamon kick and a white chocolate topping plus sparkling green, yellow, and purple sugar. Get the King Cake Crack Candy recipe.
An easy, vanilla-infused ice cream that doesn’t require an ice cream machine (instead, it relies on condensed milk for the proper texture), this does call for actual chunks of king cake—but you can take a cue from this recipe and use Hawaiian sweet rolls toasted with butter and colored sugar if you can’t find the genuine article where you are. Get the No-Churn King Cake Ice Cream recipe.
Don’t underestimate the dessert dip—most are nearly effortless, all are crowd-pleasing, and fun to eat too. This one is flavored like cake batter and topped with caramel and pecans, and the purple, gold, and green sugar-dusted pretzels are well worth making for Fat Tuesday (all you have to do is dip them in candy melts and cover in sugar). Get the King Cake Dip recipe.
Another easy option, these cake truffles call for golden Oreos (for their light vanilla flavor) and cream cheese (since it’s a common filling for king cakes). Just mix them up, roll into balls, and dip in white chocolate before sprinkling with the iconic shades of sugar. Get the King Cake Oreo Balls recipe.
Mini Plastic Babies, 180 for $10.99 on Amazon
Enough plastic babies to decorate every truffle.
Fried yeast dough by any name is sweet, but even more so when you dunk it in an icing speckled with vanilla beans (and, you guessed it, sprinkle with colored sanding sugar). Get the King Cake Donut Holes recipe.
TruColor Pastel Sanding Sugar, $23.99 on Amazon
All the colors you'll need, and then some.
Did you know bread pudding is a New Orleans specialty? While it may not get as much love, it definitely deserves it—and no one can ignore it when it’s dressed up in king cake colors. This is another dish that calls for an actual king cake as a base, but as with the ice cream, you can try using sweet Hawaiian bread or brioche (make sure it’s stale and/or toasted first) and blending a bit of softened cream cheese into the custard, as well as adding some toasted pecans and maybe an extra shot of cinnamon. Get the King Cake Bread Pudding recipe.
If you want the full king cake experience but, well, easier, this shortcut recipe uses crescent roll dough to bypass the whole baking with yeast thing. All you have to do is roll it around the filling of cream cheese, raisins, cinnamon, brown sugar, and pecans, and once baked, glaze it with a simple vanilla icing. And give it that old tricolor sparkle too. Get the Easy Crescent Roll King Cake recipe.
Related Reading: 11 Mardi Gras Recipes Easy Enough to Make After Work
These are an adorable option for a Mardi Gras party, and a perfect way to get more use out of your spritz cookie press once the holidays are done. You won’t be able to fit a plastic baby inside these, but no one will mind. Get the King Cake Spritz Cookies recipe.
Cupcakes are never unwelcome, and this batch is made from moist buttermilk vanilla cake with a cinnamon-sugar streusel swirl. The rich cream cheese frosting holds on to all those festive sprinkles and adds a welcome tang too. Get the King Cake Cupcakes recipe.
Sprinkle Pop Mardi Gras Sprinkle Mix, 4 ounces for $12 on Amazon
Like Mardi Gras beads you can eat!
Some people would rather save their calories for a cocktail than for cake, but if you’re torn, this martini is the perfect compromise. Made from cinnamon-infused vodka, hazelnut and coffee liqueurs, and white crème de cocoa, it’s a decidedly rich sip, and yes, of course it has a tri-color sugar rim. Get the King Cake Martini recipe.
Related Video: These Mardi Gras Drinks Will Get the Good Times Rolling
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