Mardi Gras King Cake

Ingredients (26)

For the brioche:

  • 1 cup whole milk, heated (about 105°F to 115°F)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus a pinch for the yeast
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 4 large egg yolks, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), chilled and cut into small pieces

For the filling:

  • 3 cups pecans, toasted and cooled
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), small dice

To assemble:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 small plastic baby (optional)

For the decoration:

  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon each green, gold, and purple sugar
Try Amazon Fresh
Nutritional Information
  • Calories750
  • Fat41.45g
  • Saturated fat12.23g
  • Trans fat0.57g
  • Carbs85.31g
  • Fiber4.91g
  • Sugar42.54g
  • Protein10.61g
  • Cholesterol127.42mg
  • Sodium280.84mg
  • Nutritional Analysis per serving (10 servings) Powered by

Get fresh food news delivered to your inbox

Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest tips, tricks, recipes and more, sent twice a week.

Mardi Gras King Cake

Mardi Gras season is often accompanied by king cake, a pastry that has an interesting story behind it (yes, there’s usually a plastic baby inside this cake, but don’t let that scare you). There are many versions, but no matter how you slice it, it’s pure deliciousness. Our twist on the classic is a nod to the culinary and cocktail culture of the Big Easy: tender, buttery brioche filled with spiced pecans and doused in a bourbon-tinged glaze. Use it to wash down a Southern classic such as our Jambalaya recipe.

What to buy: Tradition dictates that a toy baby be hidden inside the cake, and the person who gets the slice with the baby is to hold the next king cake party—a practice that happens regularly from Twelfth Night until Fat Tuesday. Whether you follow the tradition or not, you can buy plastic babies online.

Check out more Mardi Gras recipes, including easy king cake recipes—or if you’re really pressed for time, the best New Orleans food to order online (king cake included). And if you’re a little nervous about it, see our beginner’s guide to baking with yeast.


For the brioche:
  1. 1Place the milk and the pinch of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside to rest until the mixture bubbles, about 5 to 10 minutes. (If the mixture doesn’t bubble, either the milk was not at the correct temperature or the yeast was old.) Coat a large bowl with vegetable oil and set aside.
  2. 2Add the sugar, salt, and zest to the milk mixture and mix on low speed to combine. Add the egg yolks and mix until evenly incorporated. Add the bourbon, orange juice, and almond extract and continue mixing. Add the flour and nutmeg little by little until the dough is moistened throughout and starts to come together. Knead on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
  3. 3Add the butter piece by piece, letting each fully incorporate before adding the next. Place the dough in the oiled bowl, turn to coat with oil, cover with a damp cloth, and let sit in a warm area until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  4. 4When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, cover, and let rise until doubled in size again, about 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can place it in the refrigerator overnight to rise, about 12 to 16 hours. Be sure to let it sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling.)

For the filling:

  1. 1Place the nuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse until coarsely chopped, about 5 pulses. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until you have a coarse meal, about 5 more pulses.

To assemble:

  1. 1Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Roll the dough into a 28-by-8-inch rectangle. Leaving a 1-inch perimeter at the top and bottom (the short sides), spread the filling out along the whole length of the dough.
  2. 2Whisk together the egg yolk and milk until evenly combined. Brush the exposed perimeter of the dough with the egg wash, fold the long sides of the dough over the filling to form a long cylinder, and pinch the edge to seal. Place the cake seam side down on the baking sheet, form into a ring, and pinch the ends of the dough together to form a circle with about a 3-inch hole in the middle. As needed, press on the circle so that the filling is evenly distributed within the dough.
  3. 3Cover the cake loosely with a damp towel and set aside to rise until doubled in volume, about 60 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
  4. 4Just before baking, brush the remaining egg wash on the surface of the cake. Place in the oven and bake until the cake has puffed up, the crust is golden, and the underside is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and let cool at least 1 hour.
  5. 5Hide the baby, if using, in the cake by pushing it up through the bottom of the cake, being careful not to push through the top of the cake.

For the decoration:

  1. 1Stir together the powdered sugar, bourbon, and orange juice until evenly combined. Brush the cake with the icing and immediately decorate with the green, gold, and purple sugar.
Load Comments

Recommended from Chowhound

The Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving

The Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving

by Kristin Donnelly | The best way to cook a stress-free dinner is to think ahead, which is why we've created this comprehensive...

19 Great Thanksgiving Desserts That Aren't Pie
Food and Cooking

19 Great Thanksgiving Desserts That Aren't Pie

by Caitlin M. O'Shaughnessy | When the usual pie lineup feels boring and uninspired for your dessert repertoire, you've got to make...

An Ode to 5 Thanksgiving Foods That Are Better from the Package
Food Trends

An Ode to 5 Thanksgiving Foods That Are Better from the Package

by Kelsey Butler | Nostalgia is a factor not to be discounted when it comes to food, and these five holiday staples sometimes...