Fat Tuesday King Cake

The other day we ran out of desserts. I walked into the kitchen on auto pilot (which is unfortunately my normal setting), grabbed a plate, grabbed a napkin, and then reached my hand out for one of the the mint wafer cookies we made a while ago. Unfortunately instead of a stack of cookies all I saw was a lonely plate scattered with chocolate crumbs. Cue that empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. Literally.Fat Tuesday King Cake

Around these parts a lack of desserts constitutes a major crisis. It’s not that we’re addicted, stuffing our mouths with sweets day and night (at least I like to think not), but once you get in the habit of cleaning your palette with a small after-dinner treat, it’s hard to stop. And quite disappointing if you get crumbs when you’re expecting cookies.

At that point there are only a few options: run down to the local doughnut store or whip up something quick. Since I was wearing my holey pajamas and my ratty slippers, option one was out of the question. And since it was ten-thirty at night, option two was out of the question. And that’s how we came to suffer through a whole night of sweetlessness.

Thankfully relief came the next day, when I got together with my mother (my partner in cookie crime, as we like to say) to brainstorm. It didn’t take long for us to hit upon our next project: Fat Tuesday (or Mardi Gras for purists) King Cake. And then we wondered why we hadn’t thought of that one earlier. We had been so busy planning our Lent menu that we forgot all about that pre-Lenten tradition that requires an excess of indulgence. So off we went, onto a King-Cake-making adventure (and it is quite an adventure, as you’ll see). It’s a bit more indulgent (and time-consuming to make) than our normal after-dinner treat, but frankly if this is as indulgent as we get this Mardi Gras, I think we’re doing just fine.

Fat Tuesday King CakeFat Tuesday King CakeFat Tuesday King CakeFat Tuesday King CakeFat Tuesday King Cake

Fat Tuesday King Cake

Sweet Bread Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp
  • sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tbsp Grand Marnier (optional)
  • 4-5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp fresh nutmeg
  • 1 orange, peel grated
  • Pinch of salt

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup roasted, finely chopped pecans (optional0
  • 1 bean, or very small plastic baby toy

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp Grand Marnier (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 tbsp water, as needed
  • Green, yellow, and purple sugar


Mix water, yeast and 1 tsp sugar in a small bowl to proof yeast. Let set for 10-12 minutes or until the mixture gets foamy.

While waiting to proof the yeast, sift flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peel, and salt in medium-sized bowl. Pour into a standing mixer with the paddle attachment.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, beat eggs. Add canola oil, the proofed yeast mixture, and the Grand Marnier (if using). Pour over flour mixture in mixer. Slowly beat mixture, scraping down sides until well mixed. Replace paddle attachment with bread hook. On slow speed knead dough for 10-12 minutes. Dough will creep up bread hook and become elastic but soft.

While dough is kneading, turn oven on to 400 degrees for 4 minutes, then turn off oven (we’ve found that a warm oven is the best place to let the dough rise). Generously oil a large glass bowl and set aside.

When dough is ready, shape into a large ball. Place in prepared oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in prepared oven. Let rise for 1 1/2-3 hours (the longer you let it rise, the more tender the dough).

While dough is rising, prepare filling by mixing sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Set aside.

On a baking pan, place a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover surface. Set aside.

When dough has risen properly, remove from oven and punch dough. Place on flowered surface. Roll dough out to about a 12 x 18 inch rectangle. With a pastry brush, brush melted butter over the surface of the rectangle, leaving a 1/2 edge on all sides. Sprinkle with cinnamon mixture, then chopped pecans (if using). Place a bean or plastic baby toy somewhere on the dough. Starting at the longest side (the 18 inch side) and roll up as tightly as possible. Place roll seam-side down on baking pan and shape into a large doughnut-shaped circle. Pinch ends together, using water as needed to adhere ends. Cover with a soft towel and place back in previously prepared oven. Let rise for 1-2 hours, until dough has risen.

When dough has risen, take out of oven and set aside (with towel still on top). Heat oven to 300 degrees. When oven reaches 300 degrees, remove towel and bake for 40-50 minutes, until lightly browned.

Make glaze. In a small bowl place powdered sugar. Add Grand Marnier (if using) and vanilla. Add 1 tbsp water and start mixing, adding water to make a spreadable paste.

When the King Cake is down, remove from oven and let rest until completely cooled. Spread glaze all over cake. Immediately sprinkle the green, yellow, and purple sugars over glaze.

Makes about 24 slices.


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  1. I have been on vacation in NOLA two years ago and this year I thought about making a king cake in honor of our memories, but it looked to intimidating! Most recipes I found were from magazine sites and I was too weary if they’d actually work or not. On the other hand, others looked to simplified (like quick bread in a wreath form, haha). I think yours might just be the one! Love the addition of Grand Marnier. Bookmarked,.

    1. Thanks so much, Lisa! King’s Cake is definitely an adventure, but I think it’s well worth it. If you do try it, be sure to let us know how it went.

  2. Just got back from New Orleans and Mardi Gras was in full swing…lots of King Cakes around, and wanted to share, but just didn’t have the room to bring any back. Actually this looks even better than most I saw, looking forward to trying it to bring the experience to friends here at home.

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