It’s Mardi Gras — that time of year when king cake is king. If you’re not familiar with king cake, you should be. Not to be confused with cake-cake, a king cake is a braided yeast dough (think cinnamon roll) that is filled, topped with glaze and decorated in traditional Mardi gras colors. But before you go running to your nearest bakery, grocery store or ordering one online, you should think about baking your own using one of these best king cake recipes.
Why? Face it–nothing tastes as good as a freshly baked croissant, biscuit, or cinnamon roll. King cake is no different. Fillings range from traditional (cinnamon-sugar) to outlandish (Elvis-inspired peanut butter, banana
Pecan Praline is one of the most popular flavors of king cake, as is cream cheese. I combined the two into this ridiculously decadent beauty, chock full of pecans and creamy brown sugared goodness.
Pecan Praline Cream Cheese King Cake
This rich king cake is filled with cream cheese, pecans, and brown sugar and glazed with a sweet finish, dusted with the signature colors of Mardi gras: purple, gold, and green.
- 3/4 cup milk warmed to 110-115 degrees
- 1 active dry yeast packet
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup butter melted and cooled
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups flour all purpose, plus more for dusting
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon ground
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg whole
- 1 tablespoon water
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 stick butter
- 1 cup pecans toasted and chopped
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons whole milk or more
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- colored sugars in purple, green and gold
- 1 bean or plastic baby
Combine the warm milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl and and set aside for five minutes. While yeast is proofing, whisk together the butter, egg yolks, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl. In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1/4 cup of sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt.
When the yeast mixture is foamy, add that and the butter mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed just until a soft, sticky dough forms.
Dust countertop with flour and knead by hand (adding flour as needed) for 5 to 7 minutes until you have a smooth dough.
Transfer dough to a greased bowl, cover with a damp towel or saran wrap, and let rise for two hours, in a warm place until doubled in size.
While the dough rises, make the filling. In a large sauce pan, melt together the butter and cream cheese. Stir in the brown sugar and continue stirring until the mixture starts to bubble. Remove it from heat, stir in the pecans, and then set it aside to cool for an hour.
After dough has doubled, punch it down and shape it into a rectangle. With a rolling pin, roll it out to a 9- x 13-inch rectangle. Spread the filling on evenly, leaving an inch along one of the long sides so that the filling doesn’t ooze out. Starting opposite of that end, roll up the dough like a jelly roll.
Transfer to a greased baking sheet and shape it in to an oval, joining the ends and pinching them together. Let rise for another half an hour.
Preheat oven to 375° F. Whisk one egg together with the tablespoon of water in a small bowl and brush egg wash all over the top of the cake with a pastry brush.
Bake the cake for 40 minutes until the cake is golden brown. Let the cake cool completely before decorating.
To make the glaze, beat the cream cheese with the milk until smooth. Alternate adding powdered sugar and milk until glaze is thick but still pourable. Place the cake on a wire rack over parchment and pour glaze over cake. Decorate with sanding sugar, alternating purple, green, and gold. Working from the bottom of the cake, press the baby fully into the cake.
When (very unofficially) polled, more people claimed they preferred cream cheese over any other flavor (pecan praline was second). It’s no wonder, as creamy fillings go beautifully with tender dough.
This king cake is the best of both tart and sweet worlds. Filled with Meyer lemon curd and topped off with a lemon glaze, it’s anything but traditional, and yet it still satisfies that king cake craving.
The inspiration for this year’s forthcoming king cake, this salted caramel beauty should be a centerpiece for all Mardi gras festivities. Honestly, does it get any better than sea salt + caramel? I don’t think so.
Another quintessential New Orleans dessert, bananas foster is decadent and delicious. With a rum-banana-cream cheese filling, this over-the-top king cake is a winner.
New Orleans’ own Joy the Baker puts a little personal spin on the traditional filling by adding cocoa powder. Me likey.
I can’t even right now. Peanut butter, banana, and bacon? It’s almost too insane…but if I’m completely honest? I’m digging it.
Last but not least, we end on a traditional note. This cinnamon-sugar filled king cake is no-frills but gets the job done for the king cake purists.
Well, any way you slice it (see what I did there?), king cake is here until midnight on Fat Tuesday, March 5. So do yourself a favor, whip yourself up one of these babies and