An Epiphany about King Cakes


We went to NOLA this past new year and I genuinely wonder what took me so long. I fell in love. I'm annoying about how much I love the place. I'm going to learn to pop open oysters just so I can chargrill them. I've been drinking Sazaurc's and ordering gumbos whenever I see it on the menu. (I really need to manage that on my own, but I digress.) 

With that said, King Cakes are allowable from Epiphany to Ash Wednesday. Those are lunar holidays so pretty much it's the first bit of the year. And "allowable" is a loose term, but generally, they are an indulgence one avoids other times of the year. 

This isn't my first King Cake, but it's my first one since falling hard for NOLA. Other's have had babies inside and still others were minimally decorated without the colored sugar, but this one makes me giddy with how she looks. Inside there's cream cheese filling, tons of nutmeg and lemon zest. And while there is no baby, there is a lucky thimble. We are tucking into this cake at work tomorrow, so we'll see will be the lucky person for the year.  

As for the recipe, it comes directly from (We ate at his Delmonico's while there too, as it was directly across the street from our hotel.  I gave it all the stars on Trip Advisor)

It's a brioche bread with filling and shaped into a ring. Brioche makes sense because you know the French and all with NOLA. And that's just a fancy yeasty bread made with milk and egg yolks, for extra richness. Sigh...


  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 plastic king cake baby or a pecan half (or thimble)
  • 5 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Purple-, green-, and gold-tinted sugar sprinkles


  • Combine the yeast and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the melted butter and warm milk. Beat at low speed for 1 minute. With the mixer running, add the egg yolks, then beat for 1 minute at medium-low speed. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest and beat until everything is incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and starts to climb up the dough hook.

  • Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl with the vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

  • Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar. Blend by hand or with an electric mixer on low speed. Set aside.

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your fingers, pat it out into a rectangle about 30 inches long and 6 inches wide.

  • Spread the filling lengthwise over the bottom half of the dough, then flip the top half of the dough over the filling. Seal the edges, pinching the dough together. Shape the dough into a cylinder and place it on the prepared baking sheet seam side down. Shape the dough into a ring and pinch the ends together so there isnít a seam. Insert the king cake baby or pecan half into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough. (I did this after it was baked, before it was iced.) 

  • Cover the ring with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350ºF.

  • Brush the top of the risen cake with 2 tablespoons of the milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

  • Make the icing. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons milk, the lemon juice, and the remaining 3 cups confectioners' sugar in medium-size mixing bowl. Stir to blend well. With a rubber spatula, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals, alternating colors around the cake.

  • The cake is traditionally cut into 2-inch-thick slices with all the guests in attendance.


Juli Carvi