Easy, Homemade King Cake Recipe

While traditionally a Mardi-Gras-themed dessert, king cake is delicious enough to make any time you’re craving something sweet with a bite of citrus.

From "Sweetness"
November 2016

  • “Traditional king cake sprinkles are purple, yellow, and green. I use whatever colors my kids want, and we enjoy our cake just the same!”
    Photo by Lucy Schaeffer
  • “Sweetness: Southern Recipes to Celebrate the Warmth, the Love, and the Blessings of a Full Life” by Christy Jordan.
    Cover courtesy Workman Publishing

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

The definition of “sweetness” goes beyond the taste of food; it also includes fond memories in the kitchen, living with joyfully open arms, and creating things steeped in tradition. Christy Jordan’s cookbook, Sweetness (Workman Publishing, 2016), brings all of these ideals together in one place. Already a hugely popular blogger, Jordan has compiled 197 of those favorite and most-searched-for Southern recipes: the sweet ones.

Super Easy King Cake

King cake is a classic, Mardi Gras favorite that is fun to make at home. This ring-shaped treat is a cross between a bread and a cream cheese-filled cinnamon roll, without too much sweetness to it. Instead of reserving this for Mardi Gras season, I make it whenever the mood strikes and just switch up the sprinkles.


• nonstick cooking spray, for coating the baking sheet
• 1 loaf (1 pound) frozen bread dough, thawed
• all-purpose flour, for rolling out the dough
• 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
• 2-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
• 1 teaspoon lemon extract
• 3 tablespoons milk, plus extra as needed
• 1 teaspoon butter flavoring or vanilla extract
• colored sprinkles, for garnish (optional)


1. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

2. Place the bread dough on a floured surface and roll it out to a 10 x 18-inch rectangle with a rolling pin. To make this easier, partially roll out the dough, allow it to rest for
5 minutes, then roll it out the rest of the way.

3. Combine the cream cheese, 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar, and the lemon extract in a medium-size mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy and well blended, 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Starting with a long edge, roll the dough up into a log about 17 inches long and 1/2 inch thick. Brush the open edge with water and press it into the log, then gently squeeze the log together with your hands to seal it.

5. Form the log into a ring, pressing the short ends into each other and brushing with water, if needed, to seal together. Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet and spray the top of the dough lightly with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour. (I have found that the top of my dryer is a great place to let the dough rise, especially if I have a load of laundry drying.)

6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

7. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the ring until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Allow to cool.

8. Stir together the remaining 1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, the milk, and the butter flavoring in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle over the top of the cake with a spoon. Immediately sprinkle with colored sprinkles, if desired. Allow to sit until the glaze hardens.

Super Easy King Cake will keep, covered at room temperature, for up to 3 days.

More from Sweetness:

Sweet Potato Crème Brûlée Recipe
Cranberry and Nut Cookies Recipe

Reprinted with permission from Sweetness: Southern Recipes to Celebrate the Warmth, the Love, and the Blessings of a Full Life by Christy Jordan, published by Workman Publishing, 2016.

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