Mardi Gras History

The King Cake Story

The King Cake is believed to have been brought to New Orleans, Louisiana, from France in the 1870's. It evolved from the Twelfth Night or Epiphany pastry made by those early settlers. They added their own touches with the Spanish custom of choosing Twelfth Night royalty.

A King Cake is shaped like a crown to represent the kings.

A dried bean or pea was hidden inside the cake and whoever found it received a year of good luck and was treated as royalty for that day. That person also then is designated to bring the King Cake the next year. Starting around the 1930s, a tiny naked baby was used instead of the bean or pea. The baby can be pink, brown, or golden. Some people believe that the baby represents the baby Jesus because Twelfth Night was when the three kings found the baby in Bethlehem.

The payback for being king or queen for the day is that person has to buy the king cake for the next year.

King Cake season lasts throughout Mardi Gras from Epiphany until Mardi Gras Day.

The royal colors of purple, green and gold on the cake honors the three kings who visited the Christ child on Epiphany.

Purple represents Justice.
Green stands for Faith.
Gold signifies Power.

The three colors appeared in 1872 on a Krewe of Rex carnival flag especially designed for the visiting Grand Duke of Russia. He came to New Orleans just for the carnival, and the universal colors remain his legacy. 


Bring the Mardi Gras celebration to wherever you live!
Bake a King Cake and start the tradition!

King Cake

Recipe # 1 

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1 (16-oz.) carton sour cream

1/3 c. sugar

1 t. salt

1 pkgs. dry yeast

1 T. sugar

1/2 c. warm water (105 º to 115 º)

2 eggs

6 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided


1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened

Colored frostings

Colored Sugars 

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a saucepan; heat until butter melts, stirring occasionally. Let mixture cool to 105 º to 115 º.

Dissolve yeast and 1 T. sugar in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add butter mixture, eggs, and 2 cups of flour; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer for 2 minutes or by hand until smooth. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a lightly-floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place free from drafts, for 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk.

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

Pinch dough down and it divide in half. Turn one portion of dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and roll to a 28" X 10" rectangle. Spread half of the butter and half of the cinnamon mixture on the rolled out dough. Roll dough, jelly roll fashion, starting at the long side. Gently place dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bring ends of dough together and form an oval ring. If you have access to a tiny plastic baby, tuck it into the seam before you seal it. If not, use a large, dried bean. Moisten and pinch the edges together to seal.

Repeat this procedure with the second half of the dough.

Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 20 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Bake at 375 º for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Decorate each cake with bands of colored frostings, and sprinkle with colored sugars.

Makes 2 cakes.

If you prefer to do it the easy way, make it in a bread machine... I did, and it works great. I just dissolve the yeast in warm water first, and dissolve the sugar, butter and salt in the scalded milk, let cool, and put in the machine. Eliminates all of that kneading. Some bread machines can't hold this large recipe, so you may want to use one of the recipes below. Just take it out as soon as it is mixed to rise.

NOTE: If you prefer, you can replace the cinnamon and sugar inside the roll of dough with a cream cheese filling or a pie filling in the flavor of your choice... just spread it thinly on the center of the rectangle before you roll it up. Popular flavors are blueberry, cherry, and lemon. 

Recipe # 2

A Smaller Version - King Cake

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 t. salt

3 T. butter or margarine

1/4 c. warm water (105 - 115 degrees)

1 pkg. active dry yeast

1 egg

2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it steams; remove from heat. Add sugar, salt and butter, stiffing until butter is melted. Let cool to lukewarm. In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve.

Add egg and 1 1/2 cups flower; beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the rest of the flour. Beat until the dough is smooth and leaves the side of the bowl.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured pastry cloth. Knead until dough is satiny and elastic and blisters appear on the surface.

Follow the rest of the instructions from the recipe above.  If you want to use the cinnamon and sugar, just follow the ingredients & directions from the other recipe.

Cream Cheese Filling

1 8-oz. package cream cheese

1 c. confectioners sugar

2 T. flour

1 t. vanilla

drop or two of milk

Cream all ingredients together with an electric mixer. Spread on the rolled-out rectangle before rolling it into a ring. You can use cream cheese and a fruit filling if you so desire.

Colored Sugars

1 -1/2 cups sugar, divided

1 to 2 drops each of green, yellow, red and blue food coloring

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and a drop of green coloring in a jar. Place lid on jar, and shake vigorously to evenly mix the color with sugar. Repeat with each color, combining red and blue for purple.

Colored Frostings

3 cups sifted powdered sugar

3 T. butter of margarine, melted

3 to 5 T. milk

1/4 t. vanilla extract

1 to 2 drops each green, yellow, red, and blue food coloring

Combine powdered sugar and melted butter. Add milk (room temperature) to reach desired consistency for drizzling; stir in vanilla. Divide frosting into 3 batches, tinting one with green, one with yellow, and combining blue and red for purple frosting. Makes about 1 - 1/2 cups. 



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