King Cake: A Mardi Gras Tradition That Won’t Leave You Hungover

King Cake 4

Instead of going to a crazy Mardi Gras party, just have a piece of this cake.

Mardi Gras is one of those holidays I always want to celebrate, but when the day comes around I never actually do anything – kind of like St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, I’m sure that there will be plenty of late night celebrations in Adams Morgan tonight (my hood), but that’s much too intense for a happy hour girl like me.

Thankfully, even if you plan on staying in this evening, you can still avail yourself of Mardi Gras sweets. Like King Cake, the ring of simple brioche dough named for the biblical Three Kings. The buttery bread, topped with sweet icing and green, yellow and purple colored sugar for Mardi Gras, is perfect for breakfast or dessert. I like it lightly toasted, spread with butter, and sprinkled with a little sea salt.

The recipe comes from David Guas, formerly the Executive Pastry Chef of Acadiana, Ceiba, DC Coast, and TenPenh. His cookbook, “Dam Good Sweet,” chronicles the desserts and pastries from his childhood in New Orleans, and I couldn’t resist trying his King Cake recipe for Mardi Gras. Unfortunately, I think I over-baked the cake – it came out a little too dry for my taste. Next time I might try to use a regular brioche recipe and then just decorate it King Cake style. Either way, it makes some damn good toast – and is there a better way to celebrate a holiday than good toast? I think not.

King Cake 6

It kind of looks like a giant donut.

Recipe: King Cake
Adapted from Dam Good Sweet, By David Guas

For the cake
1/4 oz dry active yeast
1/4 cup warm milk (warm to the touch)
1 cup + 6 tbs bread flour
1 tbs honey
3/4 cup cake flour
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp salt
5 tbs unsalted butter, softened

Egg glaze: 1 large egg and 1 tbs milk

Whisk yeast with warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer until dissolved. Add 6 tbs bread flour, honey and mix on low until fairly smooth. Cover with plastic and let rise until doubled, 20 minutes.

Add 3/4 cup bread flour, cake flour, eggs, egg yolk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt. Mix on low speed with a paddle attachment until combined. Switch to dough hook, increase speed to medium, and beat until smooth – 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium high and add butter, 1 tbs at a time, mixing well between each addition. Knead until dough forms a slack ball, 2-3 minutes.

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning the dough to coat in oil, and let rise, covered with plastic wrap, until doubled – about 1 hour.

Flour a clean work surface with remaining 1/4 cup flour. Roll dough into a rectangle 6 inches long and 24 inches wide. Roll the dough (long side) into a baguette, pinching edges together to seal. Gently roll to create a 1.5 inch thick baguette. Bring ends together; pinch to seal. Let rise on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, covered with greased plastic wrap.

Heat oven to 375. In a small bowl, lightly whisk egg and milk until combined for egg wash. Brush dough with egg wash. Bake 25-30 minutes.

For the icing and colored sugars
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbs light corn syrup
3 tbs milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups sugar, divided
yellow, green and purple food coloring

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix all ingredients together until combined.

Divide sugar, filling three plastic bags with one cup each. Add a couple drops of yellow food coloring to a bag. Seal bag and then shake and knead, until food coloring distributes evenly throughout the sugar. Repeat with remaining bags of sugar and food coloring.

Assemble the cake
Spread the icing on the cooled cake with a spatula. Quickly (before the icing sets) sprinkle with colored sugar, in whichever pattern you desire.



  1. it does look like a giant doughnut 🙂 Love all the fun colors on top.

  2. Alejandra said

    I think that’s the prettiest king cake I’ve seen so far!

    • moderndomestic said

      Hahaha. Thank you. I decorated it at, like, 2:00 in the morning, in a sleep haze (if you couldn’t tell).

  3. Bet that would be excellent with my morning capuccino!

  4. Laetitia said

    Ah ah… I should post a picture of mine… it looks like a round ficelle… it never rose 😉

  5. […] citrus cupcakes with a silk meringue buttercream made with orange curd. Maybe I’ll re-do the King Cake with a brioche dough and ice it with a lemon icing. Not sure yet. But I’m already getting […]

  6. […] looks like Modern Domestic nailed King Cake this year, basing it on a recipe from David Guas of Acadiana, Ceiba, DC Coast, and TenPenh. This […]

  7. Wiggs said

    It’s official – I think it’s a bad recipe. I like the idea of making a brioche and just icing that, maybe with a couple of spices thrown in. Have you seen the stuffed versions? I can’t decide if I’m repulsed or intrigued.

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