Sunday, March 2, 2014

Traditional New Orleans King Cake

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband and I are from New Orleans, LA. And around this time of year, we start thinking about when to order our annual king cake from Randazzo’s Bakery. If you’ve never had a New Orleans’ style king cake, I highly recommend ordering one from Randazzo’s. They are amazing!

This year though, given my endeavors into bread making over the last year, I decided to try to make one myself. In my mind, I knew what I wanted - I wanted Randazzo’s, both the cake and the icing (the icing is just as important as the cake). So, I set to searching for recipes. I found lots of recipes, but the photos associated with those recipes did not portray the cake texture I was looking for. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted a cake texture similar to these Honey Oat Rolls that I’ve been making recently.

I’m going to segue here to talk about these rolls really quick. These things are CRAZY good!! And super easy! I’ve made 2 batches in the last month and my husband uses them, essentially, as slider rolls for dinner. The first batch I made as suggested, with honey and oats brushed on top. They were great like that, but just a bit too sweet for sandwiches. So the second batch I just brushed with butter and those were perfect. Try them out the next time you want some rolls.

Ok - back to the king cake. As I said, I wanted to the texture to be like these rolls. So I decided to remove the oats, add cinnamon, and then roll the dough out like a cinnamon roll as opposed to individual rolls. I originally thought I would do 2 tsp of cinnamon in the dough, but after adding 1, that looked like enough, so I left it. And then just grated a little nutmeg in there as well.* The rest of the dough is made just like the original recipe. Also - the dough was slightly stickier than the original recipe (since I left out the oats), but I left it because I knew I would need flour to roll it out and form the braid.

After the first rise, I turned out the dough and rolled it out into a rectangle that was about 10x12. I brushed the dough with melted butter and sprinkled it liberally with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. I rolled up the dough, starting with the long side opposite me and pinched the bottom closed.

In order to get the most even braid, I used a rolling pin to flatten the roll a bit. Then I cut the narrow rectangle into 3 long strips. I took each strip and stretched and twirled it so that the cinnamon and sugar mixture was swirled throughout. After that I lined the strips next to each other and braided one over the other until I got to the end.

Once braided, I transferred it to a Silpat lined baking sheet and made an oval shape with the braid. Finally, I pinched all of the ends together, covered with plastic wrap and let rest another hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (200 C). Bake for 18-20 minutes, or it reaches about 180 degrees inside. Allow cake to cool completely before frosting.

While cake is cooling, make frosting. I’m typically not a fan of using corn syrup, however the icing is very important and I searched a lot to find a recipe that made the exact glaze we wanted. This one was really perfect. In 2 cup, microwavable measuring cup with spout, melt the butter. Add rest of ingredients and mix until creamy. Pour over cake and sprinkle with your choice of nonpareils or purple, green and gold decorations.

Of course you can always stick a plastic baby in there too.  :)

In the end, the cake came out perfect. We couldn’t believe it. It was exactly what we wanted. Neither one of us expected to get it right on the first try, but we loved it. This will be our tradition from now on. It was fun to make and delicious to eat!

*Just a note - be careful with the nutmeg. The first cake I made was perfect - with grating about 1/4 of a nutmeg into the mix, but there was a nutmeg "accident" with the second cake and it ended up tasting more like nutmeg than cinnamon. :)

Traditional New Orleans King Cake
Serves: 16-18
Cake adapted from
Frosting from Homemade Frosting

Cake 5 cups (635 grams) bread flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 tsp cinnamon a little grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup (250 ml) milk

1/2 cup (125 ml) lukewarm water

1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 57 grams) unsalted butter or margarine, cut into 4 pieces

1/4 cup honey Filling 1/2 stick butter, melted 1/4 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon Frosting 2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar 3 3/4 tablespoons milk, room temperature 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 1/2 tablespoon butter 1 1/2 tablespoon corn syrup

Combine the flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer and stir to combine.

In a small bowl, or two cup (450 ml) measuring cup, warm the milk so that it’s hot enough to melt the butter, but not boiling. Add the butter, stirring until melted, then stir in the water and honey. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg, then add it to the butter mixture and whisk slightly.

Add the yeast to the dry mixture.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix with paddle attachment until a dough just forms. Switch to dough hook and knead on medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. The dough will be a little sticky, but a little more flour will be added later when rolling.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise for about 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

In the meantime, make the filling: In a small bowl, mix sugars and cinnamon. In a microwavable bowl, place 1/2 stick of butter (it will melt better if diced), and pop in microwave for about 30-45 seconds until melted. Set everything aside for now.

Once the dough has risen, place dough onto lightly floured surface and roll into a rough rectangle, about 10" x 12". Brush with melted butter and cover with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Pat mixture down to make sure it sticks.

Starting with the long side opposite you, roll into log, pinching the dough closed when finished. Seam should be on bottom. Take rolling pin and roll over log to flatten. Split dough into three, long, even strips with a pasty cutter. Twist each strip so that the cinnamon mixture swirls around the strip of dough.

Next, braid the 3 strips together. Line the three strips next to each other - starting with the left, cross over middle strip. Next take the right strip and cross over the middle strip (which was originally the left strip). Continue until you get to the end. When you get to the end, transfer to Silpat lined baking sheet and form braid into an oval. Pinch all ends together - I tried to follow the braid so that the oval is one solid braid.

Cover with a clean, dry towel and allow to rise for an hour, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (200 C). Bake for 18-20 minutes, or it reaches about 180 degrees inside. Allow cake to cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting: In 2 cup, microwavable measuring cup with spout, melt the butter. Add rest of ingredients and mix until creamy.

Pour over cake and sprinkle with your choice of nonpareils or purple, green and gold decorations.


  1. we just made this...very easy recipe! Our only problem was that the filling seemed to leak out of the cake while cooking and created a hard layer on the bottom. We will definitely be doing this again!

    1. I'm so glad you liked it! I'm actually making one right now. :) I'm sorry to hear about the filling. I've never had that happen with this recipe, although I've had it happen numerous times with various cinnamon roll recipes. I haven't been able to pin point why it does it. I've tried all different combos: melted butter, softened butter and sugar mix, making sure to roll them super tight, but nothing has been fail safe. Possibly some mix of water content in the butter itself? If you figure out the secret, please let me know!

    2. When I make cinnamon rolls I add about a tsp of Instant Clearjel to the cinnamon/sugar mixture. It helps to keep it inside the rolls and not leak out. That being said, I haven't (yet!) tried your king cake recipe (but will this weekend) but I'll try it out and let you know if it works! A little homesick so I'm looking forward to some king cake! :)

    3. This happened to me too. I will have to try the trick with the Instant Clearjel and see if that helps! Otherwise it is a very good recipe. Randazzo's is my favorite bakery for King Cake too and I've been trying to recreate their cake for the last decade since I moved away!

  2. I can't justify the cost of shipping one so I have tried Southern livings recipe for a few years and it is not quite right. Will try this one!! Thanks! I also lived in New Orleans and am from Baton Rouge.

  3. This is absolutely delicious! I've been searching for a Randazzao's recipe for a while now! I wanted to see how long it would save. We have company coming this weekend and I really want them to be able to try the king cake! Thanks again!!

  4. I was wondering how long the king cake lasts? I am so happy to have stumbled upon your recipe! I was looking for a Randazzao's recipe and this is it! So delicious! I have company coming over this weekend and really want to share the king cake with them!

    1. So glad you liked it!! I have found that a large plastic bag maintains the freshness for several days. I use the large turkey roaster bags. Depending on the moisture in the air, it has stayed fairly moist between 3-5 days. After that though, once it starts getting a little stale, I just pop it in the microwave for about 20 seconds and it softens right up. However, we've usually eaten the whole thing before we get to the 5 day mark. :)

  5. I made this yesterday and it was fabulous! Have you ever tried to make cinnamon rolls with this recipe? Because I liked this better than my rolls, it was SO good.

    1. I'm so glad to hear this! :)
      The thought of making cinnamon rolls from this only just occurred to me this past Sunday when I was making the cake. I think I'll definitely try that soon!

  6. Thank you thank you THANK YOU! I feel like I'm back in Louisisana eating this king cake! Tastes like I picked it up from Randazzo's or Ambrosia or something. Making another one tomorrow for my husband to take to work and another next weekend for the in-laws. I do need to bake it a little longer than suggested next time, but I think that's just the atmosphere where I live.

    1. Thank you! I’m so happy you liked it!

      And you’re absolutely right about the atmosphere. Since creating the recipe, I moved from Austin to Seattle and, although it rains a lot here, there’s less moisture in the air, so I have to add a couple more tablespoons of milk to the recipe.

  7. I'm putting this beautiful creation in the oven right now. I'm so excited to try a piece in the morning. I, too, have been using the Southern Living recipe and think it makes a pretty good King Cake but this recipe seems closer to Randazzo's. Thanks for sharing.