King Cake with pecan praline filling is a delicious yeast coffee cake formed into an oval or ring decorated with icing and bands of purple, green, and yellow sanding sugar. It is a staple in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. No Mardi Gras party is complete without it!
- What is a King Cake?
- How do you make a King Cake?
- What do the colored sugars represent?
- My Family's Tradition with the King Cake
- Cake Ingredients
- How to make the cake
- Filling Ingredients
- How to Toast Pecans
- How to make the pecan praline filling
- Cake assembly
- Vanilla Glaze Ingredients
- Vanilla Glaze Instructions
- More on Sanding Sugars
- Decorate the cake
- 📋 Recipe
What is a King Cake?
King Cakes are a cross between a coffee cake and a French pastry. They are popular in New Orleans from January 6 through Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). During this time, it is a staple at parties as well as worksites. King Cakes are available for purchase in most grocery stores or bakeries in New Orleans throughout the carnival season. However, with a little extra time, they are easy to make at home.
How do you make a King Cake?
First, make a yeast dough and fill it with one of the following fillings; pecan praline, cinnamon sugar, cream cheese, or cream cheese and fruit. Then, shape the dough into an oval or ring and bake it. Once the cake has cooled, ice it with a vanilla glaze. Finally, sprinkle purple, yellow, and green sanding sugars on the glaze to give the cake its distinguished look.
Often, a small plastic baby or trinket is baked in the cake. In New Oreleans, the tradition is that whoever finds the baby, will be the king or queen and host the next Mardi Gras party.
What do the colored sugars represent?
In New Orleans, King Cakes are decorated with the colored sugars that are associated with Mardi Gras. The colors represent the following:
- Gold represents prayer
- Green represents faith
- Purple represents justice.
My Family's Tradition with the King Cake
Many years ago, I attended a conference in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. During my visit, a colleague served a King Cake and shared the tradition of eating King Cake during Mardi Gras. I loved the cake and custom so much that I have made a King Cake every year since then.
You can find King Cakes made with various filling; however, pecan praline is our favorite filling. Even though it is customary to serve King Cake from January 6 through Fat Tuesday, I make it on Fat Tuesday the day before Ash Wednesday.
Since the cake has similar ingredients to cinnamon rolls, I make it a decadent treat for breakfast. I prepare the dough the night before, proof it, fill the cake with pecan praline filling, and form it into a ring and refrigerate it overnight.
Early the following morning, I bake and frost the King Cake for my family to enjoy before going to school or work. It is the perfect indulgent treat for Fat Tuesday breakfast, and they loved it.
Fun with a Hidden Coin
One of the reasons this cake is so popular in our household is that I bake it with a coin hidden in the cake. Every year, they are excited to see who will win the coin. It is a fun way to start the day!
Bake a King Cake for your family! I bet it is a hit and will be a tradition just like it is for my family. Happy Baking!
- Sour Cream- Full fat or reduced-fat sour cream work. Yogurt can be substituted for sour cream.
- Butter- Use unsalted butter.
- Salt- Use Kosher salt in this recipe. You can use fine-grain table salt. However, use half the amount.
- Sugar-white granulated sugar works the best in this recipe. You could try using an equal amount of honey; however, I have not tested the recipe with honey.
- Yeast-Instant, rapid rise, or active yeast all work in this recipe.
- Flour-Both white-bleached all-purpose or white unbleached all-purpose flour work equally for this yeasted cake.
How to make the cake
- Combine sour cream, butter, salt, and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a pan. Heat until the butter has melted.
- Combine remaining sugar, yeast, and warm water.
- Combine sour cream mixture and yeast mixture in a bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attached. Add flour until a soft dough forms.
- Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl (or spray with cooking spray). Cover and place in a warm place until it has doubled.
Proofing Tip: If your kitchen is cold or if you wish to speed up the proofing, place the dough in the oven. On the rack below the dough, place a pan of boiling water
While the dough is proofing, make the filling.
- Cream Cheese-Full fat cream cheese works the best to make the filling because it yields a thicker consistency. Reduced-fat cream cheese will work; however, it will not be as thick.
- Pecans-Chopped pecans add flavor to the filling. If you want to go the extra step and add additional flavor, toast the pecans. Be sure to cool them before using them. If your family does not like nuts, leave them out of the recipe.
- Egg-A large or medium size egg works the best.
- Brown Sugar-The molasses in the brown sugar adds extra flavor to the filling. In a pinch, you can substitute white granulated sugar. I would not substitute honey or maple syrup because the extra fluid will make the filling too thin, and it will bake out of the cake.
- Vanilla and Cinnamon add flavor to the filling. Be sure to include them in the filling!
How to Toast Pecans
Place chopped pecans in small frying or saute pan over medium heat. Stir the pecans occasionally until they are fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Set aside to cool completely.
How to make the pecan praline filling
Place all the filling ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until combine and creamy.
Pro Tip-To ensure that the filling is smooth and creamy, the cream cheese and egg should be at room temperature.
After the cake has risen. it is time to fill it.
- Roll out the dough into a rectangle.
- Distribute the filling on the dough.
- Sprinkle the pecans on the filling.
- On the long side, roll the dough into a log.
- Form an oval, pinch the ends together and place the cake on a pan.
- Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it rise. Note: If you plan to eat the cake for breakfast, place the cake in the refrigerator overnight.
- Bake the cake until lightly brown.
- Note: If you bake the cake for breakfast, add an additional 10-15 minutes to the baking time to ensure that the cake is completely baked thought.
Pro Tip: The internal temperature of the cake should be 190°F,
- Once the cake has cooled, insert the coin in the bottom of the cake.
Vanilla Glaze Ingredients
To make the vanilla glaze, you will need the following ingredients:
- Powdered sugar-you don't need to sift the sugar before making the glaze.
- Milk-use any milk that you have on hand. Heavy cream and half-and-half work well too.
- Vanilla extract-Pure vanilla extract gives the best flavor; however, it is expensive. Therefore, you can use any vanilla extract you have on hand in your pantry.
- Sanding sugars-You will need purple, green, and yellow sanding sugar.
Vanilla Glaze Instructions
Combine the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and enough of the milk to make a glaze.
More on Sanding Sugars
These are the sanding sugars that I like to use. You can find them in the cake aisle at specialty grocery stores such as Whole Foods.
The most cost effective way is to make your own. First put ½ cup white granulated sugar in a sealable plastic bag. Add a few drops of the appropriate color of food coloring. Seal the bag and massage the food coloring into the sugar until you get a dark shade of the color.
Decorate the cake
Frost the cake with the vanilla glaze and quickly sprinkle bands of the colored sanding sugar on the cake.
Pro Tip: The sanding sugar will not stick to the glaze if it has stiffened and dry.
Slice a piece of the King Cake and enjoy it with a mug of piping hot coffee or hot chocolate!
How to make Mini King Cakes
A fun variation is to make mini King Cakes.
- After adding the filling to the dough and rolling it into a log, cut the log into 2" pieces.
- Place each piece in a 12-count muffin tin that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
- Cover the mini cakes and let them rise for one hour or refrigerate them overnight.
- The next day, bake them in a 350°F oven for 20-25 minutes until they are lightly brown.
- Let them cool in the muffin tin for 10 minutes and then place them on a cooling rack.
- Frost the mini cakes with the vanilla glaze and decorate with colored sugars.
Enjoy these tasty King Cakes! There is no better way to enjoy Fat Tuesday than starting your day with a miniature King Cake!
In addition to pecan-praline filling, you will find King Cakes made with a variety of delicious fillings. They include cinnamon and sugar, cream cheese and fruit jam, as well as chocolate.
Flour-King Arthur Gluten Free flour can be substituted 1:1 for the flour in this recipe.
Walnuts-can be substituted for pecans.
Cover the cake and store it for up to 3 days at room temperature or 7 days in the refrigerator.
The cake can be frozen for up to 3 months. However, freeze it without frosting it. After the cake has thawed, ice it with vanilla glaze and sanding sugars
I hope you try this recipe! Please rate it and comment below. I love hearing from you!Print
This yeast coffee cake is formed into a ring, frosted and then sprinkled with purple, green, and yellow sugar.
- 1 cup regular or reduced-fat sour cream
- 2 tablespoons unslated butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons white granulated sugar (divided)
- 1 (¼ ounce) envelope active dry yeast or 2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
- ¼ cup warm water (100 °F to 110 °F)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 ½ cups (312 grams) all-purpose white flour
Praline- Cream Cheese Filling
- 1 8-ounce (225 grams) block of full-fat cream cheese, softened
- ½ large egg, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup (53 grams) brown sugar (either light or dark brown sugar)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup (85 grams) chopped pecans, toasted (toasting is optional)
- 1 ½ cups (169 grams) powdered sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons milk (any milk is fine)
- 1-2 tablespoons each purple, yellow. and green sanding sugar
How to make the dough
- Combine sour cream, butter, salt, and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until the butter melts. Remove from heat and let it cool from 100° F to 110° F.
- Combine 1 tablespoon sugar, yeast, and water. Stir until the yeast is mostly dissolved. Let sit for 5 minutes until the mixture is foamy,
- Combine sour cream and yeast mixture, 1 egg, and 1 cup of flour. Beat this with an electric mixture until it is smooth.
- With the mixer on low, add the remaining 1 ½ cups of flour. Knead with a dough hook attachment or by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic—about 8 minutes.
- Place in a bowl that has been well greased with cooking oil or cooking spray. Cover and place in a warm place until it has doubled about 1-½ hours.
Pecan Praline Filling Instructions
- While the dough is proofing, make the praline filling. Combine the cream cheese, ½ egg (beat 1 egg and use about 1 tablespoon of the egg), brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and vanilla. With an electric mixer, beat until it is smooth and there are no lumps. Set filling aside.
- Place pecans in a small frying pan over medium heat. Stir the pecans occasionally and heat until they are fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
How to Fill the Cake
- Once the dough is double in bulk, remove it from the bowl and place it on a dusted surface with about ¼ cup flour. Roll the dough out to a 12"x22" rectangle.
- Spread cream cheese filling over the dough. Leave about 1" border.
- Sprinkle the pecans evenly over the dough.
- Roll the dough tightly on the long side.
- Bring ends of the dough together to form a circle. Pinch the ends together.
- Place the ring on a sheet pan that is lined with parchment paper. Cover with a clean dishtowel. Place in a warm place to prove for about 1 hour—Preheat oven to 350 °F.
- Remove the towel from the top of the dough. Bake in a 350 °F oven for about 25-30 minutes until it is light brown. Place the cake on a wire rack and let it cool completely for about 1 -2 hours.
Vanilla Glaze Instructions
- Prepare the frosting. Combine the powdered sugar, melted butter, 1 tablespoon milk, and vanilla in an electric mixer bowl. Beat until smooth, and there are no lumps. Add more milk if necessary, 1 teaspoon at a time.
How to Finish the King Cake
- Insert the coin or baby into the bottom of the cake.
- Spread frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake.
- Quickly sprinkle the cake with sanding sugars.
The cake is best eaten the day it is made. Store it covered for 3 days at room temperature, 7 days in the refrigerator. The cake can be frozen unfrosted for up to 3 months. After it has thawed, frost it with vanilla glaze and sanding sugars.
To eat the cake for breakfast:
- After filling the cake and forming it into an oval or ring, place it in the refrigerator overnight.
- The following morning, take it out of the refrigerator, let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes, and then bake it. Since the dough is cold, it might need an additional 10-15 minutes to bake.
- Once it is finished baking, take it out of the oven, let it cool for about 10-20 minutes.
- Ice the cake with the vanilla glaze and decorate it with colored sanding sugars.
Please note: I adapted this recipe from Southern Living.
Keywords: #Mardi Gras #Cinnamon Roll #Pecan Praline Filling #Breakfast
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