Here’s how to make your own Mardi Gras king cake from scratch

This recipe from Bobby Hebert's makes baking a king cake look pretty easy.

King cake is the iconic dessert of the Carnival season in New Orleans. While many well-known bakeries are known for the Mardi Gras tradition, making king cakes at home are becoming more popular.

Executive chef Danny Holsomback, at Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon Restaurant and Bar, says he’s seen the trend grow among home bakers and people who want to create their own spin on the tradition.

“A lot of people are having king cake parties where everyone brings their own king cake that they’ve made at home, which of course can generate a lot of variations in the style,” Holsomback said.

Chef Holsomback brings us in the kitchen to show how to make a king cake from scratch, topped with the traditional Carnival colors. Bobby Hebert’s also serves the king cake at their restaurant.

Bobby Hebert’s Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe

King cake serves 10-12 people

Ingredients for King Cake

  • 1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110 degrees
  • 2 tablespoons dry yeast
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 5 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Several gratings of fresh nutmeg

Ingredients for Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Purple, green and gold decorative sugars
  • 1 fève (fava bean) or plastic baby to hide in the cake after baking


Recipe for cake

Pour the warm milk into a large bowl. Whisk in the granulated sugar, yeast and a heaping tablespoon of the flour, mixing until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved. Mix until bubbles develop on the surface of the milk, and it begins to foam. Then, whisk in the butter, eggs, vanilla and lemon zest. Add the remaining flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula. After the dough comes together, pulling away from the sides of the bowl, shape it into a large ball. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes. Then, Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set the bowl aside in a draft-free area to let it proof,  or rise, for 1 1/2 hours or until the dough has doubled in volume.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into three equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough between your palms into a long strip, making three ropes of equal length. Braid the three ropes around one another. Then, form the braided loaf into a circle, pinching ends together to seal. Gently lay the braided dough on a nonstick cookie sheet. Let it rise until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes. Once it’s doubled in size, place the cookie sheet in the oven. Bake until the braid is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven. Place on a wire rack, and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Recipe for the icing

While the cake is cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar, condensed milk and lemon juice in a bowl until the icing is smooth and very spreadable. If the icing is too thick, add a bit more condensed milk. If it’s a touch too loose, add a little more powdered sugar. Once the cake has cooled, spread the icing over the top of the cake and sprinkle with purple, green and gold decorative sugars while the icing is still wet. Tuck the feve or plastic baby into underside of the cake and, using a spatula, slide the cake onto a platter.

For more information about Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon, visit the website.

Recipe courtesy of Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon.

Created in partnership with Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon.