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Mardi Gras King Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Filling

Mardi Gras King Cake is a classic in the Southern United States. This cake is served at a festive gathering of friends and family to celebrate life. Traditionally, a small plastic baby is hidden in the cake filling, and whoever finds it gets to host the Mardi Gras party the following year and bake the king cake for their party. We didn't hide a plastic baby in this cake, just one whole single almond. Nobody breaks a tooth that way! If you've never had King Cake, it is made hundreds of different ways. Ours is more like a sweet bread coffee cake (which is the tradition in Louisiana). There are also hundreds of variations on the filling.

We prefer the lemon cream cheese filling...because it's like a cheesecake somehow made it into the rich soft dough. It tastes like a breakfast cream cheese Danish.

It can be rolled more like a cinnamon roll filling if you prefer the look and feel of that style of King Cake, and yes, you may add a tablespoon of cinnamon to the filling if you prefer it in your cake as well. This is a very soft rich dough and we definitely recommend keeping it in the original mixing bowl for the first raise.

Mardi Gras King Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Filling

Dough 1/2 cup butter, melted 1 ½ cup lukewarm milk 4 cups Texas Pure Milling Organic All-Purpose Flour ½ cup packed brown sugar 2 tsp. salt 1 Tbsp. Red Star Instant Yeast 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg 1 Tbsp. lemon zest* (* fine ground outer yellow skin lemon) or 2 tsp. lemon extract

Filling 16 oz. cream cheese ½ cup brown sugar 1 Tbsp. Cornstarch 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1 tsp lemon zest

Almond Icing 2 cups confectioners' sugar 1 tsp. almond extract 3 Tbsp. hot water

Garnish yellow, purple, and green fine sparkling sugars


  • Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment.

  • Dough: Using a stand mixer, combine the milk, yeast. Mix in the remaining dough ingredients. With a dough hook, mix and knead all the dough ingredients together to form a very smooth dough, about 6 minutes on medium speed. Dough will be very soft (kneading by hand is not suggested). Cover dough and allow to raise 1 hour. Lightly flour a work surface and transfer dough to it. Stretch dough into a rectangle 24" x 6". Let the dough rest while you prepare the filling.

  • Filling: Beat together the filling ingredients until smooth. Spread filling down the middle third of the strip of dough and fold each edge up and over the filling until they meet at the top.

  • Roll and pinch the edges together, sealing in the filling. Place the log of dough onto the pan and position it on the pan quickly and gently to form a large circular loaf like a wreath. Pinch the ends together.

  • Cover and let rise for about an hour, until it's puffy. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Check the internal temperature (190°F). This will ensure it is cooked through. Remove the cake from the oven. Cool 15 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.

  • Icing: Beat together the icing ingredients, until the icing is thick yet pour-able. Pour the icing over the completely cooled cake. You may put the icing in a piping bag for a more controlled design. While the icing is still sticky, still sticky, sprinkle with alternating bands of yellow, purple, and green sugars. Yield: 1 loaf, about 16 servings.

Any way you bake it, have a wonderful Mardi Gras!

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