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King Cakes Origin and Recipes

I recently was on a trip to Lake Charles, Lousiana for Mardi Gras where I encountered the making of a King Cake or King’s bread! “A what, I asked?” Being from the South, you would think I would have heard of all the desserts from this region but never had I heard those words before. There are some words related to food that we eat knowing nothing more than it tastes delicious! Then there are foods that have such a rich history that you can’t help but ask for more information. King Cakes are one of those… as there is no Mardi Gras without a King Cake!

Come along with me as I discover King Cakes Origin and Recipes

  • A Mardi Gras tradition –  Beginning on January 6 is to eat a traditional King Cake.
  • Mardi Gras 2021’s “Fat Tuesday” falls on February 16. Let Carnival begin!
  • Here is the history of the meaning of the King Cake baby inside.

King Cake’s History and Recipes

Come along with me as I discover King Cakes Origin and Recipes

What is a King’s Cake

A King Cake is similar to a frosted coffee cake and is sprinkled with sugars dyed in the Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold. King Cakes are sort of a cross between a coffee cake and a French pastry, but King Cakes have a very different ingredient in each one which makes you wonder why it is there:

“Why is there a baby in my cake?”

That’s right, a King Cake baby!

(I wonder how many king cake babies they can fit in one king cake?)

Come along with me as I discover King Cakes Origin and Recipes

The answer to that first question above is because this is a custom for some folks down here in Lousiana, and second, the explanation for the baby is the start of Mardi Gras! Many people down here eat king cake during Carnival season, which kicks off January 6 on the Christian feast day of Epiphany. They also call it King’s Day or Three King’s Day

Here is a brief spill on what King Cake is, and the origins behind it. And since the 2021 parades are canceled due to the Covid-19 freaking pandemic, you might want to order a king cake for delivery from New Orleans’s most popular places like Gambino’s, or Haydel’s Bakery, or Randazzo’s. These King Cakes are made of ingredients including butter, eggs, flour, sugar, and yeast. Bakeries from around New Orleans offer their own spins on the classic recipe. Plus this is a perfectly festive way to celebrate the deliciousness of another year of Carnival! 

King Cake’s Baby!

This plastic King Cake baby inside the cake is meant to represent baby Jesus when he first showed himself to the three wise men, known as the day of Epiphany. Remember, the Bible? Well, consider it good luck if your slice contains the king cake baby! The cake itself is decorated with different colors and each color represents something different:

The King Cake is decorated with three (3) different colors and each color represents something different:

Green represents faith.

Come along with me as I discover King Cakes Origin and Recipes

Purple represents justice.

Come along with me as I discover King Cakes Origin and Recipes

And gold represents power.

Come along with me as I discover King Cakes Origin and Recipes

Colors Represent the Crown Jewel

Altogether, the colors of the King cake represent a jeweled crown in honor of the three wise men who believed in faith, justice, and power. In Louisiana, the Twelfth Night also signifies the beginning of the Carnival season which ends with Mardi Gras Day. At a traditional Lousiana party, the King Cake is sliced and the person who receives the Christ child baby in their cake piece is the one that brings a King Cake to the next party or they host the next King’s Day party! So remember, if you get the Christ child, you have good luck!

Traditions to Celebrate in LA

The tradition of bringing the King Cake to the next Mardi Gras celebration is rooted in Old World Europe, mostly from Spain and France, back in the 12th century. It then spread to the United States of America eventually and found its way around the Gulf Coast region, and here in Lake Charles where I am now. Traditions in Lake Charles get pretty crazy (believe me!)==>>> Chicken on the Run near Lake Charles, Louisiana read this article and you will see what I mean!

Other things Used to be inside the King Cake

Beans, coins, peas, or even pecans, were placed inside the cakes before baking them to represent the baby Jesus. Early Europeans celebrated the coming of the three wise men bearing gifts twelve days after Christmas calling it the “Feast of the Epiphany”, or the “Twelfth Night, or what is now known as “King’s Day” in Lousiana. Today, Louisianans’ bake King Cake babies right into the cakes to honor those three wise men from long ago. 

Come along with me as I discover King Cakes Origin and Recipes

King Cakes Origin and Recipes

King Cakes are a huge part of Mardi Gras throughout Lousiana and the Gulf coast, as mentioned before. In fact, it’s a common belief that the tradition came from France to New Orleans sometime around the 1870s. It is associated with the Christian Epiphany or holiday from the Christian religion. Depending on where you are, you eat the king cake on the 12th night or January 6th, which is 12 days after the birth of Jesus. Many people eat it throughout Carnival before the season of Lent.

I found many different King Cake recipes for you to enjoy when I was looking for recipes on Google. Just don’t forget the main ingredient, a small, plastic Christ child also known as a king cake baby. You could make your own king cake and eat it anytime during the year, but…would you?

Come along with me as I discover King Cakes Origin and Recipes

What is a King Cake?

The king cake is a traditional cake sprinkled with white icing and sugar sprinkles – sometimes it takes more like soft sweet bread or a circular sugary pastry. Bakers use a Danish or brioche dough and twist it into a traditional ring shape. They then top it with sweet honey or a cinnamon glaze. It can even be glazed with cinnamon sugar, brown sugar, pecans, and cream cheese, sometimes even fruit filling. These days, they have all different types of King Cakes- of course with a King cake baby inside!

What Exactly is the Twelfth (12th) Night?

The word Epiphany comes from the Greek word that means “to show or reveal,” and describes the day when the three “Wise Men” from the old Testament of the Bible reached Bethlehem. This was the day that Jesus was revealed to them. According to history, the “Feast of the Epiphany” was celebrated as early as the second century, A.D.

King Cake Recipes

And for those who want to do-it-yourself, there is no shortage of king cake recipes online. Some even come from canned cinnamon rolls just don’t forget to include the little Christ baby.

Mardi Gras King Cake | Barbara Bakes

30-Minute King Cake | Frog Prince Paperie

King Cake Bites | Plain Chicken

Traditional Kings Cake | Today’s Mama

King Cake Monkey Bread | MomDot

Different Countries have Different Traditions

Traditions are a bit different in different countries. For instance, in Britain, a king cake is a fruit cake! In France, the traditional king cake is a puff pastry that is glazed, It is known as “Galette des Rois” which translates to “cake of kings.” The Portuguese version of king cake is ring-shaped, called Bolo rei, and is filled with candied fruit and nuts. In Spain and South America, the “Rosca de Reyes” is a  sweet bread with a light layer of icing. This is the King Cake that is the closest to the New Orleans’ king cake.

Even Bulgaria and Greece got in on the game and have their own King Cakes. Bulgaria’s cake is called  “banitsa” and it is served on New Year’s Eve! It is made from sheets of phyllo dough wrapped around super soft cheese.  It contains charms or also written notes. In Greece and Cyprus, they also make their King’s Day Cake on New Year’s Day. It is called the “vasilopita” in Greece and resembles the French galette. It is round, flat, and contains almonds on top with a coin baked inside!

Come along with me as I discover King Cakes Origin and Recipes

So Many More Recipes:

King Bundt Cake | Brown Eyed Baker

Cinnamon Roll King Cake | Tastemade

Gluten-Free King Cake | Boulder Locavore

King Cake Cupcakes | Nola Mommy


Come along with me as I discover King Cakes Origin and Recipes

King Cake Dip | Homemade Hooplah

King Cake Cheesecake | Kitchen Belleicious

Pecan Praline Cream Cheese King Cake | Texanerin

King Cake Oreo Truffles | Jam Hands

Come along with me as I discover King Cakes Origin and Recipes

King Cake Cheese Ball | Dip Recipe Creations

Vegan King Cake | Kittee Kake

Cinnamon Cream Cheese King Cake | Spiced Blog

King Cake Muffins | Blogging Babies and The Bayou

King Cake Donuts | Cooking on The Front Burners

Come along with me as I discover King Cakes Origin and Recipes

It is said that New Orleans sells at least 500,000 King Cakes during Carnival!

There are many traditions of Carnival, such as:

Carnival in Venice (Italy)

Celebrating in Shramburg, Germany

The Carnival Raft Race (Germany)


Creatures from the Black Forest in Germany

“Saturanlia”  – An Ancient Roman Festival

Most of us know that the King Cake was based on Christianity, but many can find its roots traced back to an earlier pagan Roman festival called Saturnalia. Saturnalia honored the god Saturn and was a celebration of sowing and reaping the harvest. It was a long holiday that occurred from December 17-23 and was marked by boisterous and disorderly parties which was the norm back then.

But it was definitely the French who solidified the tradition of putting a “baby in a cake”. The French also gave us “Pour Tirer les Rois”, which translates into “to find the king“. In other words, the baby in the king cake represents the King, and the King can do whatever the King wants!

Recommended Reading:

Foods of Louisiana You Must Try

Looking for Diamonds in the French Quarter

And if you want to try something completely different:

Try my friend Kelly’s 20 RECIPES FOR INDONESIAN FOOD

25 Traditional Greek Foods You Must Try!

25 Guyana Dishes Just for You

Chilean Dishes and Drinks

Disclosure:  My fun time eating and making King Cakes was with the Lake Charles, Lousiana Tourism Board who also hosted me during Mardi Gras.


Thursday 6th of April 2017

I had no idea they do King Cake over there! It's pretty big in Belgium, although we don't decorate it with all the sugary stuff and colors :) We have a rather sturdy thick round cake which also has something inside and whoever finds it, gets the crown and is king for a day :)

Cacinda Maloney

Thursday 6th of April 2017

It is a pretty cool tradition.


Sunday 2nd of April 2017

I first discovered the King Cake when I was living in Spain. They have it on the 6th of January and the one who gets the plastic figure in the cake is the "King for that year", as a reference to the three Kings. The decoration is different but also has very bright colours and of course it tastes so good.


Friday 31st of March 2017

I love King Cake! My mom gets it each year for Fat Tuesday, though I haven't had it in over 6 years since I'm not normally home. Got the plastic baby in mine this year though! I actually didn't really know a ton about the history behind them, just that we eat them every year!

Cacinda Maloney

Thursday 6th of April 2017

It is a fun tradition!


Friday 31st of March 2017

How does the plastic baby not melt? I imagine there would be a melted mess of plasticky goo in the cake and I wouldn't want that slice, haha.

Cacinda Maloney

Thursday 6th of April 2017

That is an excellent question, I have no idea! Must be made of heat-resistant plastic!


Friday 31st of March 2017

Those cakes look too pretty and colorful to eat! I'd never eat it and leave on the table as a centerpiece.

Cacinda Maloney

Thursday 6th of April 2017

Yes, me too!

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