Traditional King Cake Recipe {Like McKenzie's}
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 15 pieces
This traditional king cake recipe produces a light, airy brioche-style king cake.
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110°F
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dry yeast
  • 3¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 5 egg yolks, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3-5 teaspoons grated fresh lemon zest or 3 teaspoons of lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Powdered sugar
  • Water
  1. Warm the milk on the stove top. You can also do it in the microwave but you get a much more consistent temperature from the stove. Also you can use the same pot to melt your butter and it’s one less dish to wash!
  2. Combine the warm milk, the granulated sugar, the yeast and a tablespoon of the flour in the mixer bowl and whisk until dissolved. You can use either a whisk attachment or a hand whisk; at this stage I usually do the latter to avoid having to wash the attachment for when I need it for the glaze.
  3. When your mixture looks thick and foamy, add in the butter, eggs, vanilla and lemon zest or lemon extract.
  4. If you’re using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook attachment and add in your flour and cinnamon. If you’ll be kneading by hand, use a large spatula to fold in the dry ingredients, mixing until it pulls away from the side of the bowl. If you’re kneading by hand, you’ll want to pull the dough out and knead on a floured surface for about 15 minutes. If you’re using a stand mixer you’ll have less knead time but, the time isn’t as important as the condition of the dough. You want to knead until your dough is very elastic and “windowpanes”. To test this, take a small ball of dough, and stretch gently. If you can stretch it to the point that you can see through it without the dough tearing, you’ve kneaded it enough. If not, knead some more until it does get that stretchiness. It’s time consuming but makes a huge difference in the texture of your finished product.
  5. Once you’ve kneaded to the proper elasticity, it’s time to let the dough rise. Put it back in your bowl and cover with plastic wrap for about 90 minutes or until it’s roughly doubled in volume.
  6. After the first rise is complete, you’ve got some decisions to make. You can either:
  7. divide into 3 equal portions and roll it into long strips. Braid the strips, shape into a circle and connect the ends. Place it on a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and let it rise one more time, about 30 minutes.
  8. Roll the dough out into a large, flat rectangle, roll the rectangle up (like a cinnamon roll), shape into a circle and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment, and let it rise for about 30 minutes.
  9. Place the risen king cake into an oven that’s been preheated to about 375 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes. Oven calibration varies and I like my cake a little on the softer side so I start checking around the 22 minute point when braided and 25 minute point when rolled out.
  10. Once the cake is done, put it on a cooling rack and wait until it’s fully cooled to glaze.
  11. To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar and water to make a glaze. You can make it as thick or as thin as you want, but I like to go for a middle of the road consistency – thick enough for the granulated sugar to stick, but thin enough to not make my teeth hurt.
  12. When the glaze is wet, sprinkle with purple, green and gold sugar on top and there you have it, your very own homemade king cake!
Recipe by Northshore Parent at