March 3, 2011

King Cake with Praline Cream Cheese Filling

Check this little gem out. You should totally make it for Mardi Gras (March 8th). Don't buy those crummy store bought King Cakes this year. THIS is what you are looking for. It's super fresh and delicious and you're gonna love it. My mom and I found this recipe a few years ago on this Gourmet Girl blog and added in this praline filling recipe because that's how we like em.

I admit, it is sort of time consuming, but completely worth it. The actual 'work' time isn't very long. It's just that there are several steps to this recipe and that's what makes it take so long. Lots of waiting time.

I've made 3 of these bad boys within the past two days. Anybody want a king cake?! I think I'll try to sell em next year. I have one customer at the moment and I'm working extra hard to make her cake look as spiffy and tasty as possible :)  Anyway, the point is, don't be a baby and just make this king cake. You won't regret it. 

Makes 1 king cake.
Total prep, cook, and wait time: ~4 hours

  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 pkg instant yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/4 c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 c flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp lemon zest (optional)
Praline Filling
  • 1/4 c (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c brown sugar, firmly packed
  • pinch/shake of salt (less than 1/8 tsp)
  • drop of maple flavoring or extract (less than 1/8 tsp)
  • 1/2 c pecans, finely chopped
Cream Cheese Filling
  • 10 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/4 tsp lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 2 T milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • colored sugars (yellow, green, and purple)*
Feel free to skip through the picture demonstration to get straight to the listed directions.

The praline filling requires a 2 hour chill time, so make that first.

Place softened butter, egg yolks, brown sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture begins to boil. * I realize that the above picture shows double the ingredients for the praline filling. This is because I recently edited this post to reduce the praline filling ingredients by half, that way you don't end up with as much excess filling.*

Once it begins to boil, continue whisking constantly for another 3-5 minutes or until thickened. When it has thickened the mixture will begin to pull away from the sides of the saucepan as you whisk. Remove from heat and stir in chopped pecans and maple flavoring.

Transfer praline filling to a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap (to prevent a film from forming) and refrigerate for 2 hours or until cool. Stir before using.

Cake time!

Place milk in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until the milk reaches 105-110 degrees. Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle in yeast.

Mix the warm milk and yeast together gently. Allow to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes are up, beat the egg in a small bowl. Then add the beaten egg, softened butter, flour, nutmeg, salt, and lemon zest (if using) to the bowl with the yeast. Use a dough hook or a wooden spoon to mix everything up until completely combined. The dough should be slightly sticky.

Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and knead for a couple minutes until smooth.  If the dough is too sticky to handle, add a little extra flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. It may also help if you knead the dough on a lightly floured surface.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl (I always spray mine with Pam). Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm area for 1 hour. If you live in Louisiana then any place in your house should work. 

While the dough is rising, make the cream cheese filling.

This takes 2 seconds. Just add the softened cream cheese, vanilla extract, sugar, and lemon zest (if using) to a mixing bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

After the dough has risen for 1 hour and doubled in size, punch it down and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll it into a 10x20 inch rectangle. It doesn't have to be down to the exact inch, but just make sure it is twice as long as it is wide.

Spread the cream cheese filling over one half of the rolled out dough. 

Sprinkle the praline filling over the cream cheese mixture. Don't worry if your praline filling is crumbly after you remove it from the fridge- just break those chunks up with a fork.

Now here's the rolling process.



And boom.

When you roll it all up, make sure that you are basically folding it in half, not rolling it up like a cinnamon roll. Pinch the ending flap down onto the rest of the dough for security.

Then you shape it into an oval or circle, seam side down, and place it onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Pinch the ends of the roll together to keep the circle intact and looking pretty. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to sit undisturbed for 45 minutes. I always use my two pieces of plastic wrap from earlier (praline filling and oiled bowl) to cover it.

In the meantime you can make the icing and colored sugars (if you are making your own- see bottom of post for instructions).

Place the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add more milk or powdered sugar to get the icing to the right consistency. It should be at a pourable consistency. Cover tightly with plastic wrap until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Once the dough ring has sat undisturbed for 45 minutes, remove the plastic wrap and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until slightly golden. I kept each of mine in the oven for 18 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Once the cake is cool, drizzle heavily with icing and quickly decorate with colored sugars while the icing is still wet.

  1. Begin by making the praline filling. Add softened butter, egg yolks, brown sugar, and salt to a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring contantly. Continue stirring until mixture has thickened (3-5 more minutes). Remove from heat and stir in maple extract and pecans. Transfer to a medium size bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours or until chilled.
  2. Next make the dough. Heat milk in a small saucepan over low heat until the temperature reaches 105-110 degrees.  Add the milk to a mixing bowl. Add yeast. Stir gently to combine and allow mixture to sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Add softened butter, flour, sugar, salt, egg, nutmeg, and lemon zest to the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed until dough comes together. Transfer dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth. Place ball of dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm area for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  4. While dough is rising, prepare cream cheese filling. Mix softened cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
  5. Once dough has doubled in size, roll into a 10 x 20 in rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Spread the cream cheese filling onto one half of the rolled out dough. Spread an equal amount of praline filling on top of the cream cheese filling (there may be more than enough praline filling left over). Roll the other half of the dough onto the filled side of dough and pinch the seam together. Form the dough into a circle or oval and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Pinch the ends of the dough together to keep the shape. Place plastic wrap loosely over the dough and allow to rise for 45 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and bake for 15-20 minutes or until slightly browned. Set aside and allow to cool completely. 
  7. While the cake is baking, prepare the icing. Whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Drizzle icing heavily over cake. Quickly sprinkle with colored sugars while the icing is still wet. 
-I just discovered that heating a leftover slice of cake in the microwave for 10 seconds makes it amazing. Do it.

*If you can't find purple, green, and yellow colored sugar at the store or if you don't feel like spending money on any, you can make you own. Place 1/8 cup of white granulated sugar into 3 ziploc bags. Place a few drops of food coloring into each bag. Remove air from each bag, seal, and rub the bag between the palms of your hands to incorporate the food coloring evenly. Add more coloring to reach desired color.


  1. Brandi. This is a beautiful creation. And I have printed this page out and will be making one this weekend. I'm so impressed! I will let you know how it turns out :)

  2. Yay! I'm so glad to hear that :) I hope you love it.

  3. That looks SO yummy! I've been looking for a recipe for one!
    I think I'll try and make it :)

  4. You totally should Emily! Let me know how it turns out if you do.

  5. It turned out super yummy! I'm taking it to work tomorrow :)

    Also, I dyed my icing and it make it SUPER vibrant!

  6. My name is Paul and this cake is amazing and its a ggood challenge from the usual Betty crocker just add milk thanks so much

  7. Emily- that's a great idea! I think I'll try that on the next one I make. I'm so glad you liked it!

    Paul- thanks a lot! I'm glad you like the recipe :)

  8. I made two of these this weekend. They turned out soooo much better than the store-bought king cakes. Thank you so much for an easy to follow and delicious recipe!!
    Ever made a zulu king cake? That's what a co-worker asked for this morning.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the recipe! I also like to split the dough in half and make two mini king cakes. They turn out so cute :)

      I have never made or heard of a zulu cake. I googled it and it sounds good though!

  9. I will try this recipe, haven't made a king cake in over 10 years, (love pralines & Cream Cheese(cheesecake). I plan on buying multiple plastic babies and put one within all the different colors of sugar and taking it to work :)

    1. I hope you enjoy! I love this recipe and it's always devoured :) You can also cut the rolled up log in half before forming a circle to make 2 mini king cakes. They turn out pretty cute!

  10. Well, this is the third year that I've used your recipe for king cakes. All I can say is, thank you so much. I'm making 10 this weekend, from pralines and cream to blueberry filled. Awesome recipe that has never failed.

  11. Unfortunately, this recipe did not turn out well for me AT ALL. I'm not sure what happened because I followed the recipe very carefully. The fillings are awesome, but the cake was a mess. The dough never seemed to fully rise the way it has with other yeast breads I have baked. The bake time seemed very short, and I increased it significantly, but that didn't help because I ended up with FLAT dough that was raw inside and a deep golden brown outside. It was a huge disappointment. I might give it another try, but certainly not on Lundi-Gras night!

    1. TDG,

      I am so sorry to hear that!! Some common causes of a failure to rise include using expired yeast, forgetting to add an ingredient to the dough mixture, adding too much flour during mixing, and placing the dough in a cool area to rise. I wish I were able to pinpoint exactly what went wrong with your cake, but these are the top problems I can think of that might have altered the quality of your dough.

      This has been a no-fail recipe for me each time I've made it, along with everyone who has reported back to me after making it. Again, I'm sorry your cake did not turn out on Mardi Gras, but I do hope you have a better outcome if you decide to give it another try!

    2. Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. I plan to try this recipe again so I will report back to you once I have given it a second try. I did originally bake TWO of these cakes on Monday, but I only cut into one of them. Cake #2 appeared to rise more in the bowl, after formation, and in the oven. I also allowed it to bake much longer in the oven. I didn't cut into it because I was taking it to my son's school. They ate the entire thing, I received a lot of compliments, and was told it didn't last long; but I have no way of truly knowing if the bread came out RIGHT. The fillings were so incredible that the feedback could have been based on them. I will follow up here after I try this once again. Thank you again!

    3. After almost one year's time, I revisited this recipe. I am so very happy I did because the results were spectacular! There must have been something wrong with the yeast the last time because this time the dough rose beautifully. I doubled the filling recipes, and saved the unused portions in my refrigerator. I intend to bake another cake tomorrow, and take it to my son's school on Tuesday. Do you think the cake will keep safely unrefrigerated until Tuesday in a plastic cake keeper, or should I refrigerate the baked and decorated cake?

    4. Yay! I was just looking at your comment again yesterday when I was making it and wondered if you ever gave it another shot. Glad it turned out well for you! I always keep my cakes at room temperature and have never had a problem. They usually don't last too long... I think this cake is best served at room temperature or warm.

  12. We have done it at home after your recipe… and tasted it delicious. One of them was literally devoured by my students.