Celebrate Mardi Gras with this cream cheese stuffed King Cake. This New Orleans classic tastes just like a cinnamon roll and features a thick icing with vibrant purple, gold, and green sanding sugar.
Mardi Gras carnival season is in full swing and while Fat Tuesday falls early this year, I’ve been getting in the spirit and can’t wait to celebrate. Last week, it snowed in New Orleans! It started off as sleet and pretty much froze upon impact then we got a light dusting. The snow totally would have melted by morning, but the thick ice stuck to everything and made for a fun day! Since the city doesn’t have salt trucks, I stayed in for a few days and made my own King Cake!
To celebrate King’s Day, Christians all over the world enjoy a variation of King Cake. King’s Cake is an oval-shaped French type bread dough that’s sometimes baked with a filling like cream cheese, Bavarian cream, raspberry or pecan filling.
It is said that eating King Cake before January 6th will result in a rainy Fat Tuesday or that it will bring bad luck. Once January 6th comes around, King Cake is everywhere! Many grocery stores and bakeries freshly bake their own variation of the sweet dessert and it’s usually topped with icing and Mardi Gras sprinkles.
Here’s a little history about Mardi Gras. The start of Mardi Gras season starts on Epiphany or King’s Day, January 6th. Epiphany is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ
The colors represented during Mardi Gras even have a meaning. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that a popular parade float called Rex picked its color theme. The green, gold and purple colors stand for faith, powder, and justice.
Every year, carnival season kicks off on January 6th. Fat Tuesday can fall on any Tuesday from February 3rd through March 9th. Easter was set to coincide with the first Sunday after the full moon that follows the spring equinox. Easter can fall on any Sunday between March 23rd and April 25th. Mardi Gras is then scheduled 47 days before Easter and the purpose of celebrating the season to have one last party before Ash Wednesday or Lent begins. Once Lent beings, you’re supposed to behave the rest of the year!
Parades in New Orleans start around January 6th and go until Fat Tuesday. Although the first few weeks of parades are sparse, the last week of Mardi Gras hosts the most popular parades.
Matt’s family rides in the Endymion parade. His great uncle is the vice president of the all-male rider parade. There are dozens and dozens of parades each Mardi Gras season and each parade has a theme that can change from year to year. Some parades are invite-only while others you can sign up for.
Each parade has fees that can range from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. On top of organization fees, float and costume decorations, many riders pay additional money for throws. Throws, which can range from colored beads, plastic cups, doubloons, stuffed animals and toys can typically cost a couple thousand dollars per rider, depending on the popularity of each parade.
If you plan to visit New Orleans during this time, download the parade tracker app. Before I moved here, I always came into town for the parades the Thursday before Mardi Gras Day. Thursday through Tuesday host some of the largest parades and the best parties!
If you’re looking for other New Orleans classic recipes to celebrate Mardi Gras, try this Easy Chicken Gumbo recipe. I love to make this Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread, too. Try this Pecan Praline Dip for a sweet treat on Mardi Gras Day!
Mardi Gras Cream Cheese King Cake
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (cut in tablespoons)
- 2 1/4 ounce packets active dry yeast
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
Cream Cheese Filling
- 2 8 ounce packages cream cheese (16 ounces total) (at room temperature)
- 1 large egg (at room temperature)
- 3 cups powdered confectioners’ sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Icing
- 6 cups powdered confectioners’ sugar
- 8 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- purple, green and gold sanding sugar
- TO MAKE THE DOUGHIn a small saucepan, stir the milk, granulated sugar, and butter over medium heat until the butter is nearly melted and the temperature registers 110 degrees to 115 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the yeast and let stand for 10 minutes (the mixture will look lumpy).In a large bowl, whisk the flour, zest, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Make a well in the center, add 2 of the eggs and whisk gently in the well. Whisk the yeast-milk mixture into the eggs. Using a wooden spoon, stir mixture until a dough forms.On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough, dusting with flour as needed, until smooth, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a large greased bowl, cover with plastic and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.Grease an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet. Grease the outside of a 4-cup souffle dish; place in the center of the baking sheet.To make the cream cheese filling – Using a mixer, beat 1 egg and the cream cheese at medium speed until smooth. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; mix at low speed until blended, then beat at high speed for 1 minute. Place the dough on the work surface, dust with flour and form into a 2-foot-long log. Using a rolling pin, roll the log into a 6-inch-by-30-inch strip. Spoon the cream cheese mixture down the center of the dough, stopping 1 inch from each short end. Bring the long edges together and seal, enclosing the filling as best you can. Transfer the roll to the prepared sheet, placing it seam side down and bending it around the souffle dish. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Add 1 inch hot water to the souffle dish. Bake for 15 minutes, then tent with foil and continue baking until golden-brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let the cake cool on the sheet on a rack. Transfer cake to a large platter.TO MAKE THE ICINGIn a large bowl, combine 6 cups powdered confectioners’ sugar, water, and vanilla extract. Mix well until smooth. Icing should be really thick but humidity can impact this result. The icing should be thick that it won’t spread too much once added to the cake. Place cake on a cooling rack positioned over a rimmed baking sheet. This will allow icing to drip below cake without saturating it.Spoon icing on cake with large cooking spoon or use hand to scoop and spoon mixture onto cake.Spoon purple, gold and green sanding sugar over the icing before it hardens.