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Celebrate Carnival with King Cake Cupcakes

Posted by Andrea on Jan 22, 2019

I love Mardi Gras season for many reasons: my birthday, parades with masked people and their "throws" (i.e. beads and trinkets), and King Cake. Being from Louisiana, I'm particularly picky about my King Cake, but since a trip to New Orleans for a world-famous Gambino's one isn't always an option, I now make a miniature version at home. 


If you aren't familiar with King Cake, you can get the entire history here, but essentially the King Cake tradition is believed to have been brought to New Orleans from France in the 1870's. It evolved from the Twelfth Night or Epiphany pastry made by those early settlers. The cake honors the three wise men who brought gifts to Jesus and is also called "Galette de Roi". A dried bean was originally hidden inside the cake but was replaced by coins, peas, pecans, and in recent years, plastic dolls. Some people believe that the baby represents the baby Jesus because Twelfth Night was when the three kings found the baby in Bethlehem.

Tradition has it that the person who finds the baby in the King Cake is the next queen or king, he or she receives a year of good luck, is treated as royalty for that day and must host the next King Cake party.


Years ago, my friend Margaret saw a recipe in Garden and Gun magazine and sent it to me to make for Carnival season when she visited the South. Since then, I've made these cupcakes each Mardi Gras. The French-style dough is rich, raised with yeast, and buttery. Think of a sweet French bread with a cinnamon roll filling. And with these handheld versions, no plastic baby is required!

King Cake Cupcakes

Reprinted from Garden and Gun


2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 teaspoon, plus 1/4 cup sugar

2 cups flour

1 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 cup warm milk

3 egg yolks

3 oz. melted butter


Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling

8 oz. cream cheese

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon


Lemon-Sugar Icing

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons milk

1 Tablespoon lemon juice


1. Combine the first three ingredients in a bowl. Whisk until yeast and sugar are completely dissolved, then let rest until the yeast is foamy, bubbly, and active, about 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Combine flour, salt, sugar/yeast mixture, nutmeg, and lemon zest in the bowl of a mixer. Fit mixer with dough hook attachment, turn on low speed, and add milk, egg yolks, and melted butter, a little at a time, until all ingredients are combined; continue mixing on low about 10 minutes.

3. At this time, if the dough has not formed a sticky ball in the bowl, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time, no more than ½ cup total. Scrape down sides and bottom of mixer and let mix again for another 10 minutes.

4. Turn onto oiled surface and knead by hand into tidy little ball, 5 minutes or so.

5. Place dough in oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until it doubles in size, about 1 to 2 hours. Stretch and roll your dough into a long rectangle.

6. Combine filling ingredients and spread mixture onto the surface of the rectangle. Roll dough into a roulade and slice into 15 medallions.

7. Place medallions flat side down in lined cupcake tins. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Let rise again until double.


8. Bake at 325 for 10 to 15 minutes, or until deep golden brown.


9. Combine icing ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix until it achieves desired consistency (adjust with more liquid or more powdered sugar if necessary). 

10. Glaze after the cupcakes are cool. Decorate with yellow, purple, and green sprinkles.


If you really want to go all out with King Cake flavors, serve a cupcake with a scoop of Blue Bell's King Cake ice cream. It's a double dose of party flavor!


Topics: Mardi Gras, New Orleans, cupcakes, baking, Recipes, king cake

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