If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve had the pleasure of riding along as I explored making a new easy king cake recipe. In my quest to develop a flaky easy king cake recipe, I went through pounds of butter, bags of flour, and may have contributed to the failure of a few diets. I’m not sorry.
See the process and failures that went into this recipe.
King Cake season begins January 6, giving us five days to keep our healthy eating resolution. It is the perfect amount of time to realize food tastes better than skinny feels.
By no means is this a “traditional king cake recipe”. Truth be told, what many think of as a “traditional king cake” is not traditional either. La Galette des Rois is the original king cake, made for centuries in France. Many from South Louisiana come from French heritage, hence the tradition of king cakes but with different iterations along the way. This is my interpretation.
wake up yeast
Heat milk to 100°-110°. Stir yeast into warm milk & let stand for 10 minutes.
If bubbles form, you have active yeast & you are good to go. If not, your yeast has expired & you need to go out to buy more.
make flour paste
Whisk flour and water together in microwaveable dish or measuring cup until smooth. Microwave for 25 seconds.
Whisk & microwave for 25 seconds more.
Whisk for the last time until uniform and microwave for 25 seconds. Mixture will be very hot, stiff and pudding-like. Let cool to ~115°.
In bowl of stand mixer, whisk warm flour paste into the milk/yeast mixture until smooth.
Whisk in whole egg + yolk until uniform.
Add sifted flour.
Fit stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
Then mix on low (speed setting 1) until uniformly moist, ~1 minute.
Cover with a clean linen towel, and let stand 15 minutes.
Replace paddle with dough hook. Add sugar and salt then mix on medium-low (speed 2) for 5 minutes.
Stop and add softened butter cut up into small cubes. Mix on medium-low for 2.5 minutes.
Scrape down hook and bowl with your favorite spatula.
Continue mixing on medium-low (speed 2 for Kitchenaid mixers) until dough pulls away from the bowl, forming a soft elastic ball. This can take anywhere from 2-10 minutes depending on your flour, mixer, temperature, etc.
If dough seems greasy, pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes to cool the butter.
See the video below to see what that looks like. If your mixer just isn’t cutting it, transfer to a floured counter and knead to form a tight ball.
Place in a lightly greased bowl. Lightly coat dough with vegetable spray and cover with plastic wrap. You can either continue on or place your dough in the refrigerator overnight and finish up the next day.
Let dough rise until doubled in volume, 40 minutes – 1 hour.
While the dough rises, make the brown butter. It can also be made ahead of time & stored in an airtight container.
Place butter in a medium sized saucepan with high sides and melt over medium to medium low heat. Yes, the saucepan may seem too large for a stick of butter but you will need the room for the next step.
Butter will foam then start to brown as the solids toast. As soon as the butter smells nutty and starts to brown, take off heat and add a large ice cube. The butter will foam vigorously then calm down just as quickly.
Chill butter to room temperature using an ice bath, whisking constantly.
Once cool but still pliable, whisk in 15 grams flour + 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt. Cover & set aside.
On a flour dusted work surface, flatten dough & shape into a 12″ square. Let rest 10 minutes.
Roll to 1/4″ thin forming a rectangle.
Let rest 10 minutes.
Roll to 1/8″ thin.
Let rest 10 minutes.
Roll to 1/16″ or thinner. It will be at least 4 feet long & nearly see through.
Brush melted brown butter over entire dough.
Using a pizza cutter, slice dough in half lengthwise. Place one half on top of the other. Repeat. You now have one long piece of dough with 4 layers.
Cut in half widthwise through the middle . Let rest 10 minutes.
Roll out both pieces to 4 ft again.
Brush tops with melted brown butter. Make more butter if you need to. More butter is always welcome. Sprinkle with brown sugar. You want a very thin layer over the entire dough. Pat into place.
Roll each 4ft piece tightly into a cylinder. Place seam side down on a parchment lined sheet pan and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Mark dough cylinder every inch with a very sharp knife to use as your slicing guide.
To slice, hold a strand of dental floss taut and slide underneath the cylinder, stopping at the first mark. Cross ends of floss over each other and pull.
Transfer each slice, cut side down, to your parchment lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and let chill in fridge for 45-55 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F
Place slices on new parchment paper in a circle for traditional king cake shape or space out to make individual cakes.
Bake 25-30 minutes, turning halfway through for even golden brown color.
Top with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Icing while warm.
Sprinkle purple, green & gold colored sugar before icing cools.
Flaky King Cake
- 150 grams water
- 40 grams bread flour
- 150 grams milk, heated to 100°-110°
- 7 grams yeast, 1 envelope
- 1 large whole egg + 1 large yolk
- 430 grams bread flour
- 40 grams granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 85 grams thinly sliced unsalted butter, room temp
- 1 stick unsalted butter, browned
- 55 grams brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- For the dough, whisk flour paste ingredients together then microwave in 25 second increments on high. Whisk after each session until stiff and pudding-like ~50-75 seconds. Add to stand mixer bowl to cool.
- Stir yeast into warm milk & let stand for 10 minutes. Whisk in eggs then stir into flour paste mixture until smooth.
- Add flour then, with paddle attachment, mix on low until uniformly moist, ~1-2 mins. Stop and let stand 15 mins.
- Replace paddle with dough hook. Add sugar and salt and mix on medium-low for 5 mins.
- Add butter slices. Mix on medium-low for 2 minutes. Scrape down hook and bowl. Continue mixing until until the dough forms into a very elastic, smooth ball. 10-15 mins.
- Place dough in a lightly greased bowl & cover. Let dough rise until doubled in volume, 40-60 mins. Optional: Place in refrigerator overnight.
- To Assemble: on a floured counter, flatten dough & shape into a 12" square. Let rest 10 minutes. Roll to 1/4" thick forming a rectangle. Let rest 10 minutes. Roll to 1/8". Let rest 10 minutes. Roll to 1/16" or thinner. You should now have a large 24"x48" rectangle.
- Brush melted brown butter over the entire dough.
- Using a pizza cutter, slice dough in half lengthwise. Place one half on top of the other and repeat. You should have 4 stacked layers of dough measuring about 6"x48".
- Cut in half through the middle to make two 24" pieces. Roll out both pieces to around 48" again. If dough springs back, let rest for 10 minutes.
- Brush with melted brown butter. Stir brown sugar & cinnamon together then sprinkle it in a very thin layer over the dough, patting in place. Roll each dough tightly into a cylinder. Place seam side down on a parchment lined sheet pan and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Mark every inch with a very sharp knife to use as your guide. To slice, hold a strand of dental floss taut and slide underneath the cylinder, stopping at the first mark. Cross ends of floss over each other and pull. Transfer each slice, cut side down, to your parchment lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and let chill in fridge for 45-55 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Place slices on new parchment paper in a circle for traditional king cake shape or space out for individual cakes.
- Bake 25-30 minutes, turning halfway through for even color until golden brown. Top with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Icing while warm.
Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, typos I need to fix, please comment below! I can’t wait to see everyone’s king cakes!
I’ve Never seen Milk and water measured in grams. I’m About to make the recipe and just want to make sure it’s not Supposed to be milliLiters. Thanks for your response and for Posting your recipe!
Yes, they need to be in grams bc they are so specific that milliliters is too hard to measure. Also, 1 gram water = 1 milliliter
Seriously the best king cake recipe ever!
Have you tried other fillings? i love blueberry. Just wOndering if you tried anything similar and how it turned out. Looks DelicioUs.
Yes I have been filling mine lately with a creme brûlée filling. Over the top yum!
BUT you have to fill it after baking by piping it from the bottom.
This looks great! I’ve been searching for a flakier more pastry-like king cake recipe and found yours! Although, I’d seriously reconsider titling it “easy king cake” recipe, as I’d say this is much more complicated than someone casually looking to make their own king cake may first want to attempt.
Ha! A fellow baker & I were just discussing this. The techniques I use are very easy but not quick. I promise, it’s worth the effort.
I like to split it up into phases. Dough making, throw into the fridge overnight up to a few days (gets better as it sits). When I have a block of time later, I roll out & assemble. I can either bake it that day or pop it back in the fridge again to bake the next day.
It’s a very forgiving recipe but I do sell my flaky king cakes & Mardi Gras macarons for those without the time to devote to such decadence.
Have you ever braided this dough or put the rolls on their sides, side-by-side (if that makes sense) to give it a more “traditional” look? Do you think this would change the baking time much?
I have! I usually twist two ropes together rather than braid bc braids never come out neat. There’s always one huge blob at the end & it gives me anxiety.
I check for doneness by lifting it & knocking from the bottom. It should sound hollowish & the bottom should be brown.
I think I’ll try the twist, can’t wait to try it this week!
Janelle Rinehart says
This recipe looks INCREDIBLE.
I’m going to attempt today as I’m a Mardi Gras maniac & been visiting NOLA for a LONG time. I’m missing my sister who lives in Mid City! She sent me a King Cake from Bywater Bakery but I also want to make my own.
Question: I’m a bit confused about the layering step.
Roll one long 4 foot sheet & then cut in half & then layer. Then what again?
You’re going to cut down to 12”x48”, stack, then cut down to 6”x48”, stack.
You should end up with 4 even layers stacked on top of each other. You could cut to 6” all at the same time but it’s a real mess dealing with super thin layers like that.
Janelle Rinehart says
Thank you so much!! I am in dough phase up her in Chiberia, aka Chicago! Hoping for a good rise. Happy Mardi Gras!
A cold rise is best for this dough so you’re golden. I usually stick it in the fridge overnight to rise bc my kitchen runs hot (75° 360 days of the year. Currently 65° bc we haven’t gone above freezing all day. Someone forgot to tell the winter Queen Mardi Gras is canceled.) An overnight rest makes for an easier roll out too. And sometimes I’m just lazy.
So you melt the brown butter again before applying to the layers? And when you jelly roll the layers are you rolling the 6” or 48” side? Thanks
Correct. Melt the butter just until it’s liquid so it can be brushed on.
Roll from the short side.