Mardi Gras Party Ideas + Easy King Cake Recipe from Scratch

You don’t have to live in New Orleans or wait for Mardi Gras season to enjoy a King Cake. My friend Caryn shared this recipe with me, and I have made it twice already. It tastes like a cinnamon roll, and I modified the icing to include cream cheese. My family and friends love it! Now that I found a recipe that I can easily replicate, I can make it year-round or whenever we want. It is definitely a crowd-pleaser. Some background information: I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, but I did not grow up there. We still have family residing there so we visit often. One of my fondest memory is celebrating Mardi Gras aka Fat Tuesday. In the past, my sister-in-law would ship us a King Cake with Mardi Gras beads, and I thought it was the most thoughtful surprise ever. It can also be a fun office party. One year, my coworkers and I wanted a themed Cajun Potluck. It turned out super fun. Since then, I try to celebrate every year even though it is not commonly celebrated here in Orange County. Want to host your own party? I’ve got some ideas for you – Cheers!

Party Ideas

When planning a Mardi Gras (MG) potluck brunch, the hardest part is scheduling. Once you lock down a date, it’s time to plan the menu. As a host, it always helps when you give a list of suggestions so there are no duplicates, and it will give everyone an idea what they can bring. Be a little flexible if someone brings something not on the list as long as it fits the theme. Suggestions include jambalaya, dirty cajun rice, crabcakes, seafood boil, gumbo, a cajun pasta dish, hush puppies, a cajun dip, beignets, an MG beverage, and, of course, a king cake. The three main colors are purple, gold, and green.

Mardi Gras & Carnival Colors:

  • Purple – symbolizes Justice.
  • Gold – symbolizes Power.
  • Green – symbolizes Faith.

For fun, pick up Mardi Gras beads and toss them as guests come in the door. Play jazz music or have parade music playing on YouTube. Project it on your TV if possible. A photowall with props is always fun. For decorations, I picked up inexpensive table covers at The Dollar Tree and folded them to make a table runner. Most things can be ordered online but if you are pressed for time, Party City always have a nice selection.

Mardi Gras Party Spread

Start Early if Possible

If you’re making a king cake, start early. Unlike the first cake I made (which was a carrot cake), I learned that this is more of a bread, and I had risks of it coming out dry. This one was more hands-on. I had to roll it out to fold, braid, and let it chill for an hour before baking. Even though it is an easy recipe, baking is still new to me. My friends tell me it is a science so I have to make sure the measurements are precise. I had to carefully read each step and measure cautiously. Because there are chilling periods between steps, it took me all evening. I literally ran out of time. I think it was 2 AM when I found a stopping point and had to call it quits. I decided to wait until the next morning to ice it. If this is your first time, I would suggest starting earlier in the day and pick a day you can do it leisurely. The cake sure smelled wonderful throughout the house as it baked at 1 AM in the morning, but I had to let it rest before I could frost it. It still tasted good the next day when I served it, but I bet it would have been even better the same day. I have listed the ingredients below. The recipe I used was a recipe from Gold Medal Flour. You can find the original recipe here.

EASY MARDI GRAS KING CAKE RECIPE

Course Dessert
Cuisine Cajun
Servings 12 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour
  • 1 package 2 1/4 teaspoons Rapid Rise yeast
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, cut into 12 pieces

Cinnamon Filling

  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter softened

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Decoration

  • MG Colored Sprinkles – Green, Purple, Yellow or Gold.
  • Miniature plastic baby optional
  • Candy melts in Green, Purple, Yellow optional.

Instructions

  1. Mix 2 1/2 cups flour and yeast in mixing bowl of stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, on low for about 30 seconds.

  2. Heat milk, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and milk is between 120°F to 130°F.
  3. With mixer on low, pour in liquids and mix until incorporated. Add eggs one at a time. Continue mixing until a shaggy dough forms. Clean off paddle and switch to dough hook. Mix in the remaining 1 cup flour a little at a time, adding more or less flour as needed to make a soft dough. Add the softened butter, a piece at a time, kneading until each piece of butter is absorbed.
  4. Knead for eight minutes on low. The dough should completely clear the sides of the bowl. If it is too sticky, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing in thoroughly before determining if more flour is needed. If the dough seems too dry, spritz with water from a spray bottle a couple of times, mixing in thoroughly before determining if more water is needed. Every 2 minutes, stop the machine, scrape the dough off the hook, and then continue kneading.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times by hand to be sure it’s smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball. Place dough into a greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  6. While the dough is chilling, make cinnamon filling. In small bowl, combine the brown sugar and ground cinnamon. Combine butter with cinnamon mixture and mix well.
  7. Roll the chilled dough into a 10 x 20 inch rectangle. Spread the filling on half of the long side of the dough. Fold the dough in half covering the filling. Pat dough down firmly so the dough will stick together. Cut dough into three long strips. Press the tops of the strips together and braid the strips. Press the ends together at the bottom. Gently stretch the braid so that it measures 20 inches again. Shape it into a circle/oval and press the edges together.
  8. Transfer the ring to a parchment lined or greased baking sheet. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350º. Bake the cake until it is golden brown, 20 – 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes on baking sheet and then place it on a cooling rack to cool completely before icing. To hide the baby in the cake, if desired, make a small slit in the bottom of the cake and put the miniature plastic baby in after the cake has cooled.
  9. Cream Cheese Icing: In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth.

  10. Spoon icing over top of the cake, and immediately decorate with sprinkles alternating between colors. 

Mardi Gras King Cake

Decorating

For the cake design, I have been watching videos to teach me how to work with candy melts so I wanted to try it on this cake. It dried quickly, so I had to work at a fast pace. It was also stiff when I cut into the cake, but it looks like crazy hair, and I love it! First ice the cake, add the sprinkles, then set aside. You will need three piping bags and the candy melts in lavender or bright purple, green, and yellow or gold. I filled the piping bags half way for each color, and microwaved them one at a time in half power for 30 seconds increments. Squeeze bag to distribute heat evenly. Snip a corner off the bag and drizzle over the cake. As mentioned, it hardens quickly so I suggest only working with one color at a time. My cake wasn’t perfect but no one noticed.

For storage, make sure you cover it completely and it is airtight before refrigeration. I think because it’s cream cheese, you don’t want it sitting out overnight. If you have to reheat it, microwave it for 30 seconds. I loved making this cake and making guests take it home with them. Now I can make it throughout the year just for fun.  Please see below for other dishes you can make for your Mardi Gras party – ENJOY!

Shrimp Boil by OnTheGoOC.com
Crabcakes by LeynasKitchen.com
Cajun Pasta by RockinMama.net

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