In July 2016, I volunteered in New Orleans through Rustic Pathways, an organization that offers high school travel programs across the United States and beyond. The program I participated in, entitled "Rebuilding New Orleans," did just that. I spent two weeks down South gardening on farms, working in food banks, and rebuilding houses, all of which contributed to the on-going effort of reconstructing New Orleans after being devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

You might be thinking: "2005? That was so long ago! How could New Orleans still be recovering?" 

That was my initial question, as well. However, when I got there and saw the many damaged homes and people struggling, I understood. I understood something else, too; New Orleans is as lively, beautiful, and special as ever.

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I realized this after being immersed in the NOLA way of life, which is centered around its passionate residents, strong community, history, and traditions. Mardi Gras is one of those traditions. The official holiday is the day before Ash Wednesday, however Mardi Gras fills the New Orleans air at all times and is reflective of its vibrant culture.

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Celebrated on February 28 of this year, Mardi Gras festivities will take place across the nation with parties, parades, and "Fat Tuesday" food aplenty. "Fat Tueday," referring to the day in which living and eating richly is encouraged, is another name for Mardi Gras since it is the period before the fasting season of Lent begins. Because of this, sweet, fried, glutinous food is on the menu. And if you're a person with dietary restrictions, this presents a challenge. 

Even though I lived in New Orleans during the summer, I still experienced this challenge. Wanting so badly to experience New Orleans culture in every way, I was crushed when I couldn't indulge in beignets, po' boys, and king cake (they were definitely not gluten free). Mardi Gras food includes all of the above and more, and missing out on such staple dishes during the most festive celebration of the year will leave one's stomach growling. 

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For this reason, I set out to create a gluten free take on king cake, which is an essential dessert at all Mardi Gras celebrations. King cake is ring shaped treat made from cinnamon sugar-filled dough and topped with glaze and sprinkles. The sprinkles are green, gold, and purple, representing faith, power, and justice, and inside each cake, there is one plastic baby. The baby was once used to symbolize baby Jesus, but now symbolizes luck and prosperity. Whoever gets the piece of cake with the baby inside is named "king" or "queen" for the evening, and is responsible for providing the next king cake and throwing the next Mardi Gras party.

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Since there is such significance behind king cake, everyone deserves the chance to take part in this Mardi Gras tradition and fully experience New Orleans's food culture.

Below is my take on gluten free king cake. Enjoy!

Gluten Free King Cake 

To make the dough for my king cake, I use Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix. I follow the recipe and directions for "Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls" located on the back of the bag.

In truth, you can use any gluten free dough mix to make the dough for your king cake. After your dough has risen (time may vary depending on the recipe), refer to my Gluten Free King Cake Construction recipe below.

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Gluten Free King Cake Construction

  • Prep Time:1 hr
  • Cook Time:40 mins
  • Total Time:1 hr 40 mins
  • Servings:12
  • Easy


  • Filling:
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter melted
  • Glaze:
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter melted
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Sprinkles: green purple and gold colored sugar
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  • Step 1

    After you have made your gluten free dough and allowed it to rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrease. Also, prepare a baking sheet by covering it in parchment paper and oil.

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  • Step 2

    Place the dough on a lightly floured, parchment paper covered surface. Knead the dough until it is smooth and flexible.

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  • Step 3

    Once the dough is easy to work with, roll the dough into a long, wide rectangle using a rolling pin. You may want to cover your rolling pin in gf flour before using it. This will prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. When you have finished rolling out the dough, set it aside.

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  • Step 4

    It is time to make the filling for your king cake! Combine all filling ingredients in a medium sized bowl and mix together. The mixture should be crumbly.
    *Note: You can add any ingredient into the filling in addition to the basic ingredients outlined in this recipe. Pecans, raisins, and even cream cheese are common amongst traditional New Orleans king cake fillings.

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  • Step 5

    Spread the filling across the rolled-out dough.

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  • Step 6

    Next, roll the dough into a log (jelly-roll style). Start rolling from one of the longer sides of the rectangle. You may want to use the parchment paper to help you.

  • Step 7

    When the log has formed, pinch the seam closed and pinch each end of the log closed.

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  • Step 8

    Bend the log into a circular shape and pinch the two ends together. This creates the rounded shape of the king cake.

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  • Step 9

    Transfer the dough onto the baking sheet you previously prepared and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown. When the dough has finished cooking, remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the dough to cool completely.

  • Step 10

    While the dough is cooling, make the glaze. Combine all ingredients together in a medium sized bowl and blend using a high speed mixer or whisk. Mix until the glaze has no clumps.

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  • Step 11

    Once the dough has cooled completely, transfer the cake to a plate or serving dish. Cover the cake with the glaze and allow it to drip down the sides of the cake.

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  • Step 12

    Finally, decorate the cake with the colored sugar in alternating bands. Serve immediately or store in a cool area until the Mardi Gras party begins!

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