Traditional New Orleans King Cake is eaten as soon as the new year rings in all the way through Fat Tuesday. It's available in multiple variations and fillings in grocery stores and restaurants all over the city, each with their unique take on the dessert. When it comes down to the basics, King Cake is brioche bread brushed with cinnamon sugar, rolled into a ring, and generously coated in white icing and gold, green, and purple sugar. Sadly, it's not as widely available outside of New Orleans, so here's how to mimic the flavors of a hometown favorite.

Shortcut New Orleans King Cake

  • Prep Time:20 mins
  • Cook Time:18 mins
  • Total Time:38 mins
  • Servings:12
  • Easy


  • 2 packs refrigerated cinnamon roll dough
  • 1/2 cup superfine/regular granulated sugar
  • blue yellow green and red gel food coloring
  • 2 tbsp room temperature cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
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Sydney Youmans
  • Step 1

    Open all of your cinnamon rolls and completely unravel them exposing the cinnamon sugar inside. If your rolls were only stamped with a swirl like mine were, slice along the swirl with a knife to make it into relatively even strips.

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  • Step 2

    Pair the strips up with equal sized partners. Spoon a little butter on top of all of them to glue them together. You can sprinkle a little more cinnamon-sugar on the strips if you want.

    bread, pastry, sweet
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  • Step 3

    Take 3 pairs of the cinnamon roll strips and place them next to each other. Cross one strip from the middle over the outside, bring the new middle piece outside again but cross it the other way. Keep repeating and switching sides. Essentially, braid the strips but not too tight so they can expand in the oven. Repeat with the other 3 pairs. You'll have 4 leftover that you can just bake normally as your own treat.

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  • Step 4

    Spoon a little butter on both ends and glue the braids together. Bring in the ends to form a ring.

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  • Step 5

    Coat the top of the dough with the same melted butter from before. Bake for 18 minutes or until golden brown.

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  • Step 6

    While the king cake is baking, prepare the icing and colored sugar. Mix the cream cheese with the icing that already comes prepackaged with your cinnamon rolls. Add a little bit of water or milk to loosen the consistency.

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  • Step 7

    For the colored sugar, evenly divide the superfine sugar into 3 plastic sandwich bags. For the green, i just put a small dot of green dye. For the yellow, I put a small amount of yellow with a dot of red to give an orange tinge. For the purple, I added more red than blue. Be careful not to add too much dye or the sugar can become the texture of wet sand.

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  • Step 8

    Massage the color into the sugar.

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  • Step 9

    Let the king cake cool for a few minutes. While still warm (but not hot), spoon the icing over the cake.

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  • Step 10

    Sprinkle over the colored sugar in whatever pattern you'd like. I chose to do the colors on each side directly across from each other.

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  • Step 11

    Best eaten immediately and even better warmed for breakfast the next morning. Joyeux Mardi Gras!

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