King Cake With Cream Cheese Dough

February 22, 2017
2 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
Author Notes

How to explain a king cake to the uninitiated? Think of it as a giant cinnamon roll housing a tiny, plastic baby Jesus—stay with me—that’s twisted or braided into a circle, covered in icing, and liberally sprinkled with purple, green, and gold sugar.

This year, my second year away from the glittery hubbub, I decided it was time to make my own. I knew I wanted to stay in a traditional vein, but I wanted to experiment with putting cream cheese in the dough rather than as the filling.

As a nod to Galette des Rois (the traditional king cake of Northern France), I filled it with frangipane plus a dash of cocoa powder for a little oomph. And, because you can’t taste the cream cheese in the dough, I finished it with a cream cheese glaze. The result is rich and decadent, without smashing you over the head. —Kaitlin Bray

  • Makes 1 large twisted cake
  • For the dough:
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (5 grams) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar plus 1/4 teaspoon, divided
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks (save the whites for egg wash)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • For the filling, glaze, and assembly:
  • For the filling:
  • 7 ounces almond paste (1 tube)
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (57 grams) confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • For the glaze:
  • 1/2 cup 4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup (114 grams) confectioners' sugar
  • Purple, green, and gold colored sugars
  • Plastic baby
In This Recipe
  1. For the dough:
  2. In a small bowl, mix the yeast and 1/4 teaspoon sugar with 1/4 cup of warm (100° to 110° F) water.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cream cheese (the cream cheese won't fully melt, but that's okay). Remove from heat and add milk, egg yolks, vanilla, and yeast mixture.
  4. In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Add wet ingredients all at once and mix for 5 minutes, until it forms a smooth, elastic ball.
  5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and set aside to rise for 1 1/2 hours.
  1. For the filling, glaze, and assembly:
  2. While the dough rises, make the filling: Combine almond paste, butter, flour, confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, and egg and mix until smoothly combined.
  3. Once dough has risen, punch it down and divide into 2 equal pieces. Roll one piece of dough to into a rectangle about 18t to 20 inches long and 6 to 8 inches wide.
  4. Spread with half of the filling mixture and roll (cinnamon roll style) starting from the long end of the dough.
  5. Repeat with the second piece of dough and the rest of the filling. You'll have two rolled ropes of dough. Press and roll each dough out another 2-inches or so to even the thickness of the strands and close the seams.
  6. Line the ropes of dough up and, starting from the center, make a basic twist. Then bring the beginning and end of the twist together to seal into a circle.
  7. Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the circular cake on top. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes while the oven preheats.
  8. Brush cake lightly with egg wash made from beating the two remaining egg whites .Then bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until cake is golden brown (and the internal temperature is 190° F).
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before glazing. To make the glaze, beat together cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. in a medium bowl.
  10. Spread glaze over the cooled cake. Sprinkle with purple, yellow, and green colored sugar. Hide baby.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Leil
  • Allyn
  • Kaitlin Bray
    Kaitlin Bray
  • maria
Kaitlin Bray

Recipe by: Kaitlin Bray

My desert island ingredients are salt, olive oil, and lemon.

7 Reviews

maria February 21, 2021
Great recipe! The dough is so nice to work with. Very Happy with the results. This was my first time making King Cake. Actually pretty easy. I'll make it again and play with some variations!!
Darian February 24, 2020
This was my first time making a King Cake from scratch, and I was very pleased with the process and outcome! The dough was very easy to work with. My (French) husband paid the highest compliment when he remarked it tasted exactly like those he had in France as a child! We haven't found the baby yet...guess we'll have to keep eating!
Ana February 9, 2019
This is the best king cake recipe I have ever made. The dough is wonderful and was a dream to work with. I think that activating the yeast before mixing it in to the other ingredients was a great idea. I chose to stick with the filling recommended in the recipe and am so happy that I did. The flavors were excellent and the resulting layering was beautiful. Thanks for sharing!
Leil February 28, 2017
I made this yesterday and it looked like everything was perfect. Was all tall and puffy as it came out of the oven and smelled amazing. But then it fell and so it is flat. Is that normal? I guess i should say I am at about 6000 foot altitude, which probably has an impact. It was disappointing it fell! I'm sure it will still taste good (it is going to an event so I didn't taste it yet).
Lori T. February 28, 2017
Yes, your altitude is most likely the culprit in the collapse. At high altitudes, the gas produced by the yeast can cause over-rising. So you will need to cut back on the amount of yeast you use and stop the rise at just over a 1/3 increase rather than doubling. For this recipe, that might also mean less of a rest time before baking, perhaps limited to 15-20 minutes rather than the half hour. You might also want to check the taste and condition of your cake before taking it. When yeast bake goods collapse the result is usually heavy and gummy to eat.
Allyn February 27, 2017
I made this yesterday, though I used the filling recipe from Joy the Baker's cinnamon roll king cake. I am now fully obsessed with this dough and will be experimenting with multiple ways to use it. SO GOOD. Everyone loved it and was, by far, the best king cake I've had in years.
Author Comment
Kaitlin B. February 28, 2017
I am so happy to hear that—and I would love to hear what else you make with the cream cheese dough! Happy Mardi Gras!