Indulge in classic New Orleans tradition and flavors with this super easy king cake recipe. Made with frozen dinner roll dough, a scrumptious rum raisin filling, and a sweet powdered sugar glaze, this 45-minute cake is sure to be a hit among adults and kids alike.
King cake is a beloved New Orleans carnival season dessert that is a must-have for Mardi Gras celebrations.
What makes this chewy, nutty, and sweet cake unique is that hidden underneath it (or within its filling) is a small plastic baby.
So when the fruity cake is sliced and served, someone will find the hidden baby and be crowned “king” of the party!
Although a bit silly, king cake is a fun and delicious way to celebrate the carnival season. Not to mention that my version of homemade king cake is so easy to make, it’ll take you hardly any time at all!
Ingredients And Possible Substitutions
This section includes ingredient notes and substitution options. Get all measurements, ingredients, and instructions in the printable recipe card at the end of this post.
- Frozen Dinner Rolls—I use 12 thawed Rhodes dinner rolls, but feel free to use your favorite frozen bread dough or even a homemade dough.
- Golden Raisins—Sometimes called sultanas, these raisins are specially dried to have a light, sweet, and juicy flavor. Brown raisins may also be used.
- Brown Sugar—Because every good cake needs a bit of sugar!
- Orange Zest—When finely chopped, packs bright citrussy flavor into every bite of this cake.
- Pecans—Add a soft crunch to this otherwise gooey and chewy cake. Chopped walnuts or almonds would also work well.
- Rum Extract—Mimics the rich and complex flavors of actual rum to add a layer of sophistication to this fruity dessert.
- Powdered Sugar Glaze—A mixture of powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla creates a tasty, gooey glaze.
Equipment You’ll Need
To make this simple king cake, you’ll need a few basic pieces of kitchen equipment such as a baking sheet, mixing bowls, a rolling pin, and a wire cooling rack. In addition, you’ll want to purchase a little plastic baby to hide somewhere in your king cake. This is, of course, optional but is a fun tradition!
How to Make an Easy King Cake
This section shows you how to make the recipe with step-by-step photos and instructions. For the full printable recipe, see the recipe card below.
Step 1: Soak your raisins in a small bowl filled with hot water. Set aside.
Step 2: Knead the thawed dough until smooth and roll out into a 16″ to 18” circle. Make a small home in the center of your dough and stretch it until it’s roughly 5” in diameter. Your dough should now resemble a large ring or donut.
Step 3: Drain your soaked raisins and add the brown sugar, orange zest, pecans, and rum extract. Mix well to combine. Gently spoon your raisin mixture onto your dough.
Step 4: Wrap the dough from the outside of the circle to the inside, being sure to cover your filling. Seal the dough closed by tucking the outer edge under the middle.
Step 5: Place the shaped cake in a warm, draft-free area and allow it to rise for roughly 30 minutes.
Step 6: Bake your king cake as directed in the recipe card below. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Step 7: While the cake is cooling, make a glaze by mixing the powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla until smooth.
Step 8: Pour the glaze over your cake, allowing some to drip down the sides.
Step 9: Finish your king cake off by decorating it with some purple, green, and yellow sanding sugar.
Now all that is left to do is slice, serve, and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
Hiding a little plastic baby inside of a cake is a holiday game played by people all over the world. Traditionally, the baby is used to represent Jesus and celebrates the day the magi (also known as the three wisemen) visited him. The idea behind this tradition is that whoever receives the slice of cake with the baby in it is crowned “king” and is tasked with hosting next year’s king cake event.
King cake can come in a wide variety of flavors, but typically it is sweet, doughy, and cinnamony—not unlike a cinnamon roll. Cream cheese, rum extract, dried fruit, and pralines are also popular inclusions.
King cake is usually enjoyed during carnival season which is kicked off by the celebration of the Epiphany (the wisemen’s visit to the baby Jesus) on January 6th.
While it is a tradition to hide a plastic baby somewhere in the filling of your cake, it is a choking hazard. Instead, simply use the baby as a decoration beside the cake. Or, if you insist on hiding the baby, use a baby too large to accidentally ingest and consider hiding it underneath the cake rather than in the cake. If you do hide the baby be sure to warn everyone so that they can be careful to not accidentally eat the plastic baby!!
Any leftover king cake can be wrapped in plastic or stored in an airtight container. This cake will stay good for up to 3 days on the counter or up to 1 week in the fridge.
Expert Tips and Tricks
- Soaking the raisins in hot water before adding them to the filling helps them to stay juicy and flavorful rather than drying out in the oven.
- For that classic cinnamony king cake flavor, try adding some warming spices to your filling.
More delicious cake recipes
- 12 frozen dinner rolls, thawed
- ½ cup golden raisins
- ½ cup hot water
- ½ cup brown sugar
- zest from 1 orange
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ¼ teaspoon rum extract
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- purple, green, and yellow colored sugar
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, cover it with a thin coat of nonstick cooking spray, and set it aside.
- Place the raisins in a small bowl. Pour the hot water over the raisins and set them aside.
- On the baking sheet, knead the dough and roll it out into a roughly 16-inch circle. Cut a small hole in the center, stretching it out to create an approximately 5-inch opening.
- Drain your soaked raisins and add the brown sugar, orange zest, pecans, and rum extract. Mix well to combine.
- Gently spoon your raisin mixture onto your dough.
- Wrap the dough from the outside of the circle to the inside, being sure to cover your filling. Seal the dough closed by tucking the outer edge under the middle. Your cake should now be similar in shape to a bundt cake.
- Place the baking sheet in a warm, draft-free location and allow the dough to rise for 30-45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Bake the cake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool fully.
- In a medium bowl, stir to combine the confectioners sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla until smooth. Pour the glaze over the cake, allowing some to drip down the sides. Immediately top with colored sugars, alternating the colors.
To store, wrap in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. This cake will keep for up to 3 days on the counter or up to 1 week in the fridge.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 474
The nutritional information provided is automatically calculated by a third party and intended to serve as an estimate only. The accuracy of nutritional information is not guaranteed.