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Donna Gay’s King Cake

Updated: Jan 24

King cakes are a New Orleans tradition. But in fact the evolution of king cake is far reaching. From celebrations in both France and Latin America. This amazing festival treat is something that is meant to be shared with friends and family. It doesn’t hurt that it’s basically a giant sweet bread doughnut with icy frosting and colorful sprinkles. And of course, a baby hiding inside. One of my mother's dearest friends growing up, and now someone I count among my friends, is an amazingly talented woman named Donna Gay. She shared this king cake recipe with us last year and I have to say it’s a work of art. Donna Gay I have to share this recipe with the world. I hope you don't mind!

Cake Ingredients

1/3 Cup Sugar

1 tsp salt

½ Cup Shortening

2 large eggs at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup milk (chilled)

2 packages dry yeast

4 to 5 cups all purpose flour

1 egg for egg wash + splash of water


8 oz block of cream cheese or whipped cream cheese


1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup powdered sugar

3 tbsp milk/half and half/buttermilk

Colored Sugar

3 cups sugar can buy pre-colored

3 Food coloring (purple, green, gold) to color sugar for cake top decoration



This recipe makes enough dough to make 1 giant king cake or two smaller ones. As Mardi Gras is all about enjoying life with friends and family I always make two smaller ones and share the love.

Dissolve the yeast into the milk and set aside. In a stand mixer bowl, cream together the sugar, salt, vanilla, and 1/2 cup of butter or shortening. Add eggs and beat well. If you have dough hook attachments for your mixer, use them. If not, good luck. Add the milk/ yeast mixture. Slowly add the 4 cups of flour one at a time while mixing continuously. If more flour (the dough is too wet) add in 1/4 cup at a time. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Knead well for 5-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and cover with a damp dish towel. Let dough rise 1 ½ hours. Punch it down and divide it in half if making two smaller king cakes. Divide dough (either the whole dough ball or each half you just divided) into three equal portions. Roll each portion into a rope 2 X 15 inches (for 2 smaller cakes) 2 X 30 inches if making one large king cake. Roll ropes out one at a time so they lie flat (about 2 inches across). Add cream cheese down the center of the dough in small even chunks (if using whipped cream cheese) or in a small single line if using block cream cheese. Pinch the sides together so that the filling is encased into two long tubular ropes. Do this with all 3 ropes (or all 6 if making 2 cakes). Braid the ropes (that you have filled and pressed closed) into an oval or circle.

Place on a big baking sheet lined with parchment paper. This part can be awkward, but just wrestle with it and shape it as you go. Cover again with the damp cloth and let rise for one hour. Bake at 360℉-375℉ for approximately 20 minutes or until the top browns a bit. Cool completely. Transfer carefully (use two or three spatulas and one friend☺) to the serving platter.

Colored Sugar

Place 3 cups of sugar in 3 separate bowls (1 cup of sugar/bowl). Add a few drops of food coloring to sugar and mix well. Each bowl of sugar will be one of the 3 Mardi Gras Colors (Purple, Green, and Gold(yellow)).


Combine 1 stick of unsalted softened butter with 1 cup of powdered sugar and 3-4 tablespoons of milk/buttermilk/half and half. Whisk together well or use a hand mixer to combine until smooth. Add more powdered sugar or milk to reach the desired consistency.

Tips: Keep the dough fairly warm, but not hot while rising Don’t over bake this. 15 minutes is usually all you need.


Donna Gay original got this recipe from Eddie Richmond, who made this cake for her and friends in the 1990s . It was so yummy she have been making it ever since. Eddie's mother told her that this recipe is originally from Haydel’s Bakery. Thank you Eddie! And thank you Donna Gay you are a Mardi Gras Goddess!

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