This Gluten Free King Cake recipe is buttery and soft with a praline pecan cream cheese filling and a sprinkling of traditional Mardi Gras colors. It's easy to put together and is the perfect thing to celebrate Fat Tuesday!
UPDATE: This gluten free king cake recipe has been updated from my previous recipe posted on February 20, 2023 with a new filling recipe, new method for filling, new method for shaping, and all new pictures.
I've never experienced Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but I have had a king cake and they are delicious! I used to work with someone who was from New Orleans (or NOLA as the locals there call it). She kept talking about how she missed king cakes and finally brought one in for one of our luncheons. It was so good!
What is King Cake?
King cake is a Mardi Gras traditional "cake" that isn't really a cake at all. It's more of a bread or pastry, a lot like a giant cinnamon roll. It represents when the Three Wise Men, or "kings," brought gifts to baby Jesus on Epiphany. A tiny plastic baby is usually embedded in the cake, which represents the baby Jesus. I chose to leave out the tiny baby, but everything else about this gluten free King cake is spot on and I'm sure you'll love it!
King cake is typically served at the beginning of January through Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
King cakes are meant to be very indulgent "cakes" full of sugar and richness. They're usually adorned with the colors of Mardi Gras (green, gold, and purple), which represent faith, power, and justice. Everyone has their own idea as to what a traditional King cake is. There are several variations that I found on the internet. One with a simple cinnamon sugar filling, another with a strawberry cream cheese filling. I think they can be as indulgent as you want them to be! In this recipe, I give you two options for both the filling and the way the king cake is shaped and baked.
Here's What You Need for Praline Pecan Cream Cheese King Cake
- Gluten free sweet dough - the champion of champs, this gluten free sweet dough can make over 30 (yes, 30! and counting!) recipes.
- Cream cheese filling- this particular recipe calls for cream cheese in the filling. There are so many different ways to make a king cake, so check out the variations below for more.
- Praline pecan filling - this is what makes that praline flavor that NOLA is famous for.
Steps For Making Braided King Cake
Make the dough and refrigerate it overnight.
Make the praline pecan filling and cool completely.
Combine the filling ingredients for cream cheese filling in a small bowl until smooth. If desired, fill a decorating bag or large ziptop bag with the cream cheese filling and set aside.
Knead the dough until smooth and roll it out into a 9 by 12-inch rectangle. Sprinkle a line of the praline pecan filling in a strip along the long side of the rectangle, leaving about a one-inch border untouched.
Pipe or dollop the cream cheese filling on top of the pecan filling in a long strip.
Fold edge of dough over the filling and continue to roll it all the way up, just like you would a cinnamon roll. Pinch the seam to seal completely.
Begin slowly elongating the dough roll by gently squeezing it and stretching it until it's long enough to make a large oval shape.
Conjoin the two ends to make the oval shape, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.
Mix together icing ingredients in small bowl and set aside.
Spread icing on warm king cake.
Sprinkle with purple, green, and gold colored sugar, slice, and serve.
Here are some ideas for flavor variations in your own King cake:
- Use the filling from my gluten free cinnamon rolls and make essentially one giant cinnamon roll ring.
- Knead about ½ cup of raisins into the dough before rolling it out. Use the same filling as my cinnamon rolls and roll into a giant cinnamon roll ring.
- To make a strawberry filling, spread strawberry jam over dough before rolling.
- For a strawberry cream cheese filling, spread cream cheese mixture over dough and then carefully add strawberry jam over top before rolling up.
More Mardi Gras Recipes
Even if you can't make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you can still make an authentic gluten free king cake recipe to celebrate the tradition!!
Gluten Free King Cake
Gluten Free Sweet Dough
- 180 ml whole milk (a dairy free milk may be substituted, but hasn't been tested)
- 100 grams granulated sugar
- 5 grams whole psyllium husks
- 12 grams instant yeast
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 85 grams butter, very soft or melted
- 245 grams Kim's gluten free bread flour blend
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Praline Pecan Filling
- 28 grams butter (2 tbsp)
- 60 grams maple syrup (4 tbsp)
- 100 grams brown sugar (½ cup)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 125 grams chopped pecans (1 cup)
Cream Cheese Filling
- 226 grams cream cheese (8 oz)
- 63 grams powdered sugar (½ cup)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 180 grams powdered sugar (1½ cups)
- 2-3 tablespoon milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- colored sanding sugar (purple, green, and gold)
Make the Dough
- Put all of the dough ingredients in the order in which they appear in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix or knead on medium speed for 5 minutes. Cover and let proof until doubled in size. Refrigerate overnight.
Make the Pecan Praline Filling
- Add the butter to a skillet over medium heat and let melt. Add the rest of the ingredients for the praline filling and stir until the sugar is melted, approximately 2 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let sit until cool. It will harden upon sitting and can be crumbled.
Make the Cream Cheese Filling
- Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl until smooth. If desired, fill a pastry bag with the filling and cut an opening of about one inch. Set aside.
- Roll out the dough into a 9 by 12-inch, ½-inch thick rectangle. Sprinkle the pecan praline filling in a line about one inch from the top border of the dough (the long side). Pipe or dollop the cream cheese filling on top of the praline. Fold the dough over the filling and pinch to seal. Roll the rest of the dough like you would a cinnamon roll and pinch the seam to seal.
- Using your fingers, gently squeeze and stretch the dough cylinder until it is long enough to create a 8 to 9-inch oval shape. Open up one end and tuck the other end into it and seal those edges.
- Place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until nearly doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake the King Cake
- Bake the king cake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Make the Glaze
- While the cake is baking, mix together all glaze ingredients, only pouring in a little of the milk at a time, until a thick paste forms. I would not suggest using a whisk if you are making your glaze thick (your whisk may break or the icing will clump up inside of it). Use a silicone spatula instead.
- When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately spoon the glaze over the warm cake and quickly sprinkle the colored sugars in a purple, green, and gold pattern on top of the glaze. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
- This king cake, while best eaten the day it is made, will keep very well covered at room temperature for up to 5 days. It remains soft, but you can also reheat it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds.
Technique adapted from Gambino's