Gluten Free King Cake for Mardi Gras!

Gluten Free King Cake for Mardi Gras!

King cake on brown surface [pinit] I can’t very well post a recipe for a truly authentic Gluten Free King Cake, with Mardi Gras coming and all, and not divulge my brief, somewhat embarrassing history with New Orleans.  I’m not usually one to wax nostalgic about times gone by, but food can do that to a person, you know? When I was in college, I went to Mardi Gras. Once. Did I think, a mere 21 years later, that I would working feverishly first to make gluten free yeast bread for my Gluten Free Bread Book, and then to adapt it to a gluten free King Cake that truly does the original justice? I did not. Have I done just that? Yes! I have. And it was worth it, food coloring and all. Fat Tuesday is March 4, 2014. Get ready!

Circular king cake on brown surface

It was 1993. A bunch of girls and I rented a big, big van and drove from upstate New York … all the way down to The Big Easy. It was not, in a word, easy. I have a vague recollection of our getting a flat tire on the way down (maybe in Virginia?). When I look at a map now, I cannot believe how stupid we were to think that we could pull that off without a hitch. And I can only hope that this post gets buried far enough into the archives of this blog by the time my oldest child is old enough to actually care to read a post (other than just looking at the pictures and saying “oooooh I love that! make it again!”). But there it is. We did it. It’s a long story that I’d rather not recall in detail, but I stayed with a “friend” who was a local, and we mostly stayed pretty far away from the real action since, well, it’s not nearly as much fun for locals (not a big shock). I did have an amazing time, though, overall, and if I hadn’t gone I’m sure I’d regret it all of my days.

King cake being shaped

I did not bury a plastic baby doll in this King Cake. I am terrified of even the prospect of a melting plastic baby doll in my oven. I have already done enough damage to house and home in my kitchen over the years. If anyone knows how to pull this sort of stunt without melting the baby, let us know in the comments! *ETA: Apparently, you add the baby at the end, after baking. What a relief! ;)

Overhead view of king cake on brown surface

This dough is similar to the Gluten Free Chocolate Pull-Apart Bread we made not too long ago, but the dough is made with sour cream. That makes the dough truly lovely to work with, and the bread tender and fabulous.

A close up of king cake on metal tray

I know many of you are very, very anti-food coloring. You can leave the food coloring out of the equation, of course. I have no problem with some food coloring in my life, here and there, plus I couldn’t very well show you a gluten free King Cake that didn’t have the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple and gold, now could I. :-*

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time:


3 1/4 cups (455 g) Gluten Free Bread Flour*, plus more for sprinkling

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 teaspoons (6 g) instant yeast

1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon (3 g) kosher salt

2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 ounces sour cream, at room temperature

1 egg (60 g, out of shell) at room temperature, beaten

3 to 4 ounces warm water (about 95°F) (measure by weight, not by volume)

4 tablespoons  (56 g) unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups (230 g) confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon (14 g) unsalted butter, at warm room temperature

2 tablespoons (1 fluid ounce) milk, at room temperature, any kind (plus more by the 1/4 teaspoon if necessary)

About 3/4 cup (150 g) superfine sugar (or granulated sugar, pulsed a few times in a blender or food processor)

Green, Yellow, Blue and Red liquid food colorings


  1. 1 cup (140 g) Gluten Free Bread Flour, as discussed more fully on pages 8 to 10 of GFOAS Bakes Bread, contains 100 grams Mock Better Batter all purpose gluten free flour (or Better Batter itself) + 25 grams whey protein isolate (I use NOW Foods brand) + 15 grams Expandex modified tapioca starch.
  2. For a calculator that helps you build the flour without math, please see my Gluten Free Flour page.
  3. If you would like to use Ultratex 3 in place of Expandex, please see #6 on my Resources page for instructions.


  • In the bowl of your stand mixer, place the flour, cream of tartar, instant yeast and sugar, and use a handheld whisk to combine well. Add the salt and whisk to combine well. Add the butter, sour cream, egg and 3 ounces water, and mix on low speed with the dough hook until combined. Raise the mixer speed to medium and knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should be a lovely, smooth, enriched dough. If necessary to achieve the desired texture, add the remaining 1 ounce of water and knead again until smooth. The dough should climb up the dough hook during kneading but remain intact and smooth. Spray a silicone spatula lightly with cooking oil spray, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl or proofing bucket large enough for the dough to rise to double its size, spray the top of the dough with cooking oil spray, and cover with an oiled piece of plastic wrap (or the oiled top to your proofing bucket). Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 3 days.**

    **Note: If you prefer, you may make and use this dough on the same day. It will not be as easy to handle, and will not rise as smoothly, however. To use the dough the same day it is made, after making the dough, set the covered dough to rise in a warm, draft-free environment to allow it to rise to double its size (about 1 hour). Once it has doubled, place it in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes or until it is chilled. This will make it much easier to handle. Then, continue with the rest of the recipe instructions.

  • Preparing the dough for shaping. On baking day, turn out the chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface and, using the scrape and fold kneading method and using a very light touch, sprinkle the dough with more flour and knead it lightly, sprinkling with flour when necessary to prevent it from sticking, scrape the dough off the floured surface with a floured bench scraper, then fold it over on itself. Repeat scraping and folding until the dough has become smoother. This dough should not need much work to become smooth. Do not overwork the dough or you will incorporate too much flour and it will not rise properly.

  • Shaping, filling and assembling the dough. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and set it aside. On a lightly greased piece of unbleached parchment paper, using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle that is about 18-inches by 14-inches, and about 1/4-inch thick. In a small bowl, place all of the filling ingredients and mix to combine well. With a large, dull knife or offset spatula, spread the filling evenly over the entire surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border clean all around the perimeter. Using the parchment paper to aid you, beginning at one of the long sides, roll the dough tightly into a cylinder and pinch the seam and the ends closed securely. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, seam side down, join the ends together and pinch them closed securely. Sprinkle the top and sides of the dough generously with bread flour to provide the dough a cloak to rise into, cover with greased plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free location to rise for about 40 minutes, or until it reaches about 150% of its original size. Do not overproof. As the dough is nearing the end of its rise, preheat your oven to 350°F.

  • Bake. Once the dough has finished rising, remove the plastic wrap and place the pan in the center of the preheated oven. Bake until lightly golden brown all over (about 30 minutes). Allow to cool for about 10 minutes on the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

  • Glaze and Decorate. While the bread is cooling, make the glaze and colored sugars. To make the glaze, mix the confectioners’ sugar, butter and 1 tablespoon milk into a thick paste. Add the remaining tablespoon milk one teaspoon at a time, mixing well, until you have a glaze that is smooth and thickly pourable. If it is very hard to stir, it needs another drop or two of milk. Set the glaze aside briefly. To make the colored sugars, divide the superfine sugar into 3 separate small bowls. To one bowl, add about 5 drops of yellow food coloring, and mix well, pressing the food coloring into the sugar with the back of a small spoon until the sugar is a uniform yellow color. To a second bowl, repeat the process with about 5 drops of green food coloring. To the final bowl, repeat the process with about 3 drops each of the red and blue food colorings (red + blue = purple). Once the bread is cool, mix the glaze (adding a few more drops of milk if necessary to return to the proper consistency) and then pour it over the top of the bread, allowing it to drizzle , and immediately decorate with the 3 different colored sugars in alternating bands. I used a small mesh sieve to distribute the sugars without their clumping. Slice and serve.

  • Adapted from the recipe for Cinnamon Rolls on page 166 of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread.



P.S. Still don’t have a copy of Gluten Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread? What are you waiting for? ;)

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