Gluten Free King Cake for Mardi Gras!

Gluten Free King Cake for Mardi Gras!

Gluten Free King Cake for Mardi Gras! [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!

Gluten Free King Cake for Mardi Gras!

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.

Gluten Free King Cake for Mardi Gras!

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! ;)

Gluten Free King Cake for Mardi Gras!

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.

Gluten Free King Cake for Mardi Gras!

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? ;)

Comments are closed.

  • February 28, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    […] I was in Austin for Mardi Gras, I’d totally give this Gluten Free King Cake a try from Gluten Free on a […]

  • Joseph Amendolea
    February 24, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    I was introduced to your blog when I came across your gluten-free cornbread recipe. But the recipe for this king cake doesn’t seem conducive to a shoestring budget since gluten-free flours tend to be rather pricey….at least in my neck of the woods LOL! And I see you hail from upstate NY which is where I live (in the Buffalo area). I did enjoy the cornbread recipe though, using all cornmeal instead of a mixture of cornmeal and flour like most recipes was pure genius :D….though when I made it recently it was a little bland because I forgot the salt LOL. I’m gonna take a look at your other recipes and see if I find anything that tickles my fancy :)

    • February 24, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      I don’t live in Upstate New York, Joseph. If you would like to see where I order the products in my gluten free pantry: https://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/stock-your-gluten-free-pantry-baking/ It isn’t possible to bake gluten free at all without using gluten free flours.

      • Joseph Amendolea
        February 24, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        I don’t have an intolerance to gluten myself but when I make things for events such as pot lucks and bake sales I try to satisfy as many of the major diets I possibly can on my limited budget, vegan, nut-free, and gluten-free usually being the top diets I try to satisfy, I’ll try to make it soy-free too. And I did find your blend to make a gluten-free all-purpose flour and I do have the equipment for grinding my own rice flour (I have a grain mill attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer). But when I want to make something gluten-free I try to find recipes for the baked good in question that don’t take any flour at all (like for example for a gluten-free chocolate cake I’ll try to find a recipe for flourless chocolate cake and I do have a couple recipes that I haven’t tried yet and I also found a recipe for flourless peanut butter cookies

        • February 24, 2014 at 1:54 PM

          Joseph, you commented on a recipe for Gluten Free King Cake. You cannot make a yeasted gluten free bread without gluten free flours. I have a few flourless baking recipes on the site (just search “flourless”), but naturally gluten free foods are not the focus of this blog.

        • Joseph Amendolea
          February 24, 2014 at 3:07 PM

          I know. Sorry about the dissertation. It was just my natural verbosity and active mind at work. I didn’t mean to make it sound like a criticism. You do have some interesting recipes from what I can see. And as I said I do have a kitchen aid mixer along with a grain mill attachment for it so I could grind my own rice flour and thus the recipe that I did eventually find on your blog for high quality gluten-free all-purpose flour shouldn’t be as expensive to make as it would be if I had to buy rice flour. I’d probably have to buy the other starches and flours and gums but since the percentages of those other things in the flour blend aren’t as high the supply I buy should last awhile.

  • […] Gluten Free on a Shoestring shared King Cake […]

  • February 19, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    I think you should just use my recipe, Laura!

  • Leah
    February 19, 2014 at 7:53 AM

    The baby is placed under the king cake after the cake is cooled and decorated. Whoever gets the baby brings the next king cake.
    Note: the baby represents Jesus, which is what makes ita King cake.

  • Katherine
    February 17, 2014 at 8:23 PM

    I am so unbelievably excited about this recipe! I thought about emailing you several weeks ago asking if you’d take a stab at king cake, since gf king cakes run like $35 here in NOLA, but I thought there might not be that much interest. I am so excited to try it!!! No more ruefully watching everyone else enjoy without me! Ahhhh this is why I love your blog! I don’t even have to ask :)

  • karen
    February 17, 2014 at 8:08 PM

    Am I missing something or have i had too much wine? what is the greased loaf pan for if you bake this on a baking sheet?

    • February 17, 2014 at 8:18 PM

      However much wine you’ve had, Karen, it’s the perfect amount, ’cause you caught my error. Sorry about that! No loaf pan. Just the baking sheet in the next step. :) Fixed.

      • karen
        February 17, 2014 at 8:22 PM

        oh thank heavens, for I feared that i was becoming a bit drunk! That must mean that i can have one more glass………

  • Laura H.
    February 17, 2014 at 10:37 PM

    Lol, yup, the person who buys our makes the king cake hides the baby in it before serving. Than whoever gets the piece with the baby in it has to throw the party next weekend! I’m from Slidell, LA which is just across Lake Ponchitrain from NewOrleans. I currently live in central Arkansas and have been here for about 9 years. This time of year really makes me home sick. I have a great recipe for king cake. I tried making it GF last year and the taste was spot on, but it was very dense. I’m going to try it again this year, now armed with your kick butt bread flour!! Have a look at it? Maybe some hints for me? If not, that’s okay, I still love you and will be back every morning!! <3 And if you have any New Orleans questions, I'm here. :-)


    You are my GF superhero!!

  • Simone
    February 17, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    Do you have a good gf roll cake recipe that doesn’t take egg?

  • Abby
    February 17, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    Looks amazing. I need you to come move in and cook all these GF goodies for me.

  • cnoellec
    February 17, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    Wondering if there is a good sub for sour cream? I, like many others, have the lovely casein intolerance along with gluten : ( what about coconut cream? Should i even try it or have you already? I loooove your books and recipes that you so much!!

    • February 17, 2014 at 1:51 PM

      Coconut cream is not a good substitute for sour cream, cnoellec. I would try a nondairy sour cream substitute (I think maybe Tofutti makes a good one?) or strained coconut milk yogurt, by weight.

  • Mare Masterson
    February 17, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Oh wow, what a surprise to see the king cake! I thought beignets were today. Sad, sad, sad — the heating element in my oven cracked last night. I am lucky I have nothing proofing at the moment because work has been totally insane. I was going to make English Muffin bread though. Heavy sigh.

    • February 17, 2014 at 1:52 PM

      I know, Mare! Beignets were meant to be today, but since I finished the King Cake … I went with it! I thought everyone might like a little lead time on the King Cake. The beignets are still coming! Hope your oven gets fixed soon!

  • Donia Robinson
    February 17, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    Yes, but is the baby gluten free? Do we know where the baby has been?? ;)

    • February 17, 2014 at 11:44 AM

      I barely know where I’ve been, Donia. Definitely pat down that baby.

  • Jennifer S.
    February 17, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    Some day my friend, I’m going to make it to the ‘real’ action – want to go? or are you road tripped out? :)

    • February 17, 2014 at 10:18 AM

      Next time, Jennifer, I think I’ll fly. :)

      • ChezGA
        February 17, 2014 at 4:35 PM

        Be prepared to pay big $$$ for a flight to NOLA at Mardi Gras!

        • February 17, 2014 at 4:47 PM

          Oh, I’m not going anywhere, ChezGA. I’ll celebrate right here at home.

  • Irene
    February 17, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    From what I was taught from my Mexican Mother in Law about the baby, you turn the cake upside down after its been completely cooled, and you put the baby in this way, you can put a little frosting to seal the baby in…. Now it is written whomever gets the baby, they have to cook a meal for all people involved in the eating of the cake…I have always loved this having friends and family around…

    • Jennifer S.
      February 17, 2014 at 10:14 AM

      thanks Irene for the tip – because a melted baby is way yucky!

    • ChezGA
      February 17, 2014 at 4:39 PM

      I grew up in NOLA and it’s always been the tradition that the person who gets the baby has to bring a king cake to the next gathering/meeting/etc. I’m not familiar with cooking a meal for people eating the king cake if you get the baby.

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