Sourdough King Cake

Mardi Gras this year is March 1, but King Cake season starts long before that! Traditionally, the desert is made for Epiphany and is appropriately eaten at any point between Epiphany and Mardi Gras. So, I thought I’d go ahead and share my sourdough king cake recipe so you can make it for the rest of the month!

As a kid, we always got a big box of beads from my grandmother in New Orleans. So, Mardi Gras was a big deal for me even though I didn’t grow up in NOLA myself. My grandmother would tell us stories of how she had to fight for the good beads. They weren’t the generic purple, green, and yellow plastic chains you can find in any party store. No. They were hand strung. One sported beads in the shape of king cakes, pained ornately, with babies strung in the middle. Others had elaborately shaped medallions for the different krewes that put on the parades. They were all decadent and magical and infused with a delicious paganism discordant in the prudish evangelical landscape of my early childhood. As was my grandmother Mumsie. I remember her as a sixty something year old woman with bright red lipstick and a feather boa slung jauntily around her shoulders. She smelled like the cigarettes that killed her. To her, there were no strangers.

In addition to the pagan undertones of Catholicism, King Cake and Mardi Gras capture the universality of the Catholic faith. As mentioned above, King Cake was originally baked for Epiphany, the feast of the Three Magi—the symbol of Catholicism’s pluralistic universality. A black man. A Persian. An Indian. All visiting a Jewish family. The cake is shaped in a circle to represent the Magi’s crowns. And the baby hidden inside represents Christ hidden in our hearts.

This King Cake is a two day process, but involves minimal labor on the baker’s part! I hope you enjoy it!

Sourdough King Cake

The Cake


1/2 cup sourdough starter

3/4 cup water

3 3/4 cup flour

2 tbsp sugar

2 eggs, beaten

4 tbsp salted butter, melted


  1. The night before you’re serving your king cake, dissolve the sourdough starter in the water.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add all ingredients and mix until blended.
  3. With the dough hook, knead another 10ish minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
  4. Coat another bowl with butter and transfer your now kneaded dough to the butter bowl. Roll it around in the bowl to become buttery itself.
  5. Cover with a damp tea towel and let sit overnight.
  6. In the morning, punch down the dough. It should be about twice the size it was the night before. Let rest for 30 minutes.
  7. Turn the dough out onto an oiled countertop and divide into two equally sized portions.
  8. Roll each portion into a large rectangle, roughly 8 inches by 24 inches.
  9. Coat the the rectangles with the filling and roll up lengthwise as if you were making cinnamon rolls.
  10. Twist the rolls together and join the twisted ends into a circle.
  11. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for about an hour.
  12. Preheat the oven to 350 and bake for 25 minutes (you might want to use a pan with sides as the filling tends to ooze out).

The Filling:


1 cup packed brown sugar

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 egg white

2 tbsp butter (room temp)


  1. Whisk everybody together, yum yum!

The Topping:


2 cups powdered sugar

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp lemon juice

purple, yellow, and green sugar for dusting


  1. Stir powdered sugar, lemon juice, and water together.
  2. Drizzle over the cake once it has cooled.
  3. Dust with colored sugar in bands around the cake.
  4. Enjoy!

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