Celebrate Mardi Gras by baking a homemade Cream Cheese and Raspberry King Cake for friends and family! King Cake, a traditional pastry that’s well-loved during Carnival season in South Louisiana, is easier than you think to make at home. All it takes is time and patience. This king cake, stuffed with cream cheese and raspberry filling, boasts two well-loved flavors. Make a Cream Cheese and Raspberry King Cake to celebrate Mardi Gras this year.
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I have vivid memories of a Mardi Gras party in one of my elementary school classrooms. I was in the fifth grade, and it was all kinds of strange for a girl who’d only heard of this Mardi Gras business once or twice before. (As y’all should know, I was raised in Tennessee by parents who were from “up north.” Mardi Gras was not a blip on our radar…)
This shindig included beads that were not thrown but were instead handed out calmly. Weird music I’d never heard before was played loudly and a horribly dry cinnamon roll masquerading as a cake was served as a delicacy.
I was unimpressed with the business, particularly the King Cake, and I went about the next several years not knowing Mardi Gras to be anything different.
When I moved to Louisiana for college, I had a lot of learning to do, especially in regards to Mardi Gras. (Fun fact: Mardi Gras is actually a family-friendly activity, and as one of my girlfriends explained to me, “People from around here don’t flash the floats because somebody up there knows your mom, and she’ll find out before day’s end.” So. The more you know.)
In fact, my first Carnival season, I was offered a slice of king cake from a friend, and I kindly refused.
“I’ve had that before,” I told her kindly. “It’s not really my thing.”
“Erin, you’re from Tennessee,” she stressed. “I think you need to try it again.”
She foisted a plate of king cake onto me… and I skeptically took a bite as she and several of our other friends watched the scene with barely concealed excitement.
I was blown away from the first bite.
This cake was nothing like that disgusting cinnamon roll I was served so many years before. In fact, it was bursting at the seams with strawberry filling, and I quickly changed my tune about the cake I once swore I loathed because it was basically heaven in my mouth.
So. Mardi Gras. King Cake. All that jazz…
Y’all know that Fat Tuesday is in a few days, right?
Since we don’t live in South Louisiana anymore, I’m always a bit sad during Carnival season because we don’t get to participate in the fun or see any notable parades march by our home. However, I’ve whipped up a sweet little goodie to give us a taste of the season here in Texas.
This King Cake contains a combination of my favorite fillings: raspberry and cream cheese. Something about these two together just makes the cake so delicious, and this recipe was a total hit and continues to be one yearly.
Between me, Winston, my dad, and my cousin and her family, we hardly have any left!
Learn how to make your own today so you can celebrate Mardi Gras wherever you live, too.
King Cake Tips
- Don’t kill the yeast with too hot water. It should be warm but not boiling. (I’ve made this mistake. It was super sad. You’ll know if you killed the yeast if it doesn’t start to bubble in the water. If this happens, toss the water/yeast combo and start again.)
- I highly recommend using a stand mixer while making this recipe. Making a king cake by hand, while completely plausible, is painstaking and takes a lot longer. A zester comes in handy, too.
- The dough has to rise. Twice. Please consider this before starting the recipe.
- Filling options: The world is your oyster with this. You could literally do any kind of combination that sounds good. Cream cheese + fruit jam is a favorite of mine. (If you don’t like raspberry, use strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, etc., in its place.) Also, pecans and brown sugar would be an awesome filling for this type of king cake.
Other Mardi Gras Recipes We Adore
Cream Cheese and Raspberry King Cake
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1 cup milk , scalded (cow's milk and unsweetened non-dairy milk OK)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour , sifted and divided
- 2 large eggs , beaten
- 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
Cinnamon Sugar Filling
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons water
Cream Cheese and Raspberry Filling
- 8 ounces cream cheese , softened
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- Purple , yellow and green food coloring
- In a small bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water, stir well to allow the yeast to start working, and then set it aside.
- In the bowl of an upright mixer combine the scalded milk, sugar, butter, salt, vanilla extract, orange zest and orange juice, mix with the wire whip attachment on slow speed until the butter is melted, and then allow this to cool until lukewarm, or around 110° F.
- Change out the wire whip attachment on the mixer and replace it with the dough hook, then stir in 2 cups of the flour and beat on medium speed until smooth. Turn off the mixer. Add the yeast mixture and the beaten eggs. Turn on the dough hook and allow this to mix again until well incorporated. Add 3 more cups of flour a cup at a time until the dough is no longer sticky and has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Continue mixing on a slow speed with the dough hook for about 5 minutes to knead the dough. (Add a little more flour if it looks like the dough surface is sticking to the bowl or if it looks too moist.)
- Once kneaded, turn off the mixer and transfer the dough into a well-greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot. Allow the dough to rise and double in size. (About 90 minutes.)
- While the dough is rising, make the cream cheese filling. Combine the softened cream cheese with the sugar, egg yolks and vanilla, then set aside.
- Punch down the dough, then transfer it to a floured surface. Now, roll it out into a rectangle. (Make it about a ½ inch thick.)
- For inside the dough coating: combine the sugar, cinnamon and water then gently spread that over the entire surface of the dough. Smooth it over the dough surface with the back of a spoon.
- Add the cream cheese filling just inside one long edge of the dough, spreading with a spoon, and then top it with the raspberry jam. Then in jelly roll fashion, roll up the dough and shape it into a complete ring or circle.
- Transfer the rolled dough ring to a greased sheet pan, then brush the heavy whipping cream onto all the exposed surfaces of the dough.
- Place the sheet pan in a warm spot. Allow the dough to rise and double in size again. (About 60 – 90 minutes.)
- Preheat oven to 375°, and bake for 10 minutes, then turn heat down to 350° and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean when poked through the largest section of the cake.
- Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack.
- For the icing: Combine the powdered sugar and orange juice in a deep bowl whisking until smooth. If icing is stiff, whisk in ½ tablespoon water at a time until spreadable. Dye the icing purple, green and gold for Mardi Gras and set aside until it's time to dress the cake.
- Transfer cooled cake onto a serving platter and drizzle the top and sides with the icing. Enjoy!
Adapted from Cajun Chef Ryan.