Mardi Gras 2023 – King Cake Recipe Edition

For my earlier graduate studies, I lived in New Orleans, LA, (NOLA) and attended @Tulane_SPHTM for 15 months to complete my MSPH degree. I enjoyed soaking up the NOLA culture while I was there. It was amazing to me how unique the city of New Orleans is with so much beautiful culture and traditions. I truly enjoyed living there! And currently, I am attending Tulane again for my terminal public health degree in a more virtual learning setting. 
One of the special times I enjoyed while in New Orleans was the Carnival season, which always begins on January 6, and is known as “King’s Day” (Feast of the Epiphany). Carnival season is a time to “eat, drink and be merry” before the fasting and sacrifice during Lent. The Carnival season consists of parades, balls, and other celebrations leading up to Mardi Gras day, aka “Fat Tuesday”. Some people do not know that Mardi Gras is really a Christian holiday and it falls on a different day each year because Easter Sunday is never celebrated on the same Sunday. This year, Mardi Gras Day is on Tuesday, February 21, 2023. Carnival officially ends at midnight on Fat Tuesday and Lent begins. You can read more Mardi Gras and New Orleans history here.
One of my favorite local NOLA sweets during the Carnival season is King Cake. You can pretty much eat King Cake any time, like for breakfast, snack, and/or dessert.
Traditionally, King Cakes are cinnamon-flavored and can be stuffed with cream cheese, more cinnamon, fruit (like strawberry), and/or nuts.

Since I wanted my daughter to enjoy this New Orleans treat, I have adapted an easy and allergy friendly recipe that was included in my grad school’s weekly newsletter. 

Here is my adaptation of the easy, allergy-friend recipe for a Mardi Gras King Cake:

  1. Use 2 cans of cinnamon rolls, unroll the cinnamon rolls, and then twist or braid the strips into a huge bread circle.  Even though there are 3 cans pictured here, I actually used two cans of allergy-friendly and organic cinnamon rolls from @TraderJoes. This is our favorite brand for homemade cinnamon rolls!


It seems like a huge mess while getting all the cinnamon rolls strips unraveled and then twisting them all together onto a baking sheet to make a large bread circle! BUT, you will get there eventually!

2. Bake the cinnamon bread circle for the temperature that is printed on the cinnamon roll can for about 15-25 minutes (varies by oven). Make sure the dough is cooked thoroughly and it does not burn on the bottom or top (I tented a piece of foil when I had to put it back in the oven for five more minutes).

3. Take the cinnamon bread circle off the baking sheet and onto the presentation plate. Let the bread cool completely.

4. Using the vanilla icing that came with the cinnamon rolls, pour it over the cinnamon bread.

5. Then, sprinkle and alternate the colored sugars using Mardi Gras colors: purple, green, and yellow/gold. I used these purple, green, and yellow/gold sanding sugar and crystals from Hobbyland (via Amazon). These sugars are made of natural ingredients and are allergy-friendly.

6. Serve immediately or store the King Cake covered for up to 24 hours at room temperature.

Overall, my family enjoyed the allergy friendly King Cake. We actually finished it in two days! And usually each year, my grad school best friend sends my family a King Cake from a local New Orleans bakery. However, this year I told her not to worry about it since I made a King Cake that my daughter can help me make and she can eat safely. I am so happy my daughter was able to enjoy this Mardi Gras tradition and we were able to celebrate the colorful festivities at home! 

“Laissez les bons temps rouler!” (Let the good time roll!)