Thanks to this awesome gluten free king cake recipe, I earned a “World’s Best Mom” pin from my son. If you are looking for a gluten free version without giving up that traditional king cake feel… you are at the right place!
Since switching Alex to a gluten free diet, I’ve seen a tremendous improvement in his intestinal health. Making the switch hasn’t happened without its challenges; after all, he’s a kid and wants to eat the foods his friends and everyone else eats. Being that it’s carnival season in and around New Orleans, finding a gluten free king cake was going to be a challenge.
A few years ago, I shared my homemade traditional king cake recipe. We’ve been making it for a while but now that I need a gluten free version… that recipe will have to wait.
The most difficult part was figuring out whether I should use a mix or mix my own gluten free flours, how to shape the cake into its traditional shape, and well… wether or not the whole thing would actually taste and feel like the real thing.
You see, if there is one thing I’ve learned about gluten free baking is that the science of it is a whole other animal. I’ve been baking with white and whole wheat flour for decades and I know what to expect out of it’s glutenous reaction with the yeast and almost any ingredient I throw in there… but gluten free flour is different. The protein, leavening, and stretching agents have to come from somewhere. There is also the single vs double rise issue and the pliability of the dough in general.
After half a dozen failed attempts, I nearly gave up. I remember my daughter saying “it’s not half as bad as the one from last week” as she cheered me on to not give up on making a king cake for her brother. You see, she’s got a vested interest here too. Should I succeed in my king cake recipe development she’d reap the benefits of having a cake at home every week until Mardi Gras.
It’s not that I bake a cake each week every year, but every Friday my son’s class chooses a Mardi Gras King and a Queen for the week and they bring a king cake to school to be enjoyed by their classmates. I knew I had to get on to the development of a recipe ASAP or my son would be the only one in his class who would not be part of the celebration.
I’ve been working on this recipe on-and-off for over 3 months. I was desperately trying to beat the deadline of the Mardi Gras Kings and Queens at school. I’m sad to report that I didn’t make it. The first week, I sent him a frosted piece of chocolate cake to school as his treat, the second a huge paleo chocolate chip cookie, and by the third his very own slice of homemade gluten-free king cake. He said his was better than the store bought! That, or he sure knows how hard his mom has worked to make this recipe come to life!
I’ve had my ups and downs testing this recipe, and in the end, I settled for the bread mix because it yielded the most consistent results. Actually, using the gluten free bread mix we enjoyed perfect king cakes every time. Please read the recipe carefully and check out the notes section for tried and true failed attempt notes.
Happy Mardi Gras season!
Gluten Free King Cake Recipe
With this gluten-free king cake recipe, you’ll never feel left out of Mardi Gas!
- Yield: 8 1x
For the cake:
- 4 cups Pamela’s Gluten Free Bread Mix*
- 3 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons milk, divided warm (no hotter than 115F)
- 3/4 cup warm water (no hotter than 115F)
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Green, purple, and gold (or yellow) sprinkles (optional)
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, place gluten-free flour mix, instant yeast, sugar, melted butter, eggs, teaspoons vanilla, 1/2 cup milk, and warm water.
- Using the whisk attachment, mix for 3 minutes on medium speed (start slow so the mixture won’t splatter everywhere). When mixed, scrape the batter down from the sides using a spatula.
- Pour batter inside a gallon sized zip bag or piping bag, push batter down to make a cylinder, twist the top, and cut bag 1-inch up from the tip (omit using a tip if using a piping bag).
- Squeeze batter onto parchment paper to make an oval shaped cake. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the round of batter.
- Pick up the piping bag or zip bag and push batter down from sides. Carefully zig zag your way around the first circle until remaining batter is gone. Using your fingers, spread the batter around to cover open cinnamon sugar spaces between the zig-zagged batter.
- Refrigerate king cake on the baking pan for at least 8 hours or overnight. In the morning, brush the cake with 1-2 teaspoons milk prior to baking. Bake for 30minutes in a 350F preheated oven (internal bread temperature needs to be 200F).
Same day method:
- After you create your cake on the pan, allow it to rise for 1hour and 30 minutes. Brush the cake with 1-2 teaspoons milk prior to baking. Bake for 30minutes in a 350F preheated oven (internal bread temperature needs to be 200F).
- Allow king cake to cool down to room temperature. In a small bowl, mix powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk. Spread sugar glaze around the king cake and decorate with sprinkles (optional).
- Store leftovers in an airtight container up to 3 days. Alternatively, you can freeze king cake slices wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 6 weeks. Thaw and warm for 10 seconds in the microwave and enjoy!
I used Pamela’s Gluten Free Bread Mix for this recipe. It yielded the best sweet cake/bread texture and closest taste to the original.
I’ve also used King Arthur Flour Bread Mix. While the results were good, they were not our favorite for this recipe.
All purpose gluten free flours will not work for this recipe. Gluten free flour mixes intended to be used for non-yeast baking gave me a dense loaf (it did not rise). The protein ratio was not high enough. I toyed around making my own flour mixes but again, the results were not consistent. Use your own bread mix at your own risk.
If you really want to get technical and make your own blend, you should check out Gluten Free On a Shoestring’s All Purpose Flour Page. If you are a gluten free baker, I highly recommend her book.