If you’re here to find an easy recipe for a gluten-free king cake that satisfies even the toughest critics, you’re at the right place.
My family and I live in New Orleans, so we’ve enjoyed my share of king cakes from every bakery in town. When it came to creating this recipe, it took many tries and different mixes to create a gluten-free king cake recipe that tastes great and has a texture similar to the classic.
The best part is that you don’t need to be an experienced gluten-free baker to make this king cake. Since I first published this recipe in 2014, many have used it to celebrate a little bit of New Orleans gluten-free.
If you’re local to New Orleans and have seen the outrageous prices on gluten-free king cakes in town, this will save you a ton of money!
King Cake Tradition
In New Orleans, the King Cake tradition goes back to when the French brought their celebration of the Epiphany, or the 12th night, on January 6th, which historically marks the arrival of the three wise men/kings in Bethlehem delivering gifts to baby Jesus.
Growing up in Spain, we only enjoyed King Cake on January 6th; but here in New Orleans, king cake is enjoyed beginning January 6th through Mardi Gras day.
To carry on the tradition, you’ll often find a small, plastic baby hidden inside a king cake (I’ve linked some options below for you).
What Does King Cake Taste Like?
Traditional king cake tastes a lot like brioche (sweet bread) and a cinnamon roll.
Locally, different bakeries have a “signature flavor” to their traditional king cake dough. Some have more vanilla; others add almond, more cinnamon, less cinnamon, but ultimately it’s a cinnamon-flavored dough.
The distinction is that a king cake is also covered in icing colored in green, purple, and gold. However, many king cakes are covered in white icing and covered in green, purple, and gold sprinkles or colored sugar.
Best Gluten-Free King Cake
The best gluten-free king cake is one that has a yeast-like dough feel with enough cinnamon to set it apart from plain sweet bread. The texture is also light and airy, not dense.
To achieve a good gluten-free texture, I tried many gluten-free flour mixes to create this recipe. Over the years, every time a new mix comes out, I try it and keep going back to the two gluten-free four mixes I recommend you purchase to make this recipe.
The most difficult part was figuring out whether I should use a mix or mix my gluten-free flours, how to shape the cake into its traditional shape, and well, whether or not the whole thing would taste and feel like the real thing.
I’ve learned about gluten-free baking that it’s nothing like the traditional King Cake Recipe. Baking gluten-free is another animal and, as I update this post in 2021, I’ve had seven years of trying every mix sold.
There is a reason I suggest one main gluten-free flour mix to get the best results: the protein, leavening, and stretching agents have to come from somewhere, and every combination is different, and each yields different results.
Gluten-Free King Cake Ingredients
There are three sets of ingredients to make this gluten-free king cake: the dough, the filling, and the frosting.
For the Cake:
- Pamela’s Gluten-Free Bread Mix
- Instant yeast
- Vanilla extract
For the cinnamon filling:
- Brown sugar
- Ground cinnamon
For the frosting:
- Powdered sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Green, purple, and gold sprinkles or colored sugar
Best Gluten-Free King Cake Mix
After trying many gluten-free bread mixes, I continue to use Pamela’s Gluten-Free Bread Mix for this recipe. You will need one 19-ounce bag, or 4 cups, for the dough and an additional for flouring the surface.
I’ve also had success with King Arthur Flour Bread Mix following this recipe and method.
You can find both of these on Amazon (which I’ve linked for you), at many traditional grocery stores, and Whole Foods.
Which Gluten-Free Flours Can You Use for King Cake?
To make a great gluten-free king cake you’ll need to mix a protein-rich gluten-free flour with starch and lower protein flours for volume.
Pamela’s mix uses a combination of Sorghum Flour, Tapioca Flour, White Rice Flour, Sweet Rice Flour, Brown Rice Flour; all of which have a purpose when mixed.
I don’t recommend mixing your own flours to make a gluten-free king cake.
GF King Cake Frosting
The frosting for a gluten-free king cake is made by combining powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla for flavoring. The consistency is runny and easy to spread over the top of the king cake.
On top of the frosting, you’ll want to sprinkle colored sugar or sprinkles.
Here are a few options:
How to Make a Gluten-Free King Cake
You can make the batter for the gluten-free king cake recipe the night before and do an overnight rise or, the same day with a 1-hour and 30-minute rise on the counter, at room temperature. The printable recipe card below includes both methods.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- Combine ingredients
In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the gluten-free flour mix, instant yeast, sugar, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, ½ cup warm milk, and warm water.
- Make the sugar mix
Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
- Mix the dough
Using the hook attachment or one attachment of a hand mixer, combine the ingredients and mix, for about 3 minutes, until a wet sticky dough forms. Stop a few times to scrape the sides of the bowl, and continue.
- Transfer to a zip bag
Transfer the batter inside a gallon-sized zip bag or large piping bag. Push the batter down to make a cylinder and twist.
Slice a 1″ hole in the corner of your zip bag and carefully squeeze the batter giving it a round shape on top of the parchment paper, making a round circle.
- Make it sweet
Generously sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the circle batter until it’s all covered.
Once again, carefully distribute the batter over the cinnamon-topped base by squeezing the batter out of the bag, spreading it in a zig zag motion. With wet fingertips, manually spread the batter to cover all the cinnamon-covered spaces.
Whether you choose to allow the batter to rise in a warm place in the kitchen for 1.5 hours or overnight in the refrigerator, this king cake must rise.
- Prep the oven
Preheat oven to 350F.
- Brush the top
Brush a few tablespoons of milk over the top of the cake before baking.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until the bread’s internal temperature is 200F.
Allow the king cake to cool down to room temperature. Meanwhile, prepare your frosting.
Once cooled, distribute the frosting over the top of the cake in a thick and even layer. Once the glaze is semi-set, sprinkle with colored sugar or sprinkles.
How to Make a Dairy-Free King Cake
You can make this king cake recipe dairy-free by doing the following substitutes:
|Traditional Ingredient||Dairy-Free Substitute|
|butter||coconut oil or vegetable oil|
|milk (in dough)||coconut milk (canned), |
original almond milk
|milk (in icing)||any dairy-free milk|
How to Make Egg-Free King Cake
This recipe calls for 3 eggs and the maximum I recommend replacing in any baked recipe is 2. This recipe was not developed to use an egg replacer. You can read more about egg substitutes in baking in this post.