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 will have an airy texture and feel like you’re taking a bite of sweet cinnamon bread. It’s not as dense as a cinnamon roll but has all the sweetness of one.
I tried many gluten-free flour mixes to create this recipe to achieve a good gluten-free texture. I keep trying new “bread mixes” to update this post, but I’m firm that the two I recommend below work best for 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 first developed this recipe for my son in 2007 and published it on this website first in 2011. Since then, I’ve updated the post with tips and have been testing many gluten-free flour mixes. The ones I recommend in this post are the only ones I can stand by their results with this method and recipe.
I’ve learned that each gluten-free flour mix has different amounts of protein, starch, and fiber. They each act differently when the yeast tries to activate and rise the dough. Therefore, each mix will yield a different king cake -from inedible and dense to falling apart crumbly.
Gluten-Free King Cake Ingredients
There are three sets of ingredients to make this gluten-free king cake: the dough, the filling, and the icing/glaze.
For the Cake:
- Pamela’s Gluten-Free Bread Mix
- Instant yeast
- Vanilla extract
- Warm milk
- Warm water
For the cinnamon filling:
- Brown sugar
- Ground cinnamon
For the icing/glaze:
- Powdered sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Green, purple, and gold sprinkles or colored sugar
Baking Tip: Why do we use warm water and warm milk?
Both the water and milk need to be warmed up (warm, not hot) to activate the instant yeast.
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.
Does it feel like batter or dough?
Because it’s bread and made with yeast, it’s technically considered dough. It’s much thicker than batter but wetter and sticker than traditional bread dough.
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.
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 in the refrigeratoror, the same day with a 1.5 to 2 hour 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 to 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator, this king cake must rise.
- Prep for Baking
Preheat oven to 350F and brush a few tablespoons of milk over the top of the king cake
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until the bread’s internal temperature is 200F.
- Cool down completely
Allow the king cake to cool down to room temperature. Meanwhile, prepare the icing.
Once cooled, transfer the king cake onto the serving platter or board you’ll be using. Hide the king cake baby, distribute the icing and sprinkle the colored sugars.
Watch this video to see how to make a gluten-free king cake, step-by-step.
How Much Does Gluten-Free King Cake Rise?
Gluten-free bread doesn’t rise as much as traditional bread dough, but after 2 hours of rise time on the counter or overnight in the fridge, you’ll notice that it’s grown in size. The cake will expand (rise) in place, directly on the baking sheet, both in height and width.
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.
How to Decorate a King Cake
It’s best to decorate your gluten-free king cake on the platter or board you’ll use to serve it. Once the cake is glazed, it’s very difficult to move. Make sure to watch the step-by-step video showing you how to transfer it out of the parchment paper the easy way.
Hiding the baby
If you’re hiding a “king cake baby” inside your gluten-free cake, it’s best done before glazing. The easiest way is by lifting the cake and pressing it inside the dough from underneath. See the video for details.
Before spreading the sugary glaze over the king cake, you’ll need to ensure that it has cooled down to room temperature. Otherwise, if the king cake itself is warm, the heat will cause the glaze to run off and not set.
After glazing, wait for the glaze to stop running off the sides completely before sprinkling the colored sugar over the top. You’ll want to do this before the glaze firms up (dries up) so the sugars stick to the glaze.
Once the glaze firms up, the sugar will also stay in place. Again, watch the video for this step.
To decorate a King Cake, you need:
- Homemade King Cake Glaze (in the recipe card)
- Mardigras Decorating Set (sugars and baby)
- Sanding Sugars (multiple colors) or,
- Edible confetti (if not using sugar)
- Hidden baby (a good one to use year after year)
GF King Cake Icing/Glaze
The glaze 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.
While not a big deal, it should be noted that if you use traditional vanilla extract (brown-hued in nature), you’ll see a slight tint to the glaze. If you want a perfectly white glaze, you’ll need to use clear vanilla extract.
How to Hide the Baby in a Homemade King Cake
Traditional king cakes sold in New Orleans include a hidden plastic “baby” inside. It’s important that you do not place the baby in the cake before baking since it’s made out of plastic and it’s not designed to withstand heat.
As shown in the video above, simply lift the king cake up from the platter or board, and hide the baby by pushing it into the cake from the underside.Print