Have you ever made a Mardi Gras King Cake? If so, I congratulate you. This yeast-based "cake" is a labor of love, with its kneading and rising, shaping and filling, baking and glazing and sugaring — and don't forget the plastic baby inside! King Cake doughnuts, on the other hand, are a labor of ... laid back. Like New Orleans, the city they celebrate, they're less about stress, more about letting the good times roll.

King Cake Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

I mean, how hard could King Cake doughnuts be?

Not hard at all, when you start with our easy Baked Doughnuts Three Ways recipe.

King Cake Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

Make the batter

Make the batter, and scoop it into a couple of standard doughnut pans (which you've greased first, of course). About three slightly heaped tablespoon cookie scoopfuls is the right amount; you want each portion of batter, once it's smoothed down, to come just shy of the rim of the doughnut well.

You'll notice I'm not giving you the entire recipe here; this post is as much tip as recipe, since you can use any doughnut recipe yielding a dozen doughnuts. Fried, baked, even purchased (we'll never tell!) — you need a dozen cake-style doughnuts.

King Cake Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

Bake the doughnuts

Bake the doughnuts in a 425°F oven for 10 minutes, or until they're done. They'll be very light on top, but golden underneath — that's the doughnut bottoms you're looking at above.

Let the doughnuts cool to room temperature; since their hole provides center venting, this will only take about 15 minutes.

King Cake Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

Make the icing

While the doughnuts are cooling, make this icing:

1 1/4 cups (142g) confectioners' sugar or glazing sugar, sifted to remove any lumps
1 tablespoon (21g) light corn syrup
1 tablespoon (14g) melted butter
1 to 2 tablespoons (14g to 28g) milk or water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Stir everything together until smooth. The icing should sheet off your spoon or spatula easily; you want it thick enough not to run off the doughnut and puddle, but thin enough that when you dunk the doughnut, any excess icing drips off easily.

King Cake Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

Get ready to decorate

Stage doughnuts, icing, and colored sugars (the traditional purple, gold, and green) for the icing and decorating.

King Cake Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

Ice the doughnuts

Dip a doughnut into the icing. Let any excess icing run off; if it seems too thick, add more milk, a tiny bit at a time, until it's a consistency that works for you.

King Cake Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

Dip the doughnuts in the colored sugars

Dip one third of the top of each doughnut into the green sugar, one third into the gold, and one third into the purple.

Don't stress about making each color exactly one third. I didn't, and this doughnut still came out looking pretty nice, right?

King Cake Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

As did all of my King Cake doughnuts.

I have to admit, I'm proud of myself. I am not a food decorator; the thought of cutout cookies makes me wilt, and piping frosting rosettes onto a beautifully iced cake is something you will never, EVER catch me doing.

Still, there are times — Mardi Gras — when even the most decorating-phobic baker (me) needs to gussy things up a bit. Thus these King Cake doughnuts. Believe it or not, I had these baked, decorated, and arrayed prettily on a serving plate in less than an hour, start to finish.

Now THAT'S a piece of cake!

How are you celebrating Mardi Gras this year? Are you making a King Cake? Let us know in the comments, below! 

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About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was an award-winning Maine journalist (favorite topics: sports and food) before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. Hired to write the newly launched Baker’s Catalogue, PJ became the small but growing company’s sixth employee.PJ wa...
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