Super Bowl, Mardi Gras… Laissez les bons temps rouler!

In case you’ve been out of touch – like, on a trip to Mars – and didn’t hear the news, the New Orleans Saints football team ended 42 years of gridiron futility Sunday night by winning America’s most media-crazed sporting event, the Super Bowl.

Understandably, the citizens of New Orleans have gone wild. Bourbon Street, home of jazz and impromptu dancing (and various interesting traditions involving colored beads) has reportedly been rocking ever since.

I’m a fan of New Orleans. I’ve been there twice, and consider it the anti-Vermont: so different in so many ways, I feel that I’m visiting a foreign country.

Yet I also feel a kinship with the city. I love its restaurants and open-air markets, its beignets and chicory coffee, the Mississippi River waterfront, its stunning architecture.

And I ache for the homes and lives lost to Katrina’s devastation; no one should suffer the way New Orleanians have.

So, I’m sorry, Indianapolis. I know you’re heartbroken that your Colts didn’t come away with a victory Sunday night in Miami. But it just feels right that New Orleans should win football’s biggest prize this year. With Mardi Gras right around the corner (its parades have already begun), New Orleans will continue to rock right up through Fat Tuesday.

And I’ll be joining the celebration, albeit from afar. I usually bake King Cake, a sweet yeast bread iced and decorated in Mardi Gras’ traditional colors – violet, gold (yellow), and green. This year I’m trying something new: King Cupcakes, moist, golden cakes featuring King Cake’s signature nutmeg and lemon-vanilla flavors, crowned with lemon-scented cream cheese icing.

Laissez les bons temps rouler, indeed!

Join the celebration: let’s bake King Cupcakes.


Let’s start with a couple of key ingredients. Fiori di Sicilia flavor combines vanilla and citrus; think Creamsicle. Lemon oil offers the fresh, bright flavor of lemon – without having to grate any rind (or your knuckles!)


Here’s a must-have: Mardi Gras’ classic colors – yellow (gold), violet, and green – in sparkling topping sugars. These sugars will take your cupcakes from Main Street to Bourbon Street.

OK, let’s start at the beginning. Preheat your oven to 350°F.


Whisk together the following in a mixing bowl:

1 cup granulated sugar
1 2/3 cups (7 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add 6 tablespoons soft butter, and beat with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.


Combine 2/3 cup room-temperature milk; 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia (OR 1 teaspoon vanilla extract + 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil), and add to the dry ingredients.


Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds, till thick and smooth.


Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.


With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 large egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Add another large egg, again beating for 30 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat briefly, just till smooth.


Lightly grease and flour a muffin pan. You can also line the muffin pan with papers, and spray the insides of the papers.


Scoop the batter by heaping 1/4-cupfuls into the prepared muffin tin. A muffin scoop works well here.


The cups will be about 3/4 full.

King Cakes always have a “prize” inside – usually a tiny plastic or porcelain figure of a baby. Whoever gets the prize gets to buy the next King Cake!

Tuck a chocolate candy kiss or other small chocolate candy into the center of one of the cupcakes; chocolate is tastier than plastic, and you don’t have to worry about anyone breaking a tooth on porcelain.


Bake the cupcakes for 23 to 25 minutes.


When they’re done, they’ll be domed, and a light golden brown around the edges. They’ll spring back when pressed gently on top, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.


Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and place on a rack to cool completely before icing.


While the cupcakes are cooling, make the icing.

Beat together the following:

3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (half of an 8-ounce package) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon lemon oil

Add 2 cups confectioners’ sugar gradually, beating well.  Beat in 1 to 2 tablespoons milk, enough to make a spreadable icing.


Scoop out a generous 2 tablespoons of icing. A tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.


Dollop the icing onto a cupcake.


Spread it to the edges of the cake. A flexible nylon spreader comes in handy.


Ah, which sugar to use… coarse, or fine?

I decided on coarse; it’s more in-your-face bright and sparkly than the fine-grind. More New Orleans Mardi Gras. I’ll save the fine for another day.


Place your three colored sugars – purple, yellow (gold), and green – into paper muffin cups. Dip 1/3 of the iced cake in one of the sugars.


Like this.


Carefully dip in the remaining two sugars.


Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.


Fine sugars on the left; coarse on the right. The choice is yours.


Whoever finds the chocolate candy baked inside their cupcake has to bake the next batch!

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Mardi Gras King Cupcakes.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. kirsten

    i have to avoid gluten, but these flavors sound so wonderful i really want to try converting this recipe. Would this reverse mixing method – flour & fat, then liquid, then eggs – work OK with GF whole grains & starches? Should i let the batter rest like i usually do? I’d add a bit of xanthan gum of course. Extra leavening? Any other adjustments you’d recommend? Thanks so much!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We haven’t tried that but it sounds like you are on the right track. Feel free to experiment,and take notes about what you did, so you can recreate it if it works out beautifully. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  2. JuliN

    I’ve had a request to make these as a cake for Easter. Any idea how long to bake, how many layers, etc?

    Since the requestor is paying me to bake this cake for her, I have to get it right.

    Thank you!


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello Juli! I would suggest to give our Baker’s Hotline a call so that we can chat about this more in depth. Our number is 855 371 2253 Jon@KAF

  3. JuliN

    I was searching for a recipe to make a treat for someone who did a good deed, and found this. It turned out decilious and stunning! I used the Mardi Gras Cupcake liners (also on this site) and it was very festive looking.

    I bought windowed cupcake boxes, the ones that hold 4 cupcakes, and tied with ribbons in Mardi Gras colors. Even my husband, who rarely notices, commented on them. He said “they looked like a present — like jewels in a box”

    Quick question for KAF — the window boxes were the standard white kind — the ribbons added the color. Most of my baking is to give to someone else (I’ve a volunteer, and also the unofficial welcome wagon in my neighborhood). Is there any source for brightly colored window boxes to give cupcakes? the only color I was able to find on the internet was pink. I really wanted more festive — like jewel tones.

    BTW — these got rave reviews from my friend. I used the vanilla/lemon oil option, as that was what I had on hand.


  4. Gambles

    I’m still confused on which KAF flour to use since I don’t make many baked goods. This seems like the perfect recipe to try something other than AP. Given that, which should I try?? I have: Pastry, (which I got to make my own “pastry flour blend”) Queen Quinevere, Cake Flour Blend, and Self Rising.

    I would love to make batches with each and compare, but I’m not physically able to do that much/ nor do I need that many cupcakes.

    Any suggestion/comparison would be greatly appreciated. Do you have any others for baked goods that I missed? I’m assuming that most of the others lend themselves to bread. ie. Italian, European, Clear etc.. (I do have most if not all of those also.)


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We used all-purpose flour when making the cupcakes. If you want to experiment with one of your other flours, I would suggest using your pastry flour, and measuring by weight, rather than volume. ~Jaydl@KAF

  5. susanlvasquez

    This is really a question! I love these cupcakes and they are a hit with my family. My husband is a teacher and wants me to make minis for one of his classes. What would be the appropriate baking time for mini cupcakes? Thanks!

    Hi Susan! You can certainly bake these as mini cupcakes. Simply reduce the baking time (not the temperature!) by 10 minutes and check them after 13 minutes or so. They might take up to 15-16 minutes, just keep an eye on them and you’ll be safe! Kim@KAF

  6. Whoran842

    I noticed in the email you are using panetone papers but in the online recipe you are using cupcake papers. Is that a different recipe? The frosting does not look the same also. Im asking because I am a big fan of panetone papers. They are great for muffins. Thanks. Your website and recipes are always great.

    The recipe photo printed with the recipe matches the recipe instructions. The email photo is slightly different; the batter is baked in panettone papers, and I believe the baker who made the muffins for that particular photo simply thinned the icing recipe enough to drizzle it, rather than spread it. Fill the panettone papers about 2/3 full, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean. PJH

  7. waikikirie

    I realize this question is being asked almost 2 years after the blog but I hope it will be answered. I would like to make these cupcakes for Fat Tuesday this year but I don’t have the lemon oil. I do have KA lemon powder. Can I use that as a substitue, and if so, how much would I use?? Thanks for any feed back.

    I would suggest using lemon rind instead, grating the peel from half a lemon should suffice!-Jon


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