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. JuliaJ

    Those nylon spreaders are great! I use my short-handled ones for spreading
    and as a dough scraper (well, now KAF has new dough scrapers, hurray!). As the edge is quite sharp, I also use them as an ad hoc cutter for pies and cakes when my pie/cake server is serving other goodies. The long-handled one is great for scooping out the bottom of jars. (Wish they came a little wider and/or with a longer blade so I could use them as a mini-spatula…)

    By the way, does this icing need to be refrigerated? Is it best to sugar the tops just before serving? I am wondering if the sugars will dissolve into the icing.

    Thanks for another yummy recipe!

    p.s. And red sugar for Valentine’s Day treats??? Hmmm, do conversation hearts melt if you slip into into the batter??

    Julia, I didn’t notice the sugars melting on the icing, and they sat around a few days. Conversation hearts – I”m betting they’ll stay solid, maybe get a little “spongy.” As for refrigerating cream cheese frosting – the jury’s out. Officially, yes, it should be refrigerated. Wrap the cake VERY VERY VERY sell, with plastic wrap right against the cut edges and frosting. Unofficially – many people leave their carrot cakes at room temperature for a day or two with seemingly no ill effects. Glad you like the spatulas… 🙂 PJH

  2. Lish

    I can practically smell these through the screen. I was wondering how to make the tradition, without making the king cake. Love them, but a little shorter on time this year. I will be making these with the kids this week, and will freeze a few for next Tuesday. They look fantastic, and easy! And I already have the right colors of sugar! Go Saints!!!

  3. Beth

    Very clever, PJ – especially if you don’t have time to make the traditional King Cake. Gee, all these holidays: Valentine’s and Chinese New Year on the 14th, then Shrove Tuesday 2 days later, and on the 28th, Purim. Well, takes our minds off the 3 feet of snow we’ve been “blessed” with.

    Oh my gosh, Beth, that’s right, you were directly in the path of that storm. And I heard more’s coming. The world is absolutely upside-down – we’ve had about 13″ of snow ALL WINTER, and everyone’s moaning about the (lack of) skiing and sledding, no insulation for the plants, etc. You have my complete sympathy – go ahead and send some of it up here! Thanks for remiding me about Chinese New Year – one of our Web team members here is from Beijing. I’ll have to figure out how to help him celebrate here in Vermont. Shrove Tuesday = pancakes; I’m still completely stuck on our homemade whole grain pancake mix. Mix it up, store in the freezer, make great pancakes whenever you want them. WANT THEM NOW… PJH

  4. Jessica

    I’m from New Orleans! Thanks for loving my city!!!

    I’m making my yearly king cake for Mardi Gras day but these look SO cute! You get the seal of New Orleanean approval! I like the coarser sugar on these too (more vibrant colors) but if you want to go authentic, use vibrantly colored sanding or granulated sugar. I make mine in a ziploc with white sugar and food coloring paste (though I hear powdered food coloring works phenomenally well)

    Happy Mardi Gras!!

    Thanks for the good tip about the sugars, Jessica. And Happy Mardi Gras to you, too – enjoy that Super Bowl championship parade today! PJH

  5. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - Petrópolis, R.J. - BRAZIL

    Hi, P.J.. I´m a great fan of Southern US culture. I love Mardi Gras and all the Jazz and Blues music and musicians from New Orleans. My favorites are undoubtedly Dr. John and the fantastic honky tonk piano player Jon Cleary.
    I love all the culinary of that region because it´s similarity with Brazilian Northeast State Bahia culture. There you have Zydeco, here we have Forró, a local rythm with accordion and lots of dances…and Carnival here is similar with Mardi Gras of New Orleans…and now we´re at Carnival Season here with lots of Samba…and lots of good foods too…
    I love the way you top those cupcakes. Are they in honor of Brazil??? It´s because you´d baked those cakes with Brazil´s flag colors on top. Blue, yellow, green!!!!!!!!
    Anyway, thanks one more time for this lovely recipe and i´ll bake them here with USA colors on top, in honor of you, P.J. and our good relationship at this fantastic blog!!!
    Here in Brazil we have similar cupcakes we bake here with coconut grated on top and condensed milk on filling we call here Mãe Benta!!
    Nice and deliciouss!

    Ooooh, sounds delicious, Ricardo – I love coconut. Thanks for making cupcakes with USA colors on top – and I’m glad mine have Brazilian colors, though it was happy coincidence: violet, yellow (gold) and green are the traditional colors of Mardi Gras. Thanks for staying in touch here – always interesting to hear from you. PJH

  6. Lori @ RecipeGirl

    Very cute. I’ve always wanted to make a King Cake but these will be a good alternative. Why spray the cupcake liners? I always find them to be a bit greasy to hold if you spray the liners. Don’t the liners typically peel away easily enough not to have to use a spray?
    You know how sometimes the papers stick to the cupcake, tearing it and leaving cake pieces behind? Spraying the papers eliminates that problem. Molly @ KAF

  7. Beth @ 990 Square

    These cupcakes are great! I’m so happy for the Saints winning the Super Bowl, since I think NOLA still needs all the help it can get. I’ll have to send back a live report on the celebrations–I’m headed to NOLA on Saturday. We’re supposed to fly, but if the snow waylays us (we’re supposed to get another 2 feet today? eek!) we will drive!

  8. Daria

    These look yummy and beautiful!!

    Could you do the opposite, and put kisses in all but one? I know that would break tradition a bit but then everybody gets more chocolate.
    Why not? Then everybody will have good luck. What a delicious tradition you’ll be starting! Molly @ KAF

  9. Whitney Rodgers

    I’m SOOO EXCITED about this recipe. I find the traditional King Cake recipe a bit too daunting. Thanks for sharing, I’ll definitely be baking these this weekend!

  10. Elise S

    I’m living in New Orleans right now, and I love this recipe! I think it would be great to take as a snack before parades!

    Thank you for posting a recipe that celebrates the city! We’re all so excited about the Saints’ victory! The party won’t die down until Wednesday next week!

  11. Marianna

    I am getting ready for a bake sale this weekend and I had intended to do everything with a Valentine theme. These lovely treats have changed my mind and now I will be adding Mardi Gras cupcakes to the mix. I will have to put in an order today to get the coarse sugars and those pretty cupcake papers. While I am at it, I may slip in a few things off my ever expanding wish list! 🙂

    Flexibility is a good thing, Marianna – bet these cupcakes will be a hit among all the hearts and chocolate… 🙂 PJH

  12. Joyce

    Those look delicious and so much fun! I have just one question…I have a lemon tree in my yard teeming with Meyer lemons. Can I use those instead of the lemon oil? How would I do that? Thanks so much!!!
    You can use 1 teaspoon of lemon zest instead of the lemon oil. Molly @ KAF

  13. Lesley

    Can you make the lemon icing using lemon juice or zest instead of the oil and extract? If so, about how much? I just got the fiorie di sicilia but I don’t have the other lemon flavorings.

    You can substitute a teaspoon of lemon zest in the icing. Molly @ KAF

  14. Karen

    Thank you. I make King Cake every year to celebrate Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday. This year my husband has been diagnosed with a yeast and dairy sensitivity. My weekly bread baking isn’t getting done anymore. But with this we can still celebrate!

  15. Mary Ann

    How great that you love New Orleans and our Saints. I am a native Louisianian and have lived in and loved New Orleans. I can’t wait to make those darling cupcakes, how festive.

  16. Estelle

    Don’t want to be the annoying person here but there is a spelling mistake in the title!! It should read “laissez les bons temps rouler !” There is an “r” instead of “z” at the end of “rouler.” Regardless, I love KAF!!

    Estelle, not being a Francophile, I looked everywhere to find the correct spelling – Wiki, translation dictionaries… I found “laisser le bon rouleau de temps” (not a help), “laissez les bons temps” vs. “laissez les bon temps…” I couldn’t figure out who was right! I’ll definitely take you as the authority and change it – THANKS. PJH

  17. Ann

    Can I sub lemon extract for the lemon oil? If so, how much? I work at Meals on Wheels and one of our big fundraisers every year is a Mardi Gras. I’m going to make these cupcakes for the office on Fat Tuesday!
    Yes, you can use about 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract for the lemon oil. Adjust to taste. ~ MaryJane

  18. Michael M

    Where can I find those exact cupcake wrappers with the same colors. So makes the whole deal. I looked on the KA site and saw many others but not with those colors.

    Dazzling Dots, Michael – they were quite a few pages into the search results… Have fun! PJH

  19. Susan

    Hey, are those CK sparkling sugars the Country Kitchen brand from Fort Wayne, IN? We love that store! Wonderful selection of all things pertaining to decorating baked goods, as well as some regular kitchen items.

    I’m not sure, Susan, I’m not in the purchasing end of the business. But wherever they are, they do put out some really lovely decorating sugars… PJH

  20. Allan

    Made these tonight, unfortunately without the beautiful colors. But I followed the recipe exactly for the cupcakes and they were fabulous tasting. The amazing thing is the small amount of lemon oil, just 1/8 teaspoon in all that batter and it really picked up the taste. Great recipe and a keeper.

  21. Marina

    I made these for a Fat Tuesday food day at work and they came out really well! I followed the recipe exactly (using the vanilla + lemon, don’t have any fiori di sicilia) and even decorated them like the pictures. Got LOTS of compliments! Thanks for the recipe, these were fun to make and tasty!

    To Michael M: I needed some purple sugar and ended up at JoAnn ETC (I live in NE Ohio) and thought I’d pick up some festive cupcake wrappers too. Purely by coincidence happened to buy the exact same wrappers as shown in the picture, but I didn’t realize it till today! They were a few dollars (maybe 2.99?) for a pack of 50.

  22. buster

    I made these and they were a great success! I used 1 tsp. of lemon zest in place of the lemon oil. The nutmeg, lemon and vanilla made for a very interesting and rich tasting cupcake. Very festive! I would love to see some additional KAF cupcake recipes in the future!

  23. Amy

    I made a takeoff on these cupcakes for Fat Tuesday. Instead of Fiori di Sicilia or lemon oil I used your cinnamon oil in vanilla batter then I made a chocolate batter with an orange oil/rum flavor combo. They were both amazing with the cream cheese frosting. We decorated them exactly as shown above with my 8 year old daughter doing the dipping job. I got a kick out hearing her tell her daddy who was trying out the dipping that “it’s okay, daddy, it doesn’t have to be perfect.”

    I was surprised that the favorite was the vanilla cinnamon but it was a huge hit.

  24. Lesley

    I finally got a chance to make these yesterday. They are delicious and the texture is very nice but I have two small issues. The cupcakes are flat on top, they didn’t get that typical cupcake dome. Also, the edges of the top are quite firm, almost crisp. I am not an experienced cake baker. I tried to follow the directions exactly – any idea where I went wrong? They are definitely still good eating, but there is room for improvement.


    You made them perfect. These are a flat top cupcake, no dome. Frank @ KAF.

  25. 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

  26. 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

  27. 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

  28. 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

  29. 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.


  30. 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

  31. 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

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