King Cake doughnuts: a mellower Mardi Gras

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.

Mardi Gras King Cake doughnuts? This recipe's a piece of cake. Click To Tweet

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 @kingarthurflourMake 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 confectioners’ sugar
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

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!

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. Timothy

    Two comments:

    1) If you want pretty doughnuts then use a piping bag and puddle the batter evenly around the tin, then tap down the final point with a wet finger.

    2) Forego the corn syrup and butter in the icing, instead use sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice with a touch of milk. That’s the flavor profile you need for king cake icing.

  2. Joan Bernstein

    Hi –

    I’m making King Cake doughnuts and using the baked doughnuts three ways recipe. That one says 425 degees for 10 mins; the King Cake recipe says 350 for 10 mins. Which is preferable?

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Joan, sorry for the mixup – that would be 10 minutes at 435°F. Thanks for spotting that — and enjoy your doughnuts! PJH

    2. Joan Bernstein

      Thanks. I tried the two different temperatures (I only have one pan), kept an eye on them in the oven and both turned out fine. In fact they were delicious! The doughnut recipe is so easy and results in a delicious doughnut.

      Thank you for not making me feel guilty about not making a traditional King Cake.

  3. Mirissa

    I have mini bunt pans, but no donut pans. Will that work? Or could I bake all the batter in one regular bundt pan and make it a cake?

  4. Marina

    Ahh, you’ve dough-nutted your old King Cake muffin style! I was thinking about making those muffins again to take into work, but maybe I’ll just buy a dozen naked donuts and have fun decorating them; they’ll never know! Except they’ll be missing that nice Fiori di Sicilia.. 😉

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Muffins or doughnuts, Marina, either are easy to turn into a tri-color celebration. Happy Mardi Gras! PJH

  5. Jo Anne Palyok

    Looks easy enough and I’m going to give it a try. I like to try something different and they look delicious.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Jo Anne, they’re definitely easy. I thought dipping in the sugar would be messy,but it wasn’t at all. Enjoy! PJH

  6. Ellen

    Ahhh! How pretty, and easy to make when you don’t want to bake a big King’s Cake for Mardi Gras. These are quick to put together, and quick to eat, I might add! Delicious. Will make again and again.


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