King Cake Cupcakes

in Cajun, Cakes & Cupcakes, Mardi Gras, Pastry

King Cake Cupcakes

Let the good times roll, huh?

I feel like it wasn’t all that long ago, my girlfriends and I were sitting around at lunch, deciding how we were going to squeeze 8 girls into a hotel room barely big enough for 1… but cost like it should hold 39. Discussions of grabbing odds on who’d be the first Hand Grenade victim, who’d be the first back to the hotel (I wanted the bed!), and who wouldn’t stumble back ’til day break because she couldn’t remember the name of the hotel (ahem, yeah… I’m so sure that’s why she was out all night).

Only it really was that long ago. And I’ll be honest. I’m totally okay with that. Most of the time 😛

King Cake Cupcakes

So I took my friend Erica’s King Cake recipe and made just a few changes to end up with King Cake Cupcakes. The dough in this recipe is on the lighter side and that made it ideal to form into individual king cakes. You get a sweet, light pastry dough that rises and domes beautifully as a cupcake. (They’re “cupcakes” in name only, they definitely have a more pastry/cinnamon roll-like texture than cake-like).

Filled with a cinnamon-cream cheese mixture and topped with a light glaze, they’re a far safer and much cheaper way to celebrate Mardi Gras.

At home.

Where there are no Hand Grenades.

King Cake Cupcakes

Cupcakes inspired by the Mardi Gras favorite: sweet pastry dough filled with cream cheese and cinnamon.


  • For the dough:
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp) yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 3 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting work surface
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Oil or cooking spray, for coating bowl
  • For the cream cheese filling:
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened (I used reduced-fat)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 rounded tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • For the glaze:
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3-4 tsp water
  • Decorating sugar in yellow, purple and green


  1. Add water and 1 Tbsp sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast over top and let stand for 10 minutes. (If your yeast doesn't get puffy, don't keep going - buy new yeast.)
  2. Add melted butter, egg, egg yolk, remaining sugar, 3 cups flour, and salt, and then turn the mixer to low.
  3. Add only enough extra flour to get the dough to clean the sides of the bowl but not come completely off the bottom - it should be only slightly sticky when you touch it.
  4. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled (45 minutes-1 hour in my 100-degree oven). While dough is rising, make the filling.
  5. Place filling ingredients into the mixer bowl (minus the melted butter) and mix on medium-high until completely smooth, 1-2 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 and line 2 cupcake pans with 18 liners.
  7. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times.
  8. Stretch to a rectangle about 18x12 and brush with 2 Tbsp melted butter, leaving the top 1-inch dry.
  9. Spread cream cheese filling over the dough evenly, leaving the top 1-inch dry.
  10. Starting with the long side of the dough closest to you, roll jelly-roll style, pinching the last inch of the dough onto the roll and placing seam-down on the counter.
  11. Lightly pat/pull so that the roll is even diameter down its length.
  12. Trim the scraggly ends and then slice into rounds that are ~3/4-1 inch thick. Take care that they don't get any thicker than that, the rolls should sit level/just below level of the cupcake pan. Any taller and they'll grow too tall in the oven and fall over.
  13. Transfer the rounds to the cupcake pans and let rest while the oven preheats to 375.
  14. Bake ~25 minutes, until lightly browned and nicely domed.
  15. Remove from the oven and let cool ~10 minutes in the pan.
  16. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  17. To make the glaze, whisk powdered sugar, vanilla, and gradually add the water until you get a smooth and thick but scoopable glaze.
  18. Dip the tops of the cupcakes in the glaze (or spoon over top) and then sprinkle with decorating sugar. Like cinnamon rolls, they're best in the first 2 days. If you're bringing them to a party, ice/sugar them the night before. When stored in an airtight container for much longer than that, the sugar and glaze will begin to melt from the pastry moisture. Delicious still, just not as cute.


Yields: 18 cupcakes

Adapted from Erica's King Cake

Estimated time: 2 hours

32 comments… add one
  • This looks so good! I just pinned this to Pinterest. I think I am gonna try to make these this weekend.

  • I remember seeing these pop up last year! Forgot all about them….. looking good!

  • So fun! I really need to try king cake!

  • Did you hide a baby in one of them? 😉

    • Nah, no babies. Having a 2-year old just means that’s a choking object embedded in another choking object.

  • WoW-these look and sound amazing! I love king cake and love the idea of making them into cupcake form!

  • I am all about that cinnamon cream cheese inside!

  • This is a cute idea! I love me some king cake!

  • So you’re not going to order the hand grenade mix to have some at home? 🙂

  • I love this idea! I make a King Cake every year (trying to bring American culture to Germany!) but I end up eating most of it by myself because I can’t bring myself to share so much. But it’s so much trouble! Thanks for the idea and for the Mardi Gras reminder. 🙂

  • Love this idea, also going to try your grapefruit recipe.

  • What a great idea, Shawnda! I had the most outstanding trip to NOLA last fall and would love to bring back the memories with these cupcakes. Since I’d be sharing them with adults, I might just garnish each one with its own sweet baby Jesus.

  • these look delicious! i’m at school in new orleans and so king cakes are everywhere these days. however, i’m one of those people that really only wants a bite of king cake, so these look perfect. i might try and make them before a parade next week! thanks for the idea.

  • Wow! I didn’t realize Mardi Gras was already upon us. I’m still focused on Valentine’s Day, but these sound just FAB!!!

  • Sigh…you almost made me wish I’d gone to New Orleans to celebrate mardi gras live and in person…but I’m SO not one of those girls. I’ll eat these cupcakes topless. Same thing.

  • Sue e

    Love hand grenades!!!!!!!!!!! So evil. I miss that city. Made king cake last week. Love cinnamon cream cheese.

  • These are adorable, and I love the individual king cake idea. I have one question for you – when you slice the dough and put it in the muffin tin, is the spiral side facing up, or the dough side? (does this question even make sense?)

    • Your question makes total sense – spiral sides should be facing up and down.

  • I love this idea! And your story had my L(ing)OL!

  • Sara

    I made these last night. Unfortunately, they didn’t exactly turn out to be show stoppers.
    If I made these again, I would decrease the baking temp to 350. I didn’t think they were done at 22 minutes when I checked them, but by 25 they were overdone. I also think the cream cheese filling needs more cinnamon.

  • Made this today, but as a traditional King Cake. Turned out beautifully! Thanks!

  • I was so looking for something like this back last week, ended up with a regular King cake, but wanted something smaller as a take up cupcake style, and this seems to fit the money on the head. I love saving money and being a DIY. they look adorable and I can’t hardly wait to try them out.

  • Rebecca

    How do they freeze without the glaze?

    • I froze unglazed extras like regular cupcakes – unglazed, in a single layer in a large ziploc bag. Let them thaw in the closed bag and then glaze.

  • I made these cupcakes on Saturday for a friend and they came out perfect! I loved the light texture.

  • Sabrena Padgett

    I was wondering if the flour was all purpose?

  • Harmony

    If this recipe is the same one Erica’s MIL uses, Kerry will be thrilled. She sent us home with one on Friday and it was demolished by Sunday. So good.

    Also, #hashtag fest is probably in NOLA this year, no? Can we make a pact to avoid hand grenades at all costs?

  • John

    A suggestion is to use Greek Yogurt cream cheese instead of regular cream cheese. It has less fat / more protein / less calories / etc.

  • Bernice

    Love the idea of individual King Cakes. I was able to get 28 cupcakes and they were perfect. Love the cinnamon cream cheese filling. These are delicious and look forward to Mardi Gras next year.

  • MarciaG

    I made these tonight. I will be taking them to my granddaughter’s Daisy Girl Scout meeting tomorrow, with a few beads and adornments!
    I think they are very good. I hope a Daisy Troop of 5 yr olds thinks so too!!
    And in Michigan, I had to even make my own Purple

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