This King Cake Pecan Praline Puff Pastry is a show-stopper! Glittery and gorgeous in traditional colors of purple, gold, and green, this puff pastry replicates the look and flavors of a traditional Mardi Gras King Cake, but is ready to eat in 35 minutes or less!
Puff pastry is my jam.
It is also delicious when filled with jam, but today we're making a Mardi Gras King Cake filled with a rich, toasty, and buttery pecan praline crumble and the components of a good 'ole cheese danish.
Is your tummy grumbling yet?
So peep this: Did y'all know Mardi Gras King Cake originated in celebration of the coming of the 3 Wise Men and the birth of Jesus Christ?
What, what, what?!?!? How did I not know this?!?
Mardi Gras King Cake
The tradition of King Cake is said to have started in France around the 12th century and eventually made its way down to New Orleans. The custom begins the "Twelve Days of Christmas" on Christmas Eve and continues until January 6th to "King's Night" or "Epiphany" when Jesus first met the 3 Wise Men. Then Carnival and King Cake season officially begins and ends on Mardi Gras (aka Fat Tuesday), the day before the start of Lent.
Traditional Mardi Gras King Cake is a sweet yeasted dough filled with cinnamon sugar and shaped into a circular cake to represent the route the 3 wise men traveled to meet King Jesus. It's then sprinkled in royal colors of purple, gold, and green and represents justice, faith, and power. Tradition also includes a plastic baby, coin, or pecan hidden in the dough and whoever finds it becomes King for a day and the host of the following year's celebrations.
How cra-zay is that?!? I've never heard that in my life. Especially considering how risque Mardi Gras has become!
Get togethers to celebrate the birth of Jesus is totes my kind of party, and I went ahead and took the liberty of a few shortcuts so we could save time and energy and feed our faces this incredible pecan praline puff pastry pronto. I also skipped the component of the hidden trinket because I don't want my rambunctious preschooler to choke on it, but this king cake is filled will a boat load of pecans so everybody wins!
King Cake Pecan Praline Puff Pastry
Store bought puff pastry is the way to go here because the remaining ingredients are homemade and are where the flavors fly. The main two tricks to this king cake recipe are with the toasting of the pecans and the braiding of the puff pastry.
The pecans need to be toasted before going into the filling because it brings out their natural flavors. To toast, spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and pop into a preheated oven. While they're toasting, make the cream cheese filling so you can keep an eye on the pecans ensuring they won't burn. Toast the pecans for 3-4 minutes or until you can smell them cooking. The second you smell their toasty aroma, pull them from the oven, and set aside to cool.
The braiding of the puff pastry is so incredibly simple. Cut diagonal lines along both sides of the pastry, starting a half an inch or so from the filling, then fold in each strip one at a time alternating between right and left.
That's it! See? Super simple. Just as I promised.
King Cake Pecan Praline Puff Pastry
Mardi Gras King Cake Pecan Praline Puff Pastry
For the Pecan Praline Puff Pastry:
- 1 ¾ 8 oz pecan halves toasted and chopped
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 6 tablespoon butter softened
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 sheet puff pastry thawed according to package directions
- small oven-safe trinket to hide: baby, coin, etc optional
- 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water to make an egg wash
For the Cream Cheese Filling:
- 8 oz (1 block) cream cheese softened
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Glaze:
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 3 tbsp + 1 tsp heavy cream or half and half
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
For the King Cake Pecan Praline Puff Pastry:
- Preheat oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet w/ parchment paper. Add pecans to the baking sheet and toast in the oven for 3-4 minutes or until their aromas release (aka you can smell them cooking). Keep a very close eye on them so they DO NOT BURN. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
- Once cooled, chop pecans then add to a large bowl with brown sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and sea salt. Squish or stir together until well mixed and crumbly. In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla with a hand mixer until smooth.
- Unfold puff pastry sheet over a workspace lined w/ parchment paper. Roll in one direction until it’s roughly 12ish”x17”ish in shape.
- Spread the cream cheese filling down the middle of the puff pastry, leaving ¾” from the top and bottom. Crumble the pecan praline mixture over the cream cheese filling.
- Starting ½” from the filling, cut 8 diagonal 1” strips equal in size along each side of the puff pastry. Fold down the top of the dough and pinch down the corners to seal. Fold in the side strips and form a braid by alternating between left and right. Fold up the bottom flap and pinch the sides to seal. Transfer to a baking sheet. NOTE: Hide the baby or token in the cake before braiding.
- In a small bowl, beat together the egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash over the top of the puff pastry and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Once baked, remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature so the glaze won’t melt off and soak into the puff pastry.
- To make the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla until smooth. Drizzle over the top of the pecan praline puff pastry then sprinkle w/ purple, yellow, and green sanding sugars to garnish.
- Slice, serve, and enjoy!
Melissa Griffiths says
I've never made this, but now I want to try! Yummy.
I've never made a real one either. Too lazy! Ha! Let me know if you give this a try!
I've never made a King Cake before, but I liked how this recipe didn't have a thick, doughy base. It was a huge hit at our "Leap Day" party this weekend, including rave reviews from a couple that grew up in New Orleans, and had sampled MANY a King Cake before!! They all loved it. I made some minor changes to the recipe, which were: I tripled+ the amount of cinnamon in the chopped pecan mixture (about a teaspoon total), and would add even more the next time I make this recipe; it really enhanced the flavor of this cake. I did not use the egg wash, because the cake is eventually covered in glaze and colored sugars, and I didn't want to make the surface any 'crisper' with a wash. Also, the recipe reads "1 3/4 8oz. pecan halves, toasted and chopped", ?(?????) which doesn't make any sense. I used 8 oz, or 2 cups of pecans, and it was great.
The texture, taste and presentation of this cake are perfect for any event or occasion!! I am likely to make this again with different colored sugars, based on the time of year.
Yaaaaaaaay!!! What wonderful feedback!!! Thank you so much!! I love that you love it!!!
I made this once before and it was a huge hit! I want to make for Thanksgiving, but will be traveling with it for 7 hours. How would you store it? Is it ok to keep room temp?
I would bake it, let it cool completely, and wait to ice it until you get where you’re going. After it’s cooled, wrap really tightly in plastic wrap then place in either a zip top bag or wrap in foil. Then unwrap and ice OR unwrap, cover w/ foil and rewarm at 350 for 10mins or so, then drizzle with icing. Also, what a great idea! I’ll think I’ll make this for thanksgiving too!
Hi Amber--Do you think I could make this the day ahead, wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge, then cook the next day? Thanks, and am so looking forward to making this!
Hey! Definitely! You shouldn’t have any problems with that at all. You may have to cook a tiny bit longer just to warm it through, but cook as directed to start out.
Thank you for the quick reply, Amber! That's good news--maybe what I'll do is prep it, refrigerate it, then take it out about 30-40 minutes or so before baking so that it can come to room temperature.
Honestly, I think 15 minutes should suffice, you don’t want the pastry too warm. Let me know how it turns out!
Hi Amber! (I tried to use "reply", but the button's not working.) I made the King Cake and everyone absolutely loved it, as did I. I did have one problem, though. The Pepperidge Farm puff pastry I bought wasn't anywhere close to 12" x 17". As a result, I had to roll the h*ell out of it in all directions in order to get it to stretch that far--and it was stretched to an inch of its life--I thought it was going to tear through entirely. It cooked just fine, but only very barely puffed up. The package comes with two sheets of puff pastry--should I use both of them next time? Thanks!
Oh, no! That deft shouldn’t have been an issue. You know what?!? This post was written well before Covid was a thing and supply chain issues came into play. I know that a lot of things have gotten smaller in size, and I bet their puff pastry is one of them! I know FOR SURE it has gone up in price!!! Thank you *SO MUCH* for letting me know! I will have to retest the recipe again and put in new measurements. I so appreciate readers like you! So happy you and your family enjoyed it otherwise!