Cinnamon-Pecan Filled King Cake

Well, we finally stopped procrastinating and changed our About page.  Go look!  You can learn some fun facts about Kate!  (My facts are still the same.  Boring.  Gloss over those.)  We are still searching for an acceptable picture of us that was taken post-2009, which we can hopefully create when I go VISIT Kate in AUSTIN in MARCH.

Now.  On to the cake.  I made king cake last year, and I believe I explicitly said “I know I’ll use this recipe again next year.”  False.  So false.  However, I also said last year that I’m a fan of king cake filling.  Not the fruit kind, and not the explicitly cream cheese kind (related to my dislike of cheesecake OMG don’t hate me), but the cinnamon-y, praline-y kind.  I’ve been on a lifelong journey for how to make such a filling. 

Friends.  I have accomplished it.

Bucket list.  Check.  Minus one life goal.

This filling is slightly more complicated than normal cinnamon + sugar + butter coffeecake fillings, but you won’t hear me apologizing for it.  No sir.  Because let’s be real people, it’s still only like 5 ingreds.  No complaining.  It doesn’t melt all over the place and leak out of the dough.  It has plenty of cinnamon, plus ground pecans, so you get the flavor, body, and a little bit of texture, without giant pecan pieces.  It has a little bit of cocoa powder to cut the sweetness and give it some depth.  I am in love.  I want to spread it on toast.

I used a dough recipe from Southern Living, and I liked it.  I still have a perpetual problem with king cakes getting a little dark on the outside…I don’t know if it’s from the fat content (sour cream + butter) or sugar content.  It doesn’t change the taste…and it doesn’t really affect how they look, seeing as you cover everything in icing and sugar anyways.  But if anyone has any advice about this…I’ll incorporate it in a year when I make the next king cake.

And mark my words, I will DEFS use this filling.

Cinnamon-Pecan Filled King Cake

Makes 2 king cakes

For dough
16 oz sour cream (full fat)
1/3 cup + 1 TBS granulated sugar, divided use
1/4 cup (= 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
2 1/4-oz packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-115F…it should feel like hot bath water)
2 large eggs
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour (you can use all-purpose if you want…the dough will be a little denser.  You want a total of 6 to 6 1/2 cups flour.)

For filling
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and cooled
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 large egg
12 oz. cream cheese, softened (1 1/2 blocks)
1 tsp vanilla extract

For glaze
3 cups powdered sugar
2 TBS fresh lemon or orange juice
4-5 TBS milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
food coloring to make green, yellow, and purple glaze OR green, yellow, and purple sugars, if desired

small plastic baby!

1. For dough – In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine sour cream, 1/3 cup sugar, butter, and salt.  Heat until butter melts, stirring often, until warm (105-115F).
2. In a small bowl, combine yeast, warm water, and 1 TBS sugar.  Set aside for 5 minutes, until yeast is foamy.
3. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine sour cream mixture, eggs, yeast mixture, all purpose flour (3 cups) and mix on medium speed until smooth.  Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually add remaining 3 to 3 1/2 cups of flour (whichever kind you’re using).
4. Either continue to knead using the dough hook or turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes (it will still be a bit sticky – resist adding more flour).  Lightly grease a large bowl; place dough in greased bowl and cover with a kitchen towel.  Allow dough to rise in a warm, draft-free area (you can preheat the oven to 400F for one minute, then let dough rise in TURNED OFF oven) until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
5. For filling – While dough is rising, make the filling.  Grind the pecans in a food processor until they’re a smooth, pecan-butter consistency.  Transfer to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.  On medium speed, combine with brown sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon.
6. Add egg and cream cheese and beat on medium speed until thoroughly combined.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  If using within an hour, you can leave it out until you’re ready.  Otherwise, cover and keep in the refrigerator.  You’ll have to let it come to room temperature before spreading on the dough.  (The whole filling could possible be done in the food processor, but I didn’t try it.)
7. Form cake – Punch down the dough and divide in half.  On a lightly floured surface, roll half the dough out to approximately a 22×12-inch rectangle (doesn’t have to be perfect).  Spread half the filling evenly over the dough surface.  Spread it all the way to the short edges, but leave about an inch border on the long edges.  With a long edge facing you, roll the dough up like you would with cinnamon rolls, rolling away from you into a spiral.  Once you get to the end, press the edge of the dough into the roll to seal.  Transfer the roll to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then bring the ends together and press to seal into an oval ring.  Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
8.  Allow formed cakes to rise, covered with a kitchen towel, in a warm draft-free area until puffy, about 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375F with racks in the lower-middle and upper-middle positions.  (If you have 2 ovens, it’s probably better to bake each cake in it’s own oven.)
9. Bake the cakes for about 18-25 minutes each, switching between top and bottom racks halfway through.  Bake until golden brown (may be a deep golden brown) and not doughy in the center of the ring.  Slightly cool cakes on pans, then transfer to wire racks to cook completely.  Once cooled, press the plastic baby somewhere into the bottom of the cake.
10.  For glaze – Sit together all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Tint with food coloring if desired.  Spread on cooled cakes.  Either alternate glaze color or sugar color if using to create wide purple, green, and yellow stripes.

Recipe for dough adapted from Southern Living; recipe for filling adapted from my head.

Happy Mardi Gras!  I wish I were in New Orleans to celebrate, but we have an exam on Friday.  My substitute will be to eat king cake, study, and commiserate with a fellow Louisianian tonight.  This king cake makes it more okay.  Thanks for reading, happy baking!



  1. Totally making at least one batch of this cake. Question, where do you find a plastic baby? I want to be authentic!! Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Greer! I usually find them at cake decorating stores. Since it’s full-blown Mardi Gras season though, you might be able to find them at a JoAn’s/Michael’s type place. (Although, if you want to be REALLY authentic, just use a dried bean…that’s more traditional.)

  2. I am totally making this tonight! I just wanted to clear up one part that confused me. The ingredients say 3-3 1/2 cups of bread flour, but in the instructions step #2 it says it’s 4-4 1/2 cups. Just wanted to check which it is so I don’t mess it up tonight! So excited to make it! Thanks!!

    1. Hi Elizabeth – You’re right, it should be 3 to 3 1/2 cups of bread flour. You want a total of 6 to 6 1/2 cups flour, all-purpose or combination of bread and all-purpose, whichever you’re using. Thanks for pointing that out! Hope you like it!
      ~ Hannah

  3. Hi honey! It’s Mom and I had a piece of your KC for breakfast this morning — better than Randazzo’s, Gambino’s, Haydel’s and Rouse’s combined!!!!

    Comment re the plastic baby/dried bean insert: Some bakeries in NOLA are now using a doubloon! Fun!!

    Question: What does the egg do for the filling?

    As always, you are incredibly and phenomenally and magnificently talented and even more sweet! I love you, Mom

    1. A doubloon is such a good idea! I’ll have to start doing that. I added an egg because I was afraid of the filling leaking out everywhere…I thought it might stabilize it when it baked. I have no idea if it had an effect or not since this is the first time I made the recipe. Maybe I’ll try without it next time. ~ H

  4. I’ve always been curious about this cake! Since this year I missed the boat…. there’s always next year. Or maybe a trial run whenever I get the hankering for some tasty filling and cake goodness.

  5. This is wonderful! I think you left out the step where you add the eggs into the dough, but I figured it out before I baked the cakes so they turned out great! 🙂

    1. Hi Taylor –
      I did forget that step…super embarrassed. but I’m glad you figured it out and it turned out well! Thanks for reading and commenting. Happy Mardi gras!
      – H

  6. Not sure if I missed something, but I just made this and realized the ingredients call for two eggs in the dough but the instructions never mention adding the eggs. I realized this after my dough had already risen and I was making the filling.

    1. Hi Carole –
      I’m so sorry for my error. The eggs should be added with the sour cream mixture. Thank you for pointing this out. There’s a chance your dough turned out all right anyways…I hope this was the case. Thank you for reading, and happy Mardi gras!
      – H

      1. It did actually, thank God!!! I didn’t want to end up having wasted all that yummy pecan filling goodness, not to mention the other ingredients plus the time and effort, on a failed attempt. Also, on the glaze it says to sit? the ingredients together. ???

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