100% Whole Wheat King Cake

Before I was born, my family lived in New Orleans. The only effect this had on me was a yearly king cake, beignets and lots of trips to a po’ boy shop. Now that I think about that, it sounds like a pretty fantastic effect! Since I’ve been living in Germany, I’ve had to make my own king cakes and I’m so happy I have because they taste way better than the bought ones I’ve had.

In case you aren’t familiar with king cakes, they’re traditionally served during Carnival season (so Mardi Gras) and they’re made with brioche, often have a cream cheese filling, and then they’re drizzled with lots of sugary glaze. Oh, and there’s a baby trinket in the cake and whoever gets that piece has to buy the next cake (at least that’s what they say in my family).

This post has something for everybody. Just want bread? Okay. Here’s a nice brioche recipe. Make it with all white flour or all whole wheat. Both work. Want a filled king cake? Okay. Here’s some filling. Cream cheese and pecan! Don’t care about sugar? Great! There’s a traditional filling and glaze recipe. Think sugar is evil? The dough and filling use coconut sugar and the glaze uses honey. It’s completely refined sugar free. Woohoo! So everyone can make this and be happy. :)

One thing I couldn’t improve was the butter content. I just didn’t even want to try. It’s brioche!

I’ve made this with all white flour, half whole wheat, and today with all whole wheat. My favorite is definitely with white flour, but the 50% version is also really nice. 100% whole wheat king cake is reserved for the whole wheat lovers out there. I really wouldn’t recommend feeding it to people who don’t like whole wheat…

Those little specks are orange zest.

Something that I love about this recipe is that you make the dough the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The next morning, you take it out, roll it up, and only have to let it sit for 45 minutes before popping it in the oven.

For the brioche:
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons warm water (115ºF / 46ºC)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) milk
  • zest of 4 oranges (or less if you’re not really into orange)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour or whole wheat (240 grams), or half whole wheat, half all-purpose, sifted
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons / 142 grams) cold butter, cut into very small pieces
  • 1 egg white beaten and 1 tablespoon water for the eggwash
  • 1 plastic baby trinket
Dissolve yeast with the water in the bowl of a stand mixer which has been fitted with the dough hook. Let stand 10 minutes until frothy. Meanwhile, dissolve the salt, sugar, milk and orange zest in a small bowl and add to the yeast mixture after the 10 minute waiting period.

With the mixer on low, add the eggs, cinnamon, and then slowly add the flour. Knead on low speed for 10 minutes, or until a smooth elastic dough is formed. It may be that you need to add a little more flour. While still on low, add the butter until incorporated, a little at a time, but quickly enough so that the butter doesn’t melt.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1 hour in a warm spot. Once the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning:

Take out the dough and roll it out to a 6 x 18 inch (15.5cm x 45.7cm) rectangle. Make sure to flour your mat or counter very well so that the dough doesn’t stick. It warms up pretty quickly and it will stick if you don’t flour the mat enough.

Spread the pecan or cream cheese filling (recipes below) out in the middle of the rectangle along the whole length, leaving about 1 1/2 inch on each side. Place the baby trinket in the filling.

You can see that the filling is kind of thick. And that I have an avocado army so that I can make raspberry avocado chocolate pudding.

Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the two sides together. 

Flip the dough over so that the seam is on the bottom. Turn the roll into an oval, and put one end into the other end to hide the seam. Seal the circle.

Mine was really messy but that’s okay! It’ll be covered with glaze anyway. But your butter should be better incorporated than what you see above. Place the cake on a Silpat and place on a baking sheet. Loosely cover (I spray plastic wrap with PAM so that it doesn’t stick) and let rise until doubled in bulk, which could take anywhere from 45 – 60 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350ºF / 177ºC. After the dough has doubled in bulk, brush all over with egg wash, and then bake for 20 – 30 minutes until golden brown.

When the cake has cooled, brush with the glaze (recipe below). Add colored sugar if you like or color your glaze with some gel colors like I did.

Cream cheese filling:
  • 12 ounces (337 grams) cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup (40 grams) coconut sugar (or 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (50 grams) powdered sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix everything together.

For the pecan filling:
  • 1 cup (120 grams) pecan halves, broken up slightly and roasted until fragrant
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar (135 grams) or coconut sugar (106 grams) + an extra tablespoon of cane syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons of Steen’s Cane Syrup 
Mix everything together.

For the traditional glaze:
  • 1/2 cup (65 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • water (enough to make a paste that can be drizzled)
Combine sugar and bourbon. Whisk in enough water so that the glaze can be drizzled.

For the healthier cream cheese glaze:
  • 1 8-ounce package (225 grams) low fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) coconut oil, softened
  • 2 tablespoons (40 grams) honey
  • 1/2 cup 0% fat plain Greek yogurt (I used 10% fat because that’s all we have here)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla (I added 1 tablespoon of Triple Sec instead)
  • zest of 1 orange
Beat the cream cheese and coconut oil until fluffy. Add the honey, yogurt, vanilla and zest. When I made it, my coconut oil wasn’t really softened and it left a lot of little specks, which I thought was disgusting, so I melted the glaze for 10 – 20 seconds until they were gone. Then I put the glaze in the fridge for a few hours. That worked out just fine! This glaze hardens in the fridge like a normal glaze.

Store the cake in the fridge if you use any of the cream cheese recipes, otherwise it can be kept at room temperature. I like to bring the cake to room temperature or even heat it up before serving.

Germans: You have to drain the cream cheese! It’s impossible to say by how much because each brand varies. I would recommend buying a third more than you need and drain it in a kitchen towel or cheesecloth until it’s stiff like the North American kind that comes in a brick. For the cane syrup, I used Zuckerrübensirup, which can be found everywhere except some of the discounters (although both types of Nettos in my neighborhood have it). Pecans are really difficult to find and cost a fortune. I recommend using walnuts. If you’re using all-purpose flour, use half Type 550 and half Type 405.

Sources: Healthier cream cheese glaze adapted from The Healthy Foodie’s Healthy Cranberry Orange Yule Log and the brioche, pecan filling, and traditional glaze recipes from Nola Cuisine
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21 comments on “100% Whole Wheat King Cake” — Add one!

  • Emilie says
    June 4, 2015 @ 6:56 pm

    OMG!!!!! I live in Houma, LA (60 miles SOUTH of New Orleans; so yes, right along the water :) ) and I’ve never seen a whole wheat king cake recipe! I’ll DEFINITELY have to try this once Mardi Gras comes along! Thanks so much!!!!!!!

    • Erin replies to Emilie
      June 6, 2015 @ 8:31 am

      I hope you’ll enjoy it! Let me know how it goes. :)

  • Anonymous says
    February 2, 2013 @ 9:11 pm

    Hi – Excited to try your recipe this year. Our son has a King Cake for his birthday every March – he was born Fat Tuesday 2003 – how lucky is he. We eliminated all refined sugars and flour last year, making this a challenging cake! Thanks for the recipe. Amy and Family.

    • Erin replies to Anonymous
      February 2, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

      I hope you'll enjoy it! It is indeed a challenging cake to make healthy. Unfortunately, I used some refined sugar in it and I'm not really sure how to get rid of all of it. I hope your son has a great birthday and likes his slightly healthier cake. :)

  • Erin says
    February 29, 2012 @ 9:16 pm

    Hahaha, no! You mean the picture with the dough rolled out and a thick layer of something, right?! That's cream cheese filling! But it's kind of healthier than normal cream cheese filling so I'm happy with myself. But there is butter in the brioche. It's brioche! Anyway, thanks for the comment. :)

  • Sonia The Healthy Foodie says
    February 29, 2012 @ 9:10 pm


    Sooooo pretty!

    Must look away…

    Must get out of here…

    Erin, you are evil. Is that butter I see in that picture? Oh my! I'm so not looking! I might come back when Lent is over! ;)

    Seriously, that brioche looks decadently, sinfully good. I wish I could bite right into it. Gorgeous!

  • Erin says
    February 27, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

    Nora – Thanks! And hahaha. Yeah, you two are definitely changing things up around here. I made grain free pizza today. And guess what? It had beans in it. Yikes…

    And I agree, homemade is way better than the dry and tasteless storebought stuff! Thanks for your comment. It made me so happy. :)

  • Nora @ Natural Noshing says
    February 26, 2012 @ 10:44 pm

    must add…homemade king cake is a TRILLION times better than any storebought dry version so I know this recipe is real treat!

  • Nora @ Natural Noshing says
    February 26, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

    loving this!
    1. I love king cake, I grew up eating this and takes me back to many fond memories
    2. Gotta give it up for the honey, coconut sugar and Greek yogurt – Sonia and I are breaking you in slowly aren't we? :)
    3. Your photos – deliciously tempting…as always!!!!

  • Erin says
    February 21, 2012 @ 10:28 pm

    Baltic Maid – Thanks! It's definitely different than the Pfannkuchen that are everywhere in Germany today. I think I prefer king cake. :)

  • Baltic Maid says
    February 21, 2012 @ 10:08 pm

    I love this cake. It looks absolutely delicious!

  • Erin says
    February 21, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

    Katrina – Hehe. I like the sound of a king cake train. :)

    Caroline – But you're from the South! You need to have proper king cake and not that dry and overly sweet stuff from the store. You just have to. :)

    Sara – Hehe, thanks. Just remember what I said about the 100% whole wheat version being for whole wheat lovers because it does taste like whole wheat. Although when you heat it up and you have all that yummy filling and glaze, it's not really obvious. I hope you get to try it out!

  • Sara @ SimplyWholeKitchen says
    February 21, 2012 @ 3:27 am

    Erin! You are my hero! This was a recipe I was hoping existed…but was afraid to try myself! Now I have your recipe to follow and I can't wait to make it!

  • Caroline @ chocolate & carrots says
    February 21, 2012 @ 2:02 am

    This looks divine! I've never made a king's cake….just the store bought cinnamon roll type. This looks 1,000 times better. :D

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says
    February 20, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

    I need to hop on this king cake train. Yours sounds like such a nice treat…and whole wheat calls for extra indulgence, right??

  • Erin says
    February 20, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

    Becca – I would say that you have to try one, but the store bought ones aren't very good. The ones I've had are kind of dry and tasteless. I like the Mardi Gras colors too but I'm kind of ashamed of my cake. It looks like a kindergartener had a fun painting time.

  • Becca says
    February 20, 2012 @ 10:25 pm

    I've never had a King Cake before, but it looks delicious and I love the colors of Mardi Gras :)

  • Erin says
    February 20, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

    Miryam – Too bad this recipe isn't quicker to make! I have half of it left and I'd love to give you some. If only we didn't live an ocean apart. :)

    Thanks to your comment, I feel like making this cake and post was worth it. I'm just so happy to have brought king cake to someone's attention!

  • eatgood4life.blogspot.com says
    February 20, 2012 @ 8:46 pm

    I have never heard about king cake until today. Those flavors, cream cheese filling with the pecan and the glaze sounds really yummy to me. It could probably eat half of it right now….craving something sweet :-)

  • Erin says
    February 20, 2012 @ 7:40 pm

    Hi there! Thanks for that. I think you're the first person to actually say that. Frohen Fasching! :)

  • Birgit B. says
    February 20, 2012 @ 7:11 pm

    I just love it that you also include extra information for German readers!
    Thanks so much!



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