The Best Cream Cheese King Cake


  • 1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees F)
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6 ¾ cups bread flour, divided
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted, divided
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk, or more as needed
  • purple, green, and gold/yellow sparkling sugars
  • Directions

  • Step 1

    Combine sour cream, 1/3 cup sugar, butter, and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, until butter melts, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let mixture cool to 100 to 110 degrees F, about 15 minutes.


  • Step 2

    Stir together water, yeast, and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a 1-cup glass measuring cup; let stand for 5 minutes.

  • Step 3

    Combine sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs, and 2 cups of the flour in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low; gradually add 4 more cups of flour, beating until dough comes together.

  • Step 4

    Turn dough out onto a surface dusted with 1/4 cup of the flour. Knead, gradually adding remaining 1/2 cup flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Dough should be tacky but release easily from surface.

  • Step 5

    Place dough in a well greased bowl; turn to grease top. Cover; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

  • Step 6

    Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Beat cream cheese, sugars, cinnamon, and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in egg.

  • Step 7

    Gently punch dough down; divide in half. Roll 1 portion out into a 22×12-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Keep the other portion covered. Spread 1/2 of the filling over rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup pecans. Carefully roll up, starting from a long edge.

  • Step 8

    Place roll, seam-side down, on a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bring ends of roll together to form a ring. Moisten ends with water; pinch together to seal. Repeat with remaining dough, filling, and pecans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

  • Step 9

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Uncover dough rings.

  • Step 10

    Bake in the preheated oven until cakes are a deep golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes completely on wire racks, about 1 1/2 hours.

  • Step 11

    Stir confectioners’ sugar, melted butter, and vanilla extract together to make the glaze. Stir in 3 tablespoons milk. Add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until pourable but still opaque. Pour evenly over cakes. Sprinkle with sparkling sugars, alternating colors to form bands.

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