Monkey bread king cake is such a quick and simple way to create a celebratory New Orleans dessert. Using cut up vegan biscuits rolled in cinnamon and sugar gives this cake a delicious cinnamon roll flavor. Vanilla glaze and colored sugar provide the Mardi Gras colors and decoration your guests will expect.
King cake is traditionally eaten on January 6 in honor of the Catholic Epiphany, marking the three wise men (kings) arriving in Bethlehem. The cake is also popularly served throughout Carnival season, up to Fat Tuesday (the beginning of Lent in mid- to late February or early March).
King cake is always sweet and circular (to represent a king’s crown), but can be pastry, cake or bread. Most people are familiar with Louisiana-style king cakes that consist of a sweet bread dough in a ring. Typically the cakes are decorated with icing and colored sprinkles. The colors used are purple, green and gold: purple represents justice, green represents faith, and gold represents power.
In Christian tradition, the three kings delivered gifts to the baby Jesus, hence the plastic baby you might have seen in king cake. A small plastic baby trinket (or a dried bean) is hidden in one piece of the cake. The guest who gets the baby is the “king” for the day and is also said to have good luck for the year. In some circles, that person is responsible for the cake the following year. I didn’t have a chance to get a plastic baby trinket. Only Mr. Key Lime and I ate the cake (for a week), so we didn’t hide anything in a slice (he’s sure not baking a cake next year if he gets the baby!). If you use a baby trinket, push it into the cake from the bottom *after baking*. An alternative method is to place the baby or bean under one slice of cake when serving, so your guests won’t bite into it while eating.
I use a vanilla sugar glaze to top the cake, with colored sprinkles over the glaze. You can also find vegan food coloring to color your icing, skipping the sprinkles. Vegan sprinkles, such as Wilton brand, are available in most stores. For the biscuits, I used Pillsbury Grands Southern Homestyle Original Biscuits, which are accidentally vegan. If you use another brand, just check the ingredients label to make sure no dairy products are used.
This king cake is perfect for a dessert or for breakfast/brunch. If you don’t serve the cake immediately after baking, you can microwave each slice for 30 seconds before serving. Make sure NOT to microwave the plastic baby trinket, if using.
The baking time will vary for this cake, depending on the biscuits you use and your oven. Begin checking the cake after 20-25 minutes. The biscuit pieces on the inside of the cake take longer to bake, but you can easily check them by removing the cake from the oven, prying back biscuit pieces and making sure you don’t see any doughy parts. Remember that the bottom of the cake won’t be seen, so don’t worry about messing up the bottom. When done, the cake will feel firm and solid to you when pushing down on the bottom of the cake. I baked mine for 40 minutes and it was not overcooked at all.
You might enjoy some of my other Cajun recipes: