King Cake Cookies
It was 1987 and I was 4 years old. I was asked to go under the table, cover my eyes, and call family members’ names as my mom pointed at different pieces of sliced cake adorned with purple, green, and gold sugars. This is my first ever memory of king cake.
When I called the names of all of my family members, I was asked to rejoin everyone and found that I selected a piece for myself with purple and green colored sugar on it. I sunk my teeth in and it was love at first bite. It was yeasty, bready, slightly sweet dough with cinnamon swirled throughout and a colorful topping. Surely 4 year old me didn’t appreciate these finer culinary details, but I knew I liked it, a lot! My oldest sister, Rebecca, made an odd noise as she had discovered the plastic baby in her first bite, and my middle sister Jennifer proclaimed excitedly “Becky got the baby!”. This was cake with a game intertwined… and I was hooked.
My family observed the French tradition associated with The Gallette De Rois, the special cake served on Three Kings Day or Kings Day. Kings Day, also known as the Epiphany in the Christian faith, is on January 6th. It’s the day the three wise men were believed to visit Jesus after his birth. So in the French tradition, the youngest - and presumably most innocent family member - gets to decide who gets what piece of cake. What’s the point of all this you may wonder?
Well, in a Gallette De Rois, there would have been a charm hidden within. King Cakes are thought to have evolved from the Gallette De Rois, with the tradition being brought to New Orleans around 1870. So within King Cakes, there is quite literally a plastic baby hidden in it after baking. Whoever gets the baby will experience prosperity and luck and is also king or queen for a specified period of time like the day, or week, or for as long as you can wait until you have another king cake!
Now… Purple, Green, and Gold are incredibly festive colors, especially when they appear on one cake. However, they also have symbolism and meaning: Justice (Purple), Faith (Green), and Power (Gold). You can learn more about King Cake history and the symbolism and tradition that surrounds them here.
When you grow up in a place in which Mardi Gras is central to the culture, you eat king cake A LOT between Three Kings Day and Fat Tuesday.
During the Mardi Gras season at school, my teacher would typically bring the first cake for the class on or around Three Kings Day. Whoever got the baby would be “crowned” king/queen, and would be responsible for bringing the next cake. Typically we had 1 - 2 a week during this time of year, and all of us kids so looked forward to this!
So as you might imagine, King Cake, and any desserts that are purple, green, and gold have always held a special spot in my heart. It means it’s carnival time and it means you get to enjoy cake and share mutual excitement with your schoolmates, co-workers, friends, and family in the coming weeks.
This year, I wanted to do something other than a typical king cake… so I opted to create an easy recipe that still conveys the symbolism, excitement, and celebratory nature of King Cake. Oh, and of course the traditional tastes!
Enter King Cake Cookies!
These handheld cookie versions of the king cake are adorable! They are also free of refined sugars, are made with ingredients that have a higher nutrient and mineral content, and are lower on the glycemic index than typical king cake ingredients. Win-win? I think so!
These are perfect for a parties, are easily portable, and their miniature size makes them super cute!
The cookie portion is similar to a snickerdoodle cookie. This version is crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. They are delicious alone, but the colorful topping really makes them look like tiny king cakes, ready for the revelry of the Mardi Gras season.
You have a couple of options for topping these cookies:
Colored Sugars (Sanding Sugars): You will want to order a natural brand like this or make your own so you have control over the ingredients! I prefer to use Lankanto Monkfruit Sweetener Classic as it’s white in color and absorbs food coloring well. It looks like refined sugar, but it’s not sugar at all! It works wonderfully with ColorKitchen’s food coloring powder.
Colored Frosting: You can also add food coloring directly to the frosting and pipe it or spread it onto the cookies. Personally I prefer the white frosting/colored sugars as they are most nostalgic for me. :)
Whatever you do, BE SURE to use natural food colors, as standard food coloring has been linked to a host of medical issues and conditions. The Paleo Mom has a great article with helpful info here.
So here goes… step by step….
& Happy Mardi Gras, Y’all!
Once the cookies are baked, you want to cut out their centers while they are still hot. In case you’ve never seen a king cake… they are round or oval with a hollow center. As the dough is typically braided or piped in this shape. So your goal is to mimic this. Use a cookie cutter, or any household item that will cut a small circle in the middle.
Next, mix your natural food coloring of choice (See notes above) with 2 Tablespoons of Lankanto Monkfruit Classic Sweetener each. That’s 2 tablespoons for each color.
Now you are ready to make a quick frosting to keep that beautifully colored monkfruit sweetener in place. It’s going to be thick and look a lot like Elmers glue!
Using a spoon, drizzle the first cookie with frosting….
Then immediately sprinkle lightly with colored sweetener.
Repeat until you have done this with all cookies. A small spoon in each bowl of colored sweetener makes this process easier!
Let the frosting set for about 30 minutes (if you can wait that long), et voila!
What you do with the cookie cut out centers? That's up to you! they are great “naked” without any topping as well :)
King Cake Cookies
Yield: 15 cookies
1 ⅓ c tigernut flour
⅓ c arrowroot flour
⅓ c tapioca flour
1 ½ t xanthan gum
½ t baking soda
1 ½ t cream of tartar
⅛ t salt
1 ¼ t cinnamon
⅓ c ghee
¾ c coconut sugar (or raw tubinado sugar)
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 ½ t vanilla extract
½ c classic monkfruit sweetener, powdered
¼ c arrowroot flour
2 ½ T rice milk (or coconut milk), unsweetened
6 T classic monkfruit sweetener, divided
natural food coloring, to preference
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine the first eight ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk them together thoroughly. Set aside.
In a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream the ghee and sugar together until fluffy, 1 - 2 minutes.
Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, beating until it’s fully incorporated.
Add the dry ingredients in two additions, beating until just combined after each.
Line a standard baking sheet with parchment paper. Taking about 2 tablespoons of dough, roll it evenly between your hands into a ball.
Space them evenly on a baking sheet and don’t forget to GIVE THEM ROOM! They will spread a lot (don’t put more than 8 cookies on a standard sized baking sheet).
Bake for 10 - 12 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cut out the centers using a very small cookie cutter or glass. You must do this while the cookies are still hot to avoid crumbling.
Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make colored sugar, combine 2 Tablespoons of monkfruit sweetener with the desired amount of each natural food coloring: purple, green, and gold. Set aside.
To make frosting, powder the monkfruit sweetener by running it through your food processor or blender until it’s a fine powder. Using a fork, whisk it together with arrowroot powder and then add the milk, stirring with the fork. It will be very thick and you will have to stir thoroughly for the mixture to loosen up a bit. You may need to add ½ teaspoons of water until desired consistency (similar to classic Elmer’s glue) is achieved.
Using a spoon, drizzle the first cookie with frosting. Follow immediately with colored sweeteners alternating purple, green, and gold. Sprinkle gently so that there is not excess sugar on the cookies. Repeat until each cookie has been frosted and decorated with colored sugars.
Allow frosting/colored sweetener to set for 30 minutes prior to serving.
Notes: Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
About this Recipe: paleo nut free vegetarian gluten free