Easy Lemon King Cake

This braided beauty will be your go-to sweet from Epiphany to Mardi Gras.

Easy Lemon King Cake
Makes about 12 servings
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 (3-pound) package frozen white bread dough, thawed*
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
  • Garnish: purple, yellow, and green sanding sugar
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Line a rimless baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, lemon zest, salt, and almond extract until well combined.
  3. On a heavily floured surface, place one thawed bread loaf. Roll to a 32×4-inch rectangle. Using a pastry brush, brush with about 1 tablespoon melted butter. Sprinkle with one-third of lemon mixture (a scant ¼ cup) in a thin layer, leaving a ½-inch border on all sides. Lightly brush beaten egg on border of one long side. Starting on opposite long side, roll up, jelly roll style, pinching seam to seal. Set aside, seam side down, and repeat with remaining dough and lemon mixture.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, place dough logs, seam side down, about 1 inch apart and parallel to each other. Make sure logs are even thickness, lightly covered with flour, and not too sticky (it makes braiding more difficult). Starting at the center, braid logs together, working your way to one end, leaving ends loose. Braid opposite side, leaving ends loose. Lift braided logs at both ends, and place on prepared pan; form into a circle. Braid ends together, pinching to seal and tucking ends under. Cover, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°) until puffed, 30 to 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°.
  6. Brush tops and sides of braided dough with remaining egg wash. Bake until lightly golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 200°, 30 to 35 minutes, loosely covering with foil to prevent excess browning, if necessary. Let cool completely on pan.
  7. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting on top of cooled cake. Garnish with colored sanding sugar, if desired.
Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. With mixer on low speed, gradually add confectioners’ sugar and cream until smooth. Beat in vanilla, zest, and salt. Use immediately.
Most lemons on store shelves are of the Eureka or Lisbon variety, and you know them for their bracing tartness. If you can find sweet Meyer lemons, you’re in for a treat.

*We used Bridgford Ready-Dough Frozen White Loaves (3-count bag).