By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Jan 25, 2024 at 11:01 AM

Carnival season is in full swing, and if you're contemplating indulging in a king cake this year, this guide is for you.

What is king cake?

For many Christians, Jan. 6 is known as Kings Day, Epiphany or Twelfth Night (since it falls 12 days after Christmas). As the story is told, it is on this day that three wise men – or magi – followed a star to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. In New Orleans, this feast day marks not only the end of the Christmas season but also the beginning of Carnival, which lasts through Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday).

One of the elements born of Epiphany is the king cake, a sweet, circular pastry, cake, or bread that is baked in the shape of a king’s crown. It’s an annual tradition observed in Latin and European countries around the world, and – in many places – there is also a special prize or gift inside the cake. Whoever finds the trinket in their slice of cake is considered “king” for the day, and it is said that good luck will follow them throughout the year. Incidentally, the “king” is also responsible for providing the king cake for the following year.

In France and Belgium, the galette des rois ("cake of kings") takes the form of a pastry that’s typically filled with a frangipane almond cream. In Spain and Latin America, the rosca de reyes is comprised of a ring-shaped sweet dough that’s topped with icing and dried fruit.

In America, Louisiana-style king cakes are a more popular style. They are constructed from a buttery brioche-style dough that’s twisted into an oval shape and decorated with icing and colored sugars. Most sport stripes of green, gold and purple – the traditional colors of Mardi Gras, which signify the blessings of faith, power and justice. Most cakes are flavored with cinnamon, and some are filled with fruit or cream fillings. The cakes also traditionally included a plastic or porcelain baby baked inside  (these days, some bakeries choose to include them alongside the cake to avoid any potential choking hazard).

In New Orleans, the cakes are sold widely, and favorite cakes can be procured from bakeries like Joe Gambino's and Haydel's Bakery. In Milwaukee, however, they’re a bit more difficult to find – but not impossible. In fact, an increasing number of bakeries in the area offer their own Wisconsin twists on the Big Easy staple.

We've done the research for you and assembled this list of places where you can find (and pre-order) the cakes.

Looking to add a few paczki to the mix? Here's your guide to finding those scrumptious treats as well.

1. Aggie’s Bakery

Aggie's Bakery king cakeX

7328 W. Greenfield Ave., (414) 482-1288
[Read more]
King cakes at Aggie’s are made with a tender sweet dough with a choice of three fillings: cinnamon, cream cheese or a combination of both. They are priced $18.95 to $59.95, depending on size, with the smallest cakes feeding 5-8 and the largest accommodating up to 50. The cakes are currently available for pre-order online (48 hours notice requested), with pick-up in the days leading up to Fat Tuesday (Feb. 13).

2. Blue's Egg

Black Shoe Bakery King CakeX

317 N. 76th St., (414) 299-3180
[Read more]
This year, Black Shoe Bakery will be whipping up 9-inch cinnamon-sugar flavored king cakes decorated with royal icing, jimmies, colored sugar, sugar pearls, beads and coins. Pre-orders will be accepted online starting Monday, Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. with pickup at Blue's Egg between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9 through Wednesday, Feb. 14. 

3. Fresh Baked

Gallette de rois
Galette des rois (French king cake) (Photo: Fresh Baked)

108 N. Main St., Oconomowoc, (262) 490-0224
18900 W. Blue Mound Rd., Brookfield, 
(262) 879-8002
890 Elm Grove Rd., Elm Grove, (262) 289-9309

In the French tradition, Fresh Baked offers their French style king cake throughout Epiphany and Carnival season. Their galette des rois is made with puff pastry and filled with almond marzipan and vanilla pastry cream.  Small 5" cakes will be available at all locations during the week of Mardi Gras for $6.75 each. Larger cakes can be pre-ordered for $40 with 48-hour notice.

4. Hooch MKE

Hooch MKE king cakeX

Pre-orders only, Bay View
Hooch MKE will be offering plant-based king cakes made with a Danish style dough (much like you would find at Haydel’s or Gambino’s in New Orleans). Cakes include traditional cinnamon sugar; maple glazed with apple filling; lemon glazed with blueberry compote filling; carrot king cake (with or without walnuts); vanilla glazed with lemon curd filling; or caramel drizzled pecan praline cake.  Cakes come in two sizes: regular or party sized.  Pricing is $15-$25 for regular (depending on filling choice) or $25-$35 for party sized cakes (depending on filling choice).

Cakes can be ordered online (Wednesday through Sunday) throughout Carnival season for pick-up Wednesday or Saturday in Bay View (pick-up location will be disclosed with order confirmation). King cakes are also be available for a special pick-up on Fat Tuesday (order must be placed before Feb. 10). Please choose the appropriate pick-up date when ordering.

5. Kurt Schulz Deli

8752 N. Deerwood Dr., Brown Deer
(414) 354-1004

Kurt Schulz Deli will be offering housemade king cakes for purchase just in time for Fat Tuesday. Their cakes are made from a yeasted dough rolled with cinnamon sugar, pecans and butter, topped with glaze and decorated with purple, gold and green sugars, edible purple pearls. Each king cake is 12” and comes with the traditional baby, along with Mardi Gras beads for $25. Preorders for the cakes can be made online or by calling the bakery. The preorder deadline is Saturday, Feb. 10 with pick up on Feb. 13.

6. La Tarte

La Tarte King CakesX

6742 W. Wells St., Wauwatosa, (414) 456-0995

At La Tarte you'll find both small and large sized king cakes made with a sweet yeast dough that's enriched with butter and cinnamon. Each cake is iced and coated with purple, gold and green sugars. And yes, there's a baby baked inside. Pricing for the cakes is $7.95 or $13.95. Preorders can be placed through Saturday, Feb. 10 for pick up on Feb. 13.  A limited number of cakes will also be available in the bakery on Fat Tuesday.

7. Maxie's

Maxie's king cakeX

6732 W. Fairview Ave., (414) 292-3969
[Read more]
Starting on Feb. 8, you can pre-order your Maxie's Mardi Gras Party Boxes online, plus hurricane cocktail kits and 9-inch king cakes. The cinnamon-sugar-flavored king cakes are decorated with royal icing, jimmies, colored sugar, sugar pearls, beads and coins. Pick-up will be available at Maxie’s from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 9-10, 12-13 and 14th.

8. National Bakery

3200 S. 16th St., (414) 672-1620
13820 W. Greenfield Ave., Brookfield (262) 827-4097
5637 Broad St., Greendale (414) 423-4620
[Read more]
National Bakery will have king cakes available in store beginning Wednesday, Jan. 31. The cakes, which are made with a traditional Danish laminated dough infused with cinnamon, are iced and decorated with green, gold and purple sanding sugars. Each cake is $22.50 and comes complete with a little plastic baby. Pre-orders are accepted online and highly encouraged.

9. O&H Danish Bakery

9540 S. 27th St., Oak Creek, (414) 856-1141
717 S. Sylvania Ave., Sturtevant, (262) 898-1950
4006 Durand Ave., Racine, (262) 554-1311
4917 Douglas Ave., Racine, (262) 637-8895
5910 Washington Ave., Racine, (262) 504-7000
[Read more]
If you’re looking for a king cake with Wisconsin flair, look no further than O&H Danish Bakery. Their king cake is a cream cheese kringle decorated in green, purple and gold and sold with three strands of beads, a plastic baby and a copy of the king cake story.  The cakes can be purchased at one of the O&H stores (available Feb. 7-13) or ordered online (available now through Feb. 20). Pricing for the kringles is $13.25 in-store or $28.99 (plus shipping) when ordered online.

10. Simma’s Bakery

817 N. 68th St., Wauwatosa, (414) 257-0998
[Read more]
Simma’s bakery will be offering king cake in two flavors (chocolate chip cheese and raspberry cheese) for Fat Tuesday. The cakes must be pre-ordered on or before Feb. 9 for pick-up on Feb. 13. A very limited number of cakes will also be available in the bakery for purchase. Cost is $16.50 each (a plastic baby is included).

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.