Enjoy this Mardi Gras favorite a new way: cinnamon cake dip topped with caramel and pecans, then served festive candy-coated green, purple, and gold pretzels.

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Prepared King Cake Dip in a serving bowl topped with pecans and caramel and surrounded by candy-coated pretzels.

About King Cake Dip

King cake is a Mardi Gras tradition, and this king cake dip is a fun, new way to experience this Fat Tuesday classic.

It’s a delicious mix of cinnamon cake batter, chopped pecans, and caramel sauce served with candy-coated pretzels. The flavors capture the best parts of a king cake and the festive pretzels look like tiny green, purple, and yellow Carnevale masks.

What is king cake?

Popular during Mardi Gras, king cake (also called three kings cake) is a doughy pastry that’s like a cross between a coffee cake and a cinnamon roll. It’s often baked in a round or braided style and is topped with sweet cream cheese frosting, caramel, and pecans. Festive sprinkles are also a trademark of a king cake, where the cake is coated in thick stripes of green, purple, and yellow sanding sugar.

And like Mardi Gras, the origin of king cakes is rooted in Christian themes. The name “king cake” is a reference to the three kings who bought gifts for baby Jesus. It is also Mardi Gras tradition to bake a small plastic baby within the king cake – with the baby representing Jesus – and whoever finds the baby in their slice of cake becomes the “king” or “queen” of the evening. The finder of the baby is also said to be prosperous for the next 12 months – which, by tradition, means they will be responsible for providing the king cake for the party next year.

What type of candy melts should you use?

Candy melts (also called melting wafters) are pretty common – you can find them in the baking supply area, and they’re small, flat disks, typically sold by the bag – but I do think there are significant differences in quality depending on the brand of candy melts you buy.

Wilton is by far the most common brand of candy melt, and they are sold in a variety of colors. This makes them a popular pick, since you can buy the exact color you need and can get right to crafting your festive treats. Wilton makes things simple and easy.

This recipe recommends using Wilton candy melts (or other brands that come in different colors) because it makes things simpler.

However, I’ve not been impressed with the quality of Wilton candy melts and typically look for alternatives. If given the choice, I would highly recommend picking up Ghirardelli brand candy melts and using oil-based food coloring to get the look that you want. You could also use their bar chocolate or chocolate chips. These are my favorite candy melts to work with due to the superior quality and taste.

Candy coated pretzels in green, purple, and yellow on a serving dish.

Do you have to use pretzels?

When it comes to dessert dips, you can use any type of cookie or cracker that you’d like for dipping. Pretzels are recommended with this recipe because they resemble tiny Carnevale masks (especially once coated in sprinkles), but other than that, there’s nothing specific to the taste or flavor of a pretzel that would make them a better choice over another. The most important thing is that the dip be delicious to you and your guests, so serve it with whatever you would enjoy the most.

If you’d like some recommendations for serving, I’d suggest:

And just to note, most of the above options can be decorated in the same way as the pretzels, so you can still have that festive Mardi Gras flair.

Do you need to bake the cake mix?

Although it’s rare to become ill from consuming flour, it is considered a raw ingredient, so for proper food safety, the cake mix should be cooked before consumption because it includes flour.

To bake the cake mix: Spread the cake mix out on a baking sheet and bake it for five minutes at 350 degrees F.

Can you use out of date cake mix?

Usually, the best recipe ideas strike you when you don’t have time to go shopping and you’re left raiding your cabinets for options. And during your search, you’re bound to run across something that looks fine but has a date that’s long since passed.

That’s exactly what happened to me recently when I was hunting for cake mix.

So, when it comes to expired cake mix, what do you do? Can you use it or not?

First off, make sure that the cake mix you have has been properly stored. This means that it’s been in a cool, dry place, and that either the seal is still intact or that it’s been stored in a sealed container since it was opened.

Once you confirm the storage, check the date printed on the package. Cake mix is typically good four to five months beyond the “best by” date.

If you have a product that’s older than this, I would not recommend using it for something like a dip. If you’d like to read more about the concerns of expired cake mix, check out this article.

Closeup of chopped pecans and caramel sauce on top of king cake dip.

How long can you leave out a dessert dip?

Whenever you serve a dip for your guests to enjoy, you should always keep track of how long it sits at room temperature.

For most foods, the general rule of thumb is that a perishable item should not be in the “danger zone” for more than two hours. And by “danger zone”, this is usually at or just above room temperature, which is how this dip will be served.

As the party goes on, you can move your dip back to the refrigerator once you get past the two-hour mark. If your guests still want more dip, let it chill for at least 30 minutes before bringing it back out again.

Can you make this dip in advance?

One of the most common questions I get about dessert dips is whether or not you can make them in advance. I totally understand why someone would want to do this, as it’s easier to prepare treats for a party the night before than scrambling to get everything done the day of the event.

The good news is that the answer to this question is almost always yes. BUT, each dip has its own considerations depending on the ingredients.

In the case of this king cake dip, the ingredients you want to be careful of are the cake mix and the cheesecake pudding mix.

While making this dip, you may notice that the consistency will change significantly once the milk is added to the dry mixes. That’s because adding the milk starts the process of the cake and pudding mix absorbing any available moisture. The idea is that this moisture will come from the milk, but over time, it will also start to draw moisture from the cool whip. This means that the dip will continue to thicken even after you’re done mixing. Because of this, if you plan to make this dip in advance, I recommend adjusting the white cake mix from 2/3 cup to 1/2 cup.

How long is king cake dip good for?

Once prepared, this dessert dip can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two days.

When ready to serve, allow the dip to soften a bit at room temperature. If the dip seems too firm after softening, try mixing a tablespoon of milk (up to a maximum of three tablespoons).

Notes & tips for king cake dip

  • For this recipe, I highly recommend using a stand mixer or a hand mixer. This recipe would be difficult to make by hand with a whisk.
  • If you’re looking for an easy way to get the right color sprinkles and a plastic baby, SprinkleDeco sells a king cake kit that includes all of the decorations you’ll need.
  • This recipe is measured out to guarantee that you’ll be able to coat and decorate 21 pretzels, but you might have enough leftover candy melts to decorate more.
  • If you don’t want to decorate more than 21 pretzels but want to have more options for dipping, serve some plain pretzels with the coated ones. That way you’ll still have the Mardi Gras colors but can also give guests a more savory choice for dipping.
Dipping a purple candy coated pretzel into king cake dip.

Other fun dessert dips

How to make king cake dip

This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.

Step 1 – To ensure food safety, spread the white cake mix out on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 5 minutes. Allow the flour to cool before moving on to the next steps.

Step 2 – Add the green, purple, and yellow candy melts to separate microwave-safe bowls, then melt per package instructions. Also place the green, purple, and yellow sprinkles in their own separate bowls and set them nearby.

Step 3 – Drop a pretzel in the candy melts, coat it in candy, then toss it in the sprinkles. Place the decorated pretzels on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to dry.

Step 4 – While the pretzels dry, use a stand mixer (or hand mixer + large bowl) to whip together the Cool Whip, white cake mix, cheesecake pudding mix, and cinnamon until combined. Once mixed, pour in the milk and mix well.

Step 5 – Add half of the dip to a serving dish of your choice. Take a small plastic baby and hide it within the dip (this is totally optional, but it’s part of the king cake tradition) then finish adding the other half of the dip.

Step 6 – Decorate the top of the dip with chopped pecans and caramel sauce.

Step 7 – Place the finished dip on a serving plate surrounded by the decorated pretzels.

Step 8 – Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Details

Prepared King Cake Dip in a serving bowl topped with pecans and caramel and surrounded by candy-coated pretzels.
4.42 from 12 votes

King Cake Dip

30 mins prep + 30 mins Drying Time
396 kcal
Yields: 6 servings
Enjoy this Mardi Gras favorite a new way: cinnamon cake dip topped with caramel and pecans, then served festive candy-coated green, purple, and gold pretzels.

Ingredients 

Mardi Gras Pretzels
King Cake Dip

Instructions

For the Mardi Gras Pretzels
  • Prepare your work area so that you can work through one color at a time (coating + decorating). Place purple, yellow, and green candy melts in separate microwave-safe bowls. Place purple, yellow, and green sprinkles in separate smaller bowls. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then set near by.
    1/2 cup purple candy melts, 1/2 cup yellow candy melts, 1/2 cup green candy melts, sanding sugar
  • Heat the first color of candy melt in the microwave 30 seconds on 50% power, then stir. Continue to heat for 15 second intervals, mixing in between, until candy is smooth.
  • Dip a pretzel in the melted candy, then use a fork to scoop the pretzel out, tapping the fork along the side of the bowl to remove any excess candy. Pretzels should be covered but candy coating should be thin. Drop the pretzel into the corresponding color of sanding sugar, then flip to coat. Lift up coated pretzel and gently shake to remove excess sprinkles. Place finished pretzel on prepared baking sheet to dry. Repeat this step until desired number of pretzels have been coated in a single color.
    21 pretzels
  • Repeat the previous two steps for the remaining two colors.
  • Allow pretzels to dry completely before using, about 30 minutes.
For the King Cake Dip
  • Food Safety Step: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread cake mix out on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Allow cake mix to cool completely before using.
  • Using a stand mixer (or hand mixer + large bowl), add in Cool Whip, white cake mix, cheesecake pudding mix, and ground cinnamon. Beat on medium-low speed until smooth and dry mixes are completely incorporated (no clumps), about 3-5 minutes.
    8 ounces cool whip, 3.4 ounces cheesecake pudding mix, 2/3 cup white cake mix, 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • Keeping speed on medium-low, add milk to bowl and continue to whip until milk is fully incorporated and dip is thick and creamy. If dip seems to thin, add anywhere from 1 tablespoon to 1/3 cup more white cake mix to help with consistency.
    1/2 cup milk
  • Scoop dip into a serving bowl. If you're keeping with the King Cake tradition, bury a small plastic baby within the dip for guests to find. Garnish the top of the dip with chopped pecans and drizzle with caramel sauce.
    caramel sauce, 1 small plastic baby, chopped pecans
Putting it All Together
  • Serve dip immediately with coated candy pretzels for dipping.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 396kcal | Carbohydrates: 73g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 543mg | Potassium: 108mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 46g | Vitamin A: 115IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 154mg | Iron: 1mg

I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I’m not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.

Author: Chrisy

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Recipe Rating




48 comments

    • Christina Dryden

    Hi there! I can’t wait to try this recipe out at home and then for my Mardi Gras society once the holiday rolls around next year. And I see that it’s on your bucket list to go to New Orleans, but let me suggest going to Mobile, Alabama, as that is the birthplace of Mardi Gras. N.O. just made it bigger and with lots more alcohol. The floats in Mobile are beautiful and it’s more family oriented. As a native Mobilian, let me extend a personal invitation to experience the holiday like no other city on earth can do it!

    • Lindsay AFM

    This dip sounds delicious and your pictures are gorgeous!!

    • Becky @ Project Domestication

    So festive and colorful. Those sparkles are fun.

    • Jennifer

    Wow this look so fun!

    • Robin @thebakingexchange

    Looks like a sugar overload, but worth it!

    • True, this is definitely a recipe for sugar lovers 😀

    • Adriana Martin

    super nice idea to replace traditional king cake loving the combination and the creativity =)

    • Sara

    I LOVE King Cake – a local grocery store makes an amazing one, no nuts in it, just this brown sugar swirl thing, it’s expensive but totally worth it! And I definitely need to try this dip!

    • My mother (a bakery manager) was telling me about a similar cake they sell at her store. Apparently I’ve been missing out – might just have to pick some up to see how it compares to the dip 🙂

    • Angie

    That looks so yummy, and I love those pretzels! How cute are they?!?!

    • Jennifer A Stewart

    I have been to Mardi Gras before and nothing captures that spirit like you said! What I remember of it anyway. This dip is genius and I am going to serve it at Superbowl while I’m stuffing my face and watching commercials! Those sprinkle covered pretzels are the icing on the King Cake!!

    • 😀 Thanks Jennifer! If you do make it, I’d love to hear what you think 😀

    • Jenny

    As a Louisiana native I miss king cake and Mardi Gras season!
    I am dying to go back in the near future.

    xoxo, Jenny

    • 😀 Hopefully we both make it there soon!

    • Elaine

    What a great dip! I bet it would be great with shortbread cookies! Yum!

    • Oo, shortbread cookies would be perfect 😀 That’s why I love dips like this, there’s so many options!

    • The Southern Thing

    I was already craving king cake earlier today and then I saw this!! I can’t wait to get home to New Orleans this weekend. Mardi Gras should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s a blast!!

    • So awesome! I hope you have an amazing time this weekend! I’m a teensy bit jealous, but I’ll get there one day I’m sure 😀

    • mary

    This sounds delicious! I love the pretzels, so pretty!

    • Becky @ Disney in your Day

    This sounds fantastic! I’m actually not a huge cake person but I love dips – so I feel like this would be the perfect way to enjoy this!

    • Thanks Becky! Hopefully this dip would make for a good cake-compromise 🙂

    • Chelsea

    This seriously looks so amazing! YUM.

    • Blair

    Oh my gosh, you are seriously speaking my love language with this dip!!! I’d like to face-plant right into it! 🙂

    And just when we finish up with all of the celebrations next week…there’s Valentine’s Day! Like you said, who knew it was so festive at this time of year?!

    • I know, right? I feel like I need to look at a calendar to see what other holidays are about to sneak up on us.

    • Maggie Unzueta

    How fun! My little guy would love this dip.

    • Nicole

    That looks delicious! I usually do the “cheater” version of a king cake, which doubles as a delicious breakfast with coffee. I use the Pillsbury crescent rolls to make a ring and put a cinnamon cream cheese in the center. Then I drizzle the icing on top. It’s so good!

    • Ha, now I’m wishing I had king cake with my coffee 😀 I may just have to make the “cheater” version (which is still pretty close to the real deal) this weekend!

    • Kathryn @ FoodieGirlChicago

    I love the idea of this as a dip – how creative!! The pretzels are fabulous! Pinned!!

    • Thanks Kathryn! The pretzels are probably my favorite part, too 😀

    • Shadi

    I am loving this so much I spent some minutes only looking at the photos! How gorgeous those pretzels are and I can totally see we would go crazy over that dip! Super creative and festive, this recipe just made me so happy!