My Favorite Domer called last night to announce the Mardi Gras King Cake his grandmother had overnighted him arrived in splendid condition and was a big hit!
Now for those unaware of the tradition, a King Cake actually started in Western Europe before Christianity took hold. Eventually, it morphed into a celebration of the Magi and was brought to Louisiana by French settlers in the 18th century.
The cake features an oval shape and tastes like coffee cake or a cinnamon roll — with lots of sugar!
Bakers take the dough, roll it out, maybe braid it, then twist the ends together. Sometimes they add blueberries, apples, or cream cheese as fillings. They then decorate the top with table sugar in Mardi Gras’s traditional colors of gold (power), purple (justice), and green (faith). Some cakes feature glazed icing on top as well.
Now it wouldn’t be a true King Cake if it didn’t have a tiny plastic baby inside (Magi, Baby Jesus — get it?)
Usually, bakers place this inch-long baby near the twisted-together ends, and tradition holds that the person getting a piece of cake with the baby inside is the one “crowned” king or queen for the day and must host the next King Cake party the following week.
King Cakes are never served outside of Carnival Season, which runs from Twelfth Night (the Feast of the Epiphany, 12 days after Christmas) through Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday, the day before Christians observe Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent).
Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are consumed during this five- or six-week period in New Orleans alone! And that doesn’t include the number of cakes shipped throughout the country for displaced sons and daughters of the Big Easy (or those just wanting to get in on the revelry!)
I can’t imagine anyone wanting to bake King Cakes themselves, not when there are so many bakeries proficient at making them, but for those seeking a new challenge, here’s one to try.
Good luck and Happy Mardi Gras!