Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Let them eat King Cake

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!  Today is the official start to Mardi Gras 2010!  It also marks the first day that people in New Orleans partake in the wonderful tradition of eating King Cakes.  This delicious treat has a long and rich history that I hope you find as interesting as I do. 

The Mardi Gras King Cake History (Courtesy of Haydel's Bakery)
In New Orleans' revelry and religious tradition are the ties that bind during Mardi Gras. Thus, it's not surprising that the origin of the modern King Cake can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when popular devotion during Christmas turned to the Three Wise Men, or Kings, who had followed a star and paid homage to Christ. Epiphany, the end of the Christmas celebration and the 12th night after the birth of Christ, came to be known as "Twelfth Night," a time for pageants and giving special "King" presents to children.

Today in New Orleans, the King Cake is an oval-shaped braided coffee cake which is decorated with cinnamon sugar in the official Mardi Gras colors – gold (for power), green (faith), and purple (justice) – and contains a tiny plastic baby that has replaced the coin used in medieval times. The person who gets the slice of cake with the baby in it must host the next party; at some parties, they are crowned king or queen.

The cake, a gift shared by family, friends and revelers alike, is eaten between the Twelfth Night and Fat Tuesday, the beginning of Lent.

For as long as I can remember we have enjoyed this most delicious treat on January 6th.  Tonight after a good work out, I will be making one here in Beaufort to get the Carnival season kicked off.  For those in New Orleans this tradition will continue every Friday from now until the final Friday before Lent begins.  Each and every Friday in school cafeterias and office breakrooms and at downtown coffee shops and roudy high school parties there will be a moment when everyone will stop to celebrate that week's King or Queen as they annouce that they have the piece with the baby.  It is a joyous celebration.  And the same thing will happen the next week and the next until we reach the end of the season of celebration to embark on a season of  sacrifice.  This is a pattern that is so engrained in the life of New Orleans that you do not know it is special until you are sitting in your office or at a downtown coffeeshop and you realize that no one where you are recognizes that, instead of a muffin or a tart, today we should be eating King Cake.  It is on days like this that I miss New Orleans more than I could ever say.  I think a bit of King Cake and the beats of the anthem Mardi Gras Mambo will take me there, even if it's only in my mind.


  1. King Cake is so good! What fun that it's Mardi Gras time again. I've never been, but would love to someday!

  2. Love the new blog design! Very very cute!

  3. Happy Mardi Gras!!! I'll be putting up my mardi gras wreath tonight!!!!

  4. I had never heard of this tradition - and I had no idea that Mardi Gras lasted this long! I learned so much from this blog post. I think alot of people outside of NO think of Mardi Gras as the huge party on Fat Tuesday and we don't really know all the history behind the season. Very cool.

  5. love your blog!!!! I've always wanted to go to Mardi Gras!!!! I can't wait to follow and see more details about it!!

  6. Well hello new, fun blog! (new to me... obviously not new to the interwebs!)

    I've never had a King Cake. My parents bought a second home in Galveston- where they celebrate a less cool version of Mardi Gras. Maybe I should make them one to get in the mood. Are they hard?

  7. Hi Charlotte and Chelsea!

    Chelsea - I cheat and use a boxed mix from Mam Papaul's that you can find at It is the best king cake you will ever eat. It does require that you let the dough rise, so plan for two hours of prep and baking time. Also, I don't care for their icing, so I make my own cinnamon buttercream. I'll post about the details on that this weekend!



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