The Mardi Gras King Cake History (Courtesy of Haydel's Bakery)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.