For people in Louisiana, as soon as the Christmas season is over, the Mardi Gras celebrations begin. When you see department and grocery store aisles stocked with multi-colored plastic beads, feather boas, and King Cakes, you will know that it is Mardi Gras time.
Take a look at these two different slices below to see the variation in different King Cakes. In the first, you can see the dark swirls of cinnamon, and in the second, you can see the substantial, bready density.
Before moving to Louisiana, I was unfamiliar with King Cakes. Now, as a resident of New Orleans, I have eaten a slice of King Cake every week since Christmas.
King Cakes are best described as over-sized cinnamon rolls made from sweet yeast dough. To make a King Cake, the dough is kneaded with a cinnamon butter filling, braided, shaped into a circular bread wreath, and baked until golden-brown. King Cakes are then slathered with an oozing blanket of white icing and decorated with crunchy yellow, purple, and green sugar crystals. Some King Cakes possess an eggy, glistening, brioche-like sheen and specialized King Cakes may be filled with pockets of sweetened cream cheese filling, fruit jelly, crushed pralines pieces, pecans, or dried fruits, such as raisins, cherries. You can also get a King Cake with decadent pie filling, such as blueberry, apple, or lemon curd.
King Cakes derive their origins from the French settlers in Louisiana and carry a special tradition with them. Inside every King Cake is a small plastic baby figurine.
Tradition has it, that the person who finds the baby must buy the next King Cake (usually the next day or the next week).
Although it is mildly creepy, it is a great tradition to ensure that the eating of King Cakes never end!
P.S. My original photos did not do justice to the Mardi Gras King Cake, so I updated this post with NEW pictures. Also, I wanted to add another fact. Do you want to know why a King Cake baby has a hole in his bottom running to the top of his head?
It is so that Mardi Gras party-goers can string the baby onto a string of beads. When you walk around Bourbon Street or St. Charles Avenue during the height of Mardi Gras, expect to see a lot of these plastic babies strung around the necks of fellow party-goers!