Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mardi Gras King Cakes

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!

34 comments:

  1. Oh how I miss the king cake. It just is not the same as getting one shipped to you. but there will never be anything that will beat the old Mackenzie king cakes. Too bad that bakery is long gone. Even though I have heard that Tastee Donuts bought the recipe and is reproducing it.

    Which bakeries have you tried king cakes from recently? I am trying to figure out which would be the best this season to get it shipped from.

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  2. You're going to hate me for this Bluang3lbby, but I get my King Cakes from Walmart! My sister-in-law purchased the King Cake in this post for me. I have heard great things about (1) a small bakery called Croissant D'or Patisserie, (2) Gambino's, and (3) Manny Randazzo.

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  3. Hi PE - Looks wonderful, so colorful. I'd never heard of King Cakes before, thanks for sharing.....

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  4. A slice a week? Your metabolism is much better than mine! I'd be really creeped out if I sliced into the cake and hit the plastic baby. Plus, the thought of baking something with the piece of plastic inside? Eww.

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  5. So do they taste any good? They really don't look all that appetizing...

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  6. I never really had a King Cake, but have heard about the tradition of the plastic baby. I too think it's a real odd and slightly creepy tradition. (Sorry for the guy who bites into the plastic baby!) BTW, the plastic baby you found in your cake kind of looks like a orange crash-car dummy! Ha!

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  7. aaahhh...king cake!! i do love king cake and rarely get a chance to eat it. have you ever tried making one?

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  8. I bet that LSU's win at the championship helped boost the Mardi Gras spirit! They played well and kicked our butts!

    This calls for more king cakes =)

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  9. Hi Passionate Eater,

    My name is Shannon and I'm the editorial assistant at Foodbuzz.com. I am very impressed with the quality of your posts and to that end, I’d like to invite you to be a part of our newly launched Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program. I would love to send you more details about the program, so if you are interested, please email me at Shannon@foodbuzz.com.

    And thank you for sharing the tradition of the King Cakes! I had never heard of them before (maybe being in the SF Bay Area, but perhaps I should have known better). Someday I would love to get to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and experience it like you all do. Sounds amazing.

    Cheers!

    Shannon Eliot
    Editorial Assistant, Foodbuzz.com
    shannon@foodbuzz.com

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  10. I actually never seen a king cake at wal-mart when I lived in New Orleans. But then that is probably because I only went to a regular Wal-mart and not a super wal-mart. I have had a Randazzo king cake before but that was when there was still the Goodchildren's Bakery in Chalmette. I might have to try a Gambino's one this time around.

    At least it is a plastic baby. Back in the old days, they said they used a bean. So this is better since people can't easily hide a baby. But I remember back when we had king cake parties at school. They use to have get the large or ex-large king cakes to feed the entire class. Those use to have 2 babies. So whenever I got one, I ended up either giving it to my best friend or hiding it.

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  11. Randazzo's is great!!! Believe it or not so is Rouse's supermarkets king cakes. Like the other person said though no one can beat Mackenzie's.

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  12. You're welcome Kirk! I do hope that you one day have an opportunity to try them!

    Thankfully, you get used to those babies after a while Wandering Chopsticks! And I am happy to say that I always "found" them as I was cutting the cake and before I discovered a foreign plastic object in my mouth!

    They taste either like cinnamon bread, a danish, or a cinnamon roll Agent 713! And I uploaded some new pictures that I hope do justice to the King Cake (unlike my previous pictures).

    Chef Ben, yes, that little baby was PARTICULARLY disturbing. Other babies aren't that ugly!

    Pinknest, you know I am lazy and can only aspire to be a baker like you!

    Christine D., you are wonderful! I had no idea that you were an Ohio State fan already!

    Thanks for your compliments Shannon, I will check it out! I already put a link to you guys in my sidebar.

    I heard about the bean trick bluang3lbby, and I agree that a bean might pose more of a choking hazard than a big plastic baby! And that is a great idea about strategically hiding the baby / bean!

    Did you say Rouse's Jessica?! Wow, I'll have to try it then!

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  13. PE I remember eating a slice of King cake at chachacha's once... I don't know where it came from, but I do remember vivid colors and the super sweet frosting and yeasty breadlike texture. Lucky you eating it once a week!

    p.s. The W-S catalog features your city...

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  14. For those of you who commented on baking the cake with a baby in it, the cake is actually baked without the baby in, and it is hidden after the fact. These days I think most shops sell them with the baby floating around loosely in the box and you hide it yourself (push it up through the bottom), so that if you're giving it to little kids who might choke you could leave the baby out.

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  15. Thanks for the update on the King cake. Last time I wrote something and my comment was rejected...opps? I think it was a techno faux pas on my part.
    Glad for the clarification of the baby thing. It would be my luck to get the baby and I would chew on it for a good while to be polite. I would then be shocked to see I was chewing on a pink baby. But I am in the know now.

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  16. Hi PE - Me again....I just find these cakes somewhat mesmerizing....plastic baby and all.

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  17. Reminds me of carnivale and the cakes we prepare during this time :)
    (found your site while blog hopping)

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  18. In response to Amanda, I think that is more recent that they are putting the baby in last. Because my mom use to be a baker for MacKenzie and the baby was put in before they baked it. I remember when I was little biting on the baby when I had gotten one before.

    Passionate Eater won't be long before you get to enjoy all the yummy Vietnamese food at Mary Queen Tet Hoi Cho. Eat some fresh fried bananas while you are there. They make some of the best.

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  19. King Cakes--I had no idea that was what they were called. Or that you are supposed to string the baby to wear it.

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  20. Oh, you've got me missing Louisiana more than ever now! I'm originally from Baton Rouge, but currently living in Durham, England. This is my first Mardi Gras away from home. I'm baking a King Cake for Mardi Gras - wish me luck! The best ones I've ever had the privilege of tasting were Meche's & Gambino's... I'm nervous about making my own. Should be interesting. We'll see! Laissez les bon temps roulez, and Happy Mardi Gras! x

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  21. Hmm I have to agree with you, I would be a little creeped out finding that baby... Can't wait to read about Mardi Gras!

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  22. Thanks for explaining about the baby and the hole (with kids, you can imagine the guesses they came up with!) I made a king cake once, and wasn't that impressed with the cake (probably not a great effort on my part), but I love anything with a tradition, so I will try to order one next year!

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  23. Happy New Year - Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! All the best to you in this new Year of the Rat :)

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  24. PE, I have tagged you for a meme. You are to tell us about seven odd, strange, weird or even random things about yourself.
    You can nominate 7 other people to pass the meme onwards to. Or, if you are a real blog-friend loser like myself, you can nominate only one!
    I chose you. You haven't been blogging enough lately and need to be punished! LOL

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  25. Erm.. Looks so wonderful as well as color. They really tested good?

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  26. Wow, this looks so good. I've always wanted to visit New Orleans, but haven't had the opportunity yet. I've heard the food is amazing.

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  29. Great pictures and a great site...

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  30. Thank you great article, well done. I was looking for this article since a few days.

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  31. Oh it looks like our king cake
    le gateau des rois
    http://icu.linter.fr/450/322904/1237709665/le-gateau-des-rois-provencal.jpg

    or here

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-zIErSnot8bE/UOWSFwkn9uI/AAAAAAAAAhA/cGtsJd-hCB0/s1600/DSC_1173.JPG

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