Before taking the younguns on our Kid-Friendly Ghost Tour this time of year, treat them to a sweet slice of King Cake. King Cake is our seasonal treat that rings in Carnival and is only available from Epiphany until Mardi Gras day.
King Cakes in New Orleans are doughy yeasty cakes that arrive on the first day of Carnival season – January 6, also known as “Kings’ Day” in honor of the Three Kings finding baby Jesus. There are many styles around the world, for instance in Mexico and France which are different. Here they are baked round to replicate a royal crown. They are cinnamon-y and lemony and sprinkled with sugar in the official Mardi Gras colors: purple, green and gold.
And as an added lagniappe we put a little plastic baby Jesus in the cake. They can be pink or brown, but also come in other colors; and if you’re lucky some bakeries sneak in a gold one. If you do get the baby, at the office party for example, you have to buy the next King Cake.
The tradition comes from the Old World as the French with their galette des rois, and the Spanish with their rosca des reyes. In those days they put a bean in the cake, then when New Orleans started our own Mardi Gras tradition it became a ring, then a porcelain baby and finally the plastic ones we love today.
They are pretty easy to make if you know a little bit about baking. You want all purpose flour, not cake flour. You yeast it up, let it proof. Add milk, butter, eggs, cinnamon, sugar, salt, vanilla, lemon zest. Bake it up – sprinkle it with the colored sugar.
Now do you put a cream cheese filling inside? Well that depends on what ya Mama did. This is fun point of contention in New Orleans whether King Cakes should be filled or not. And don’t get us going on the controversial subjects of pecans or raisins.
Get a nice cup of chicory coffee, a slice of King Cake and Happy Mardi Gras!