One of my favorite Mardi Gras traditions is the King Cake. I always looked forward to getting my slice as a child and hoping that I would find the “baby” in my piece and have good luck for the coming year. Eating the delicious combination of sugar and cake was a special treat heading into the Lenten season. Secretly, I still get excited for this tradition.
The celebration dates back to the story of the Three Kings bringing gifts to the baby Jesus. The King Cake is baked in honor of Three Kings and is generally shared any time, these days, during the Mardi Gras season.
Originally, King Cakes were a simple ring of dough with minor decorations. Today’s king cakes are much more elaborate and creative in their recipe. After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the “baby” is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar, cream cheese or fruit fillings.
In Louisiana alone, hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are consumed at parties, offices and in homes every year. Feeling left out? Don’t! Bakeries now ship King Cakes overnight if you can get your order in fast enough, and local bakeries in cities everywhere tend to offer their take on a King Cake during the Mardi Gras season.
Check out a few of these sweet standouts for your King Cake:
New Orleans: Manny Randazzo’s King Cakes
The best King Cakes are said to come from this New Orleans bakery. Order online and receive the cake, Mardi Gras cup, beads, doubloons, history of the cake brochure, and overnight delivery.
Syosset, NY: Mara’s Homemade
Located on Long Island, you can order King Cakes year-round for pickup or shipping. This Louisiana seafood and BBQ restaurant gets royal with their creations that include Nutella®, pecan praline or cream cheese fillings.
Arlington, VA: Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery
Why stop at King Cake alone? This VA bakery also caters shrimp etouffee and chicken and Andouille gumbo. Featuring his King Cake with cream cheese filling creation just this week on the TODAY Show, Chef and owner David Gaus, holds an annual block party with Carnival foods and a costume contest on Fat Tuesday.
The chef is a New Orleans native, so you are in good hands at this Hayes Valley locale. Try slices of cream cheese-filled King Cake, topped by sugar colored with mint, hibiscus and saffron, with braised pineapple on the side.
For just $15, you can take home a twisting circle of buttery Danish filled with cinnamon sugar, and topped with bright ropes of beads. It’s the clever combination of bakery and beer garden that keep the locals and visitors coming back again and again.