It may feel like an eternity between Christmas and New Year’s and the next holiday that promises a great party and a tasty dessert. This brings to mind… Mardi Gras, and the king cake in particular! King cakes are a popular holiday treat that are available in bakeries around the country beginning in early January, even if you haven’t made it to New Orleans.
Although the king cake is most often associated with Fat Tuesday, its origins may be traced back to Three Kings Day, which occurs 12 days following Christmas. There are many delicious options for Mardi Gras celebrations, but our favourite has to be king cake. However, what is the origin of the king cake, and how has it come to be associated with the holiday? Don’t worry, we’ll fill you in.
Why do we eat a cake with a baby in it?
Time immemorial marks the beginning of the cake. This is the time of the Middle Ages! Throughout honour of the Catholic holiday known as Epiphany (or Three Kings Day), the first king cakes were baked in Europe (January 6). To refresh our memories, the Feast of the Nativity commemorates the day the Magi were reported to have visited the infant Jesus and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
In the 1870s, the French introduced the cake to Louisiana, where it has since become inextricably linked to the French Quarter, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, and everything else that makes New Orleans special. This cake, however, is a hit all around the country. For a limited time around the start of the carnival season in early January until Ash Wednesday, when most people start giving things up for Lent, king cake is a popular dessert option.
So, tell me, what exactly is a king cake?
The traditional New Orleans King Cake is a ring-shaped, sweet, buttery pastry (similar to brioche) coated in a thick layer of icing and decorated with a generous amount of sprinkles or lustre dust in shades of purple, yellow, and green to represent the colours of the Mardi Gras season. There is no one “correct” method to prepare a king cake; some people like theirs more like a loaf while others like it more like a cake. Cream cheese, which may be flavoured with either vanilla or cinnamon or both, is a common filling. They are consistently spherical with a hole in the middle, like a crown you could wear if you were in the mood to celebrate.
King cakes have a tasty frosting on the exterior and are sprinkled with green, purple, and yellow sprinkles. Those hues aren’t chosen at random. The green colour indicates hope, the purple represents strength, and the yellow colour represents fairness. Oh, and there’s usually a small plastic baby tucked away somewhere in there, too.
The plastic baby in the king cake serves what purpose?
Have no fear! It’s not little, so there’s no need to worry about accidentally consuming it. The addition of the toy baby to the king cake really adds to the celebration. In a sense, it even becomes a sport because of this. Finding that infant is a top priority for everyone. There are many who believe the infant represents the Christ child, while others see him as a sign of good fortune. The lucky recipient of the baby-containing slice is “crowned” for the day and predicted to have a prosperous year. So, not only do you get to indulge in delicious desserts, but you also may, if only temporarily, live the life of a prince or princess.
What are the steps for making a king cake?
You could create it from scratch; there are a tonne of recipes available online to accommodate practically any preference or degree of expertise, but the fundamentals would stay the same. Sweet brioche dough is prepared, stuffed with plenty of cinnamon and/or a tasty cream cheese filling, twisted into a ring, and then baked. Place the small plastic baby inside. When it’s done baking and has cooled fully, frosting and a mountain of sprinkles go on top. However, please be aware that if you’re making this cake from scratch, it might take you up to four hours.
Dislike the idea of spending all day cooking? True, you may get a king cake mix or even a premade cake.
What stores sell king cake?
There are alternatives for those of us who would rather purchase than cook. As previously said, around carnival time numerous bakeries and grocery shops throughout the United States stock them. Even if you don’t reside in Louisiana or don’t have time to go there only to purchase a king cake, you may still satisfy your want for one. You may get it delivered to your home from a number of bakeries. If you’re looking for a really exceptional sweet from Louisiana, I highly recommend either Manny Randazzo or Haydel’s Bakery.
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