You’ll see them everywhere when you visit Lafayette for Mardi Gras. They’re sugary sweet, full of wonderful surprises — including a plastic baby — and are synonymous with the Carnival season.
King Cakes are linked to French traditions surrounding the Twelfth Night of Christmas, or Jan. 6, when the Magi visited the Christ Child with gifts. The king cake isn’t relegated to just France and Louisiana, but our tri-colored cake dates back to Louisiana’s mother country of France. Naturally, being the adventurous Louisiana, we have enhanced the dessert quite a bit.
The French gateau de roi is much simpler, but with a surprise inside as well (you can find an example at Poupart’s French bakery in Lafayette). The person who receives the special bean, token or baby inside becomes the queen or king for the day.
In Louisiana, we begin king cake enjoyment on Jan. 6 and continue through the Carnival Season all the way to Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday when this sort of decadence is supposed to stop, at least if you’re Catholic. Also, our cakes run the gamut, most commonly an oval shaped dough stuffed with fillings that’s topped with icing and sugar sprinkles in the Carnival colors of purple, green and gold.
Louisiana tradition has it that whoever receives the baby in their king cake must buy the next one — and so it goes for weeks on end. You can imagine that all those good intentions of losing weight after the holidays get thrown out the window during Carnival.
Like most culinary treats, king cakes have evolved. We now have fried king cakes, king cake cupcakes, king cake bread pudding, king cake fries and king cake cocktails, to name a few. There’s even a humorous Facebook page titled King Cake Baby.To see what Lafayette has to offer, visit The King Caker web site, which reviews king cake establishments. To read last year’s blog on king cakes with references to local king cake makers, visit the King Cake blog 2013.