Monday, February 23, 2009

{king cake}

Happy Lundi Gras!
Today, I thought I would share with all of you wonderful Southern Flair readers, the history of King Cake!

The King Cake is named after the biblical 3 kings (aka the 3 wise men), the traditional Mardi Gras King Cake is the most simple and most traditional of all king cake styles and is essentially a ring of twisted bread that is topped with icing colored purple (justice), green (faith) and gold (power).

King Cakes are available in plain cinnamon or with filling inside (praline and cream cheese are the most popular filling flavors - and are delicious!). The tradition of the baby that is hidden in each King Cake began with hiding a gilded bean inside the King Cake. The plastic babies used in modern King Cakes are often said to represent the baby Jesus. However, many people attach no particular religious significance to the cake or trinket.

The "baby in the king cake" was said to have become common after a New Orleans area bakery chain got a large shipment of such plastic baby dolls from Hong Kong very cheaply in the 1950s, some people say there is little further significance to the baby, but earlier ceramic baby dolls as trinkets are documented in New Orleans back to the 1930s. Other New Orleans traditions claim the baby represents the re-birth of Father time for the new year. Apart from the tiny plastic baby, a trinket representing a king wearing a crown is the 2nd most common design of trinket. Trinkets in the form of other figures have also been seen historically, and starting in the 1990s again became more common in the more expensive "gourmet" varieties of king cake. The common plastic baby of today is usually colored pink, brown, white or gold. Due to the choking hazard posed by small trinkets, some bakeries opt to include the "plastic baby" separately from the pastry. The plastic babies are most often left out of cakes from stores not native to New Orleans, such as Wal-Mart, etc. Usually when King Cakes are ordered to be shipped out of New Orleans the cake and trinket are packaged separately so that the plastic baby will not pose as a choking hazard to King Cake novices. The person who "gets the baby" has to buy the next King Cake!

Popular bakeries in Louisiana such as Gambino's, Ambrosia, Haydel, and Randazzo, feature original recipes and other types of king cakes - but you can find King Cake at just about ANY grocery store in Louisiana during Mardi Gras season!

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