a traditional New Orleans king cake
Don’t let my title fool you. I know you’ve put away the tree and the lights and the stockings (unless you are yours truly). Yes, Christmas is, in fact, over. And the end of Christmas is marked by another special holiday.

January 6 is known as the Feast of the Epiphany in Christianity, the Twelfth Night (in England), or simply King’s Day. Its religious significance commemorates the three Magi who brought gifts to the infant Jesus. There are many ways this holiday is celebrated around the world and in the Church, but I want to tell you about the most delicious one: king cakes.

King cakes originated in 12th century France where cakes were baked on the eve of January 6 to celebrate the Three Kings visiting Jesus. A trinket of some sort would be baked into the cake as sort of a party favor – this could range from a tiny toy, a bean, or even a coin (I feel bad for the guy who got the bean. What are you supposed to do with that?)

Fast forward a few centuries to the French settlement in Louisiana. The French brought many of their traditions with them to the New World and this was just one. The custom evolved like so: the king cake baking begins on January 6 and lasts through Mardi Gras. There is a plastic or porcelain baby figurine baked into the cake (thought to represent baby Jesus and the fact that the Magi had to search for him). Whoever is the lucky finder of the figurine will buy the next king cake/host the next party.

Now, what you’ve been waiting for: the cake. It’s a basic coffee cake that is oval-shaped and slathered in frosting and colored sugar. It is a little slice of heaven, and will totally ruin your New Year’s resolution diet and/or workout regimen. The sugar is dyed purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power) – the colors of Mardi Gras/Carnival season. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. Fifteen seconds in the microwave and a cup of hot coffee, and you’ve got breakfast (one that might make you hyperglycemic, but it’s delicious nonetheless.)

If you want to get the real deal from N’awlins, you can snag one online from Haydel’s bakery in the Crescent City. They’ll also send you some amazing coffee and Mardi Gras beads.  My mother sends me one every year from this place. Hey momma, are you reading this?

Gambino’s in NOLA can ship one out to you, too. But be prepared to fork over some extra cash.

If you want to stay true to the three-oh-three, you can pick one up from:

Rheinlander Bakery
5721 Olde Wadsworth Blvd.
Arvada, CO 80002

Trust me. You want two.

9 Responses

  1. Brenda M.

    gee, I hope your Momma is reading this so you can get one of those delicious cakes!

  2. Helene

    What a fun dessert!
    Looking forward to bringing this out for our next gathering with friends!
    Thank you Megan!

  3. Sharlene

    Megan, wonderful article and so much information, loved it!

  4. HELEN ALEXIS

    HI MEGAN, I LOVE THE STORY ABOUT THE KING CAKE, I E MAIL YOUR DAD AND TOLD HIM THAT THIS WOULB BE A GREAT ARTICLE FOR YOU TO EXPLOR AND YOU DID. WOW, I WILL PASS IT ON TO MY FRIENDS SO THEY CAN READ IT TOO.
    KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK I AM SO PROUD OF WHAT YOU ARE DOING
    143 GRANDMA

  5. Bette Breeland Rogyom

    And it’s that time of year again! My daughter and her family who live in Arkansas and are visiting me this weekend, went to Haydel’s this afternoon to buy king cakes to take home with them. It’s another one of our wonderful traditions!! Another great article, Megan. Keep ’em coming!

  6. Wendy

    Megan,

    Congratulations on your column, I also like your blog. Your momma sends your stuff to us (the knitting gardeners), she is very proud of you! And if it was not for her I would probably never been introduced to the famous King Cake. Keep up the good work!

  7. Linda Ranatza Concord NC

    We had King Cakes at the office. After my friend Andrew got the first baby he bought the next King Cake, after he got the second baby he bought another King Cake, with the third King Cake when Andrew took a slice of cake all we heard was a crunch coming out of his mouth! No one ever owned up to getting the baby from the third King Cake! I sure do miss them.

  8. Linda

    Darn it, we were just in NO this weekend – had some king cake, but we were supposed to buy two more to bring home. We forgot!!!! Maybe your momma will send one to us in Houston. Way to represent!!!!

  9. Jane Squeeze

    Great article. I get stuck talking King Cake every year with my boss, but this year I’ll be telling him a thing or two about this French dessert.