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.