Sweet colorful King Cakes are a fun part of a Mardi Gras celebration. Even though I live in the Midwest, I like to enjoy the treat for the annual festivity. One time I baked a King Cake and it was good but now I have a better way to get one – I order a King Cake from a bakery in Mardi Gras country.
Today, the Louisiana Tourism Coastal Coalition sent me a handy list of bakeries, donut shops and grocery stores throughout parishes along coastal Louisiana that not only bake tasty King Cakes, they also ship them anywhere in the United States.
This is a list I’m going to use and keep for future reference. Note all the different additions and flavors that are now added to King Cakes. A worthy goal, I think, is to try every one of them.
The history of how King Cakes came to the United States has been traced to France around the 1870s. On the Christian calendar, the 12th day after Christmas is celebrated as the date that the gift-bearing Magi visited the baby Jesus. Mardi Gras season begins on Jan. 6 of each year and ends on Fat Tuesday. This year Mardi Gras falls on Tuesday, March 4.
As part of the celebration, it is traditional to enjoy a cake in honor of the three kings – King Cake. The traditional King Cake looks like a giant cinnamon roll or coffee cake. It is made of braided dough filled with a cinnamon mixture, baked into an oval shape and then topped with super-sweet white icing.
The icing is then sprinkled with Mardi Gras colors – purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power. Some folks drape Mardi Gras beads over the top of the cake and remove them before cutting.
But it is what is hidden inside the cake that many people look for. A small plastic baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, is slipped into the underside of the cake after it is baked. Custom says that the person who finds the one-inch baby will be rewarded with good luck. In our celebration, that person also gets a small prize. In Louisiana, it traditionally means that the person who finds the baby is responsible for bringing King Cake to the next party or gathering. Although I love King Cake, my diet doesn’t need multiple helpings of that calorie-laden sweet throughout the long Mardi Gras celebration.
Here is the list of bakeries shared by the Louisiana Coastal Coalition if you would like to order one yourself:
Bertinot’s Best Bakery
Houma (Terrebonne Parish)
Bertinot’s signature adjustment is to use its famous “Chix de Femme” dough, usually used to make sweet buns, instead of the more traditional cinnamon dough. Special flavors include pina colada and pecan praline.
Locations in Terrebonne and St. Mary parishes (East Houma, West Houma and Morgan City)
800-226-6282, ext. 118
This locally owned grocery store has created unique king cake packages that can be shipped throughout the continental United States. Specialties include the “Bayou Alligator” (pistachio coconut Bavarian fusion), “Voodoo Queen” (raspberry filling and chocolate silk icing) and a Kid’s Pack that lets the youngest bakers decorate a cake at home.
Lake Charles (Calcasieu Parish)
This donut shop creates king cakes in more than 25 flavors, with house specialties of pecan praline, pralines and cream, and pecan fudge. Other interesting flavors include “Zulu,” a blend of coconut cream filling with chocolate and coconut icing, and “Scrap,” which is whatever the employees choose.
Jefferson (Jefferson Parish)
Haydel’s ships its delicacies all over the world, all year long. This is one of the bakeries that creates various shaped cakes – hearts for Valentine’s Day, candy canes at Christmastime, even the traditional fleur de lis. Flavors include chocolate chip brownie and strawberry cream cheese.
Manny Randazzo King Cakes
Metairie (Jefferson Parish)
504-456-1476 or 866-456-1476
Manny is the second generation of his family to master the art of baking king cakes. The family got its start in Chalmette (St. Bernard Parish), but today Manny practices his craft in nearby Metairie. In 2012 he earned the title of “King King Cake.” In addition to the traditional cinnamon cake, Manny will incorporate pecan praline, apple, cream cheese, lemon, strawberry … or “royal,” which is all the flavors but pecan praline, quartered off on the cake.
New Iberia (Iberia Parish)
The twist here is the use of donut dough for the cake, which can come with Bavarian cream, chocolate, cream cheese, lemon or raspberry filling … and the additional decadence of a “bon pecan” topping.
Locations in St. Bernard and St. Tammany parishes
The Randazzo family has been making king cakes for decades (see reference to Manny Randazzo above), in both traditional and filled styles. Nonna’s fillings include apple, cream cheese, cream cheese/pecan praline, pecan praline and strawberry cream.
Locations throughout Louisiana’s coastal parishes
For more information about Mardi Gras celebrations all along the coast, visit www.visitlouisianacoast.com/mardi-gras.