King cakes are frosted wreaths of braided dough that NOLA bakeries sell (and locals binge on) between King's Day (the coming of the wise men bearing gifts to Jesus 12 days after Christmas, January 6th) and Fat Tuesday, the last day of indulgence before lent.
Originally, King Cakes were a simple ring of dough with a small amount of decoration. Today's King Cakes are much more festive. After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the "baby" is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar toppings in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold.
Just imagine how creative you can get with these things!
The custom was eating the cake on January 6th to honor the Three Kings, originating in France and Spain. Later, the cake was brought to the Americas, where it seems to have been most heartily adopted in New Orleans (as well as Mexico and other parts of Latin America).
Like clockwork, these now familiar boxes fill the grocery store
entryways for a solid 2 months.
Inside every cake is a tiny baby (generally plastic now, but sometimes this baby might be made of porcelain or even gold). The tradition of having King Cake Parties has evolved through time, and the person who receives the slice of cake with the baby is asked to continue the festivities by hosting the next King Cake party.
It's kind of creepy if you ask me, but it's tradition.
King Cake baby (aka Jesus) sans frosting.
Dinner party idea: individual King Cakes. I might just try it this year.
Remember: even if you don't live in New Orleans, you can still celebrate Mardi Gras by ordering (or making) your own King Cake!! You won't be sorry.