The tradition of the King Cake is part of a celebration of the New Orleans' Christian faith and believed to have started somewhere around 1870. It revolves around when the wise men brought gifts to Baby Jesus after his birth. It was a time of celebration with lots of food and gifts and was known as the "Twelfth Night Celebration" or the "The Feast of the Epiphany".
This celebration begins about 12 days after Christmas (January 6th), which is about 47 days prior to Easter Sunday and is known as Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday closes the Mardi Gras celebration as it is always celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday (Lent).
During the Mardi Gras season, a special cake is baked in honor of the three wise kings. . .which is how the King Cake gets its name. Inside each cake is a small baby, usually made of plastic, and is suppose to represent the Baby Jesus. Historically, the baby was sometimes made of porcelain or gold.
The cake is typically a ring of dough in an oval shape that is decorated with green, purple and gold icing and decoration. That would be your basic King Cake. Many bakeries these days make much more elaborate cakes that are filled with anything from praline, cream cheese and/or fruit. Once the cinnamon dough has been braided and baked, the plastic baby is inserted prior to the decorative icing and sugar sprinkles being applied.
Ever wonder what the Mardi Gras colors represent? Purple represents justice, green represents faith and gold represents power.
Each person who attends a King Cake "Party" gets a slice of the cake. The person who receives the piece with the baby in it is suppose to be blessed with luck during the coming year and is asked to host the next year's King Cake Party and to supply the King Cake.
Don't live in the Louisiana area and still want a king cake? No worries! Most bakeries will ship them for you. You can even get a King Cake themed UPS box for the shipment! This one was iced prior to shipping, so the icing doesn't look great, but it still tastes good. I understand they will now ship them without the icing already on it and you can apply it once you receive your package.
This is my friend, Lindsey. She is from the New Orleans area. Her mom, Leslie, shipped this to her while she was away at college so she could still participate in her home town tradition. Isn't that sweet? She even received a boa, Mardi Gras beads and mask to go with her King Cake!