As you may know, we are knee deep in Mardi Gras here in lower Alabama. Mardi Gras is an odd event, even to some of us that live here. One Mardi Gras tradition is the King Cake. There are many bakeries around town that make King Cakes and even a bit of competition on who makes the best one.
I had my first King Cake when I was dating my husband. He grew up in Mobile, whereas I grew up in a more rural area of the county. Mardi Gras wasn’t as big a deal where I grew up. We went to a few parades a season and that was it. Having had worked with serious Mardi Gras people over the past few years, I have learned a lot. Back to the King Cakes.
King Cakes come in different flavors, much like moon pies, there’s a flavor for everyone. The most popular may be the cream cheese filled cake. I prefer the cinnamon filled, it’s like a giant cinnamon roll. But what is a King Cake and why do we have it only during Mardi Gras?
King Cakes are rolled, filled cakes shaped like an open circle, with a plastic baby hidden inside. I still haven’t found the one in this cake, I think I may have been gypped. Please don’t choke on it. The person who gets the baby is supposed to buy the next King Cake. Colored sugar covers the glaze icing. The sugar is in Mardi Gras colors: gold (power), green (faith), and purple (Justice).
The history I’ve read links the cake with Epiphany, which is when the 3 Kings visited Jesus. It occurs 12 days after Christmas, and marks the start of the Mardi Gras season, which will last until Lent. Lent occurs six weeks before Easter. You may have noticed that the date for Easter changes year to year, so does Mardi Gras. Some years it’s early and others it’s late. It’s always nice when it falls on my birthday, most local businesses/schools close for Mardi Gras week!
Here is a link to an interesting article on the King Cake by Scientific American. Given the source, some may find fault with the information. (They like to link everything to Pagans.) Regardless, it is an interesting article on King Cakes and Mardi Gras.
There you go. The mysterious King Cake demystified. What’s your favorite flavor?