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Sweet Mardi Gras!
Once a year
These colorful pastries come out once a year, and it is the same time where parades of floats and people flood the streets of New Orleans. That's right, it is everyone's favorite sweet treat during Mardi Gras, the king cake. These purple, green, and gold pastries are filled with a colorful history.
Haydels, Rouses, and local bakeries in Louisiana make this special treats once a year from early Jan. until Mardi Gras Day, also known as Fat Tuesday. Royal Blend is a cafe located in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans. This little cafe has been making king cakes for the past four years, offering both small and large sizes.
A work of art
These yearly treats are prepared many ways with different ingredients. The one thing that stays the same is the dough is prepared the night before and placed covered in a refrigerator to allow the dough to rise. The cinnamon cakes are then flattened out with a special blend of seasonings, mainly cinnamon and nutmeg, is spread in the center of the dough. Some places like to get adventurous with their kind cakes and make special fillings such as cream cheese, strawberry, fig and goat cheese, and there are even Nutella filled. The non-edible baby is placed randomly before the dough gets rolled.
The cinnamon and perfectly seasoned dough in rolled into a large loaf, where it is rolled out to approximately 30 inches for a large sized king cake. The large rolled up tube is cut in half and formed into a circle where it is then placed in the oven to bake into what everyone in Louisiana and surrounding areas know as a king cake. Once the baking is complete the cakes cool for 20 minutes before being iced and sprinkled with colored sugar, typically the Mardi Gras colors.
How likely are you to try it?
Why purple, green, and gold?
The king cake stands for Mardi Gras in New Orleans and it's surrounding areas but, not many people know the history of this interesting pastry or the history behind it's colors. The name "king cake" comes from the three kings in the Bible. Jan. 6 is the Twlfth Night or the Eve of Epiphany, the night before the celebration of the Magi's visit to the infant Jesus. The tradition of the king cake starts Jan. 6 and runs through Fat Tuesday.
The colors of the cakes are typically purple, green, and gold. However, in New Orleans you can find black and gold or even purple and gold. But, why purple, green, and gold? These colors represent something, purple is royalty, green is faith, and gold stands for power. The colors were originally chosen to represent Mardi Gras back in 1872 when the Russian Grand Duke Alexis Alexis Alexandrovich Romanoff was visiting New Orleans. Purple, green, and gold were his house colors. In 1892 the parade of Rex had a theme of "Symbolism of Colors" which gave meaning to the purple, green, and gold.
Don't eat it!
Plastic babies, inside of my cake?
Technically, a king cake is not a cake. These light, fluffy, and sweet desserts resemble a croissant or cinnamon roll, sometimes a combination of the two. The babies inside the dessert hold different meanings, but there is one that is widely known. When a baby is found in that person's slice, that person is obligated to purchase the next king cake.
However, there is a history behind that baby inside your dessert. The baby used to be a bean that was taken from the Roman Empire. The person who got the bean in their king cake was considered the "king". These traditions were brought to New Orleans by the French and Spanish and have been associated with Mardi Gras for over 300 years.
Even Emril has a recipe for one
There is a story and history behind everything in New Orleans, even something as simple as a dessert. The city is filled with history and Mardi Gras traditions are no different.
Next time you are in town for Mardi Gras find a local bakery and try their version of the king cake. Be careful though, there is a chance you will be bringing some home to share with others.