Religious Significance of the King Cake

Epiphany, celebrated in European countries, marks the coming of the wise men that brought gifts to the Christ Child. People from the entire world celebrate Epiphany by exchanging gifts and feasting.

Epiphany is also called Little Christmas on the Twelfth Night, and is celebrated twelve nights after Christmas on King’s Day, January 6, the feast of the Epiphany. It is this day in New Orleans when King Cakes traditionally became available to purchase. However, because of the demand, King Cakes usually become widely available in the city the day after Christmas, and some bakeries sell them by special order year round.

A very popular custom that is still celebrated is the making of the “King’s Cake” which represents the three kings who brought gifts. A plastic baby is baked inside the King Cake, and the tradition is whoever receives the baby in their piece of cake must buy the next King Cake or throw the next party. King Cakes are made of cinnamon filled dough in the shape of a hollow circle. The cake is topped with a delicious glazed topping and then sprinkled with colored sugar. The three colors of the sugar are Purple (representing Justice), Green (representing Faith) and Gold (representing Power).Today the King Cakes are baked with a wide assortment of fillings inside the cake. King Cake is the preferred dessert and snack in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are eaten in New Orleans during the Carnival season. Many are shipped throughout the U.S. for those displaced New Orleanians longing for a taste of Mardi Gras. In fact, a Mardi Gras party wouldn’t be a Mardi Gras party without a King Cake.