The Importance of the King Cake

The King Cake is one of the most important items associated with Mardi Gras celebrations, both in the city and wherever Mardi Gras parties are held, that most Mardi Gras rookies will overlook in theirpreparations. This is a shame since the King Cake is one of the most delicious and culturally significant items that have been associated with Mardi Gras celebrations from the very beginning.

A traditional King Cake is traditionally an oblong or oval shaped cinnamon dough cake, glazed with frosting and sprinkled with colored sugar. What colors you ask? Purple, Green, and Gold, of course! King Cakes are available in all sorts of colors and flavored fillings such as cream cheese, strawberry, and apple.

But unlike other ordinary cakes the fun with a King Cake isn’t simply limited to its taste. Hidden on the underside (after baking) of each King Cake is a small plastic figurine in the shape of a baby. Whoever finds the baby is officially the King or Queen of the party and gets the honor of supplying the next King Cake or throwing the next Mardi Gras Party. A few Superkrewes in New Orleans, the ones who organize the larger parades, even use the King Cake as determining who will be their King or Queen for that year’s float based on who finds the baby. In New Orleans slang, it is referred to as “Who got da baby?”

The King Cake season officially opens on King’s Day, January 6, the feast of the Epiphany. Many people in the New Orleans area will start having King Cake parties in the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras. It is not uncommon for offices and schools in Louisiana to have King Cake on a nearly daily basis. Many people attach such cultural significance and importance to the King Cake that it is regarded as just as an important tradition as the Mardi Gras parades. This was especially the case in 2006, the first Mardi Gras season following Hurricane Katrina, as the bakeries in Louisiana were flooded with King Cake orders from both within and outside of the state. Having lost so much in the hurricane but not willing to sacrifice tradition many displaced Louisianans turned to the King Cake to give them that taste of home.