This morning hundreds and thousands of people will line the streets of New Orleans to celebration Fat Tuesday, better known as Mardi Gras.
As a child, I can remember the excitement and anticipation this day would bring as our family headed out to the parade routes to watch the marching bands, beautiful costumes, and massive ornate floats as they’d pass by. As my daddy would securely hold me on his shoulders, I ‘d holler out, “Throw me something, Mister!” in hopes that I’d catch a beautiful long strand of beads to proudly display around my neck.
King Cakes were also a big part of the Mardi Gras season and I can remember my mother making them from scratch. Memories of her pulling out this sweet sugary pastry from our double dutch oven still makes my mouth water.
In fact, my mother-in-law surprised us by shipping two King Cakes which arrived at our front door yesterday. I’ve been licking my fingers all morning, trying to keep cinnamon icing from getting all over my keyboard. Just one slice with a cup of coffee….oh, so good!
In honor of my dear friends and family who still live in New Orleans, I’d like to share the story of how King Cakes were originated.
The King Cake is believed to have originated in France around the 12th century. These early Europeans celebrated the coming of the three wise men bearing gifts twelve days after Christmas calling it the Feast of the Epiphany, Twelfth Night, or King’s Day. The main part of the celebration was the baking of a King’s Cake to honor the three kings.
The cakes were made circular to portray the circular route used by the kings to get to the Christ Child, which was taken to confuse King Herod who was trying to follow the wise men so he could kill the Christ Child.
In these early King Cakes a bean, pea, or coin was hiding inside the cake. The person who got the hidden piece was declared king (or queen) for the day or was said to be blessed in the coming year. The bean or coin was eventually replaced with a small plastic baby to symbolize the Christ Child. The person who receives a piece of cake with the baby hidden inside is expected to carry on the carnival festivals by hosting the next King Cake party.
To order a King Cake or find out more, check out this video from Manny Randazzo’s Bakery. People stand in line for blocks just to purchase one of their cakes!
Happy Mardi Gras, N’Awlins!!!