What is King Cake?
King Cake has its origins in the Catholic celebration of Christ’s birth. The “King” of the cake can easily refer to Christ himself or the three wise kings who came to visit Him at birth. The King Cake is made of sweet cake dough that is typically twisted into a ring to mimic the shape of a crown. It is then decorated with icing, various toppings, and somewhere within the cake is a clay or plastic baby figurine!
What happens if I find the baby?
Traditionally speaking, if you have the slice of cake that contains the figurine, it’s a sign of good fortune. It also means that you will be the one to provide the King Cake at the next gathering!
The different kinds of King Cakes
One interesting thing about King Cake is that you’re likely to find slightly different versions of it in each part of the world you visit. The King Cake you stumble across in Mexico is distinct from the one you’ll find on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
Mexico: Rosca de Reyes
Rosca de Reyes, or Three Kings Cake, is a distinct oval cake with the prominent colors of red, white and green displayed in the form of crystallized or candied fruit. Mexican tradition sees this cake enjoyed 12 days after Christmas, on January 6. It’s meant to be eaten as part of a social reunion of family and friends as they share memories and reflect on their kinship.
The person who finds the baby figurine in their slice of rosca de reyes is the one who will host Candlemas Day on February 2. Likewise, it is also a tradition to include the figure of a Magi King in this cake and the person who finds it is the one who will foot the bill for Candlemas!
France: Galette des Rois
You’ll find this cake to be made up of flaky puff pastry layers with a center of frangipane, apple or similar fruit. It may also be affixed with candied fruits and sugar and visually resemble a bundt cake. In this cake, the lucky recipient of the baby will also receive a paper crown to wear.
New Orleans: King Cake for Mardi Gras
This is the King Cake that you know and love and is a great Mardi Gras Dessert. This cake is distinct to Louisiana in the American South and crops up in bakeries as Mardi Gras approaches. This version is made with a buttery dough and traditionally packed with cinnamon, sugar and pecans then topped with colorful icing. The frosted colors of green, gold and purple represent faith, justice and power. This cake, in all its decadent glory, is usually eaten as a last blast before the austerity of Lent.
In its many shapes and forms, King Cake is a festive and colorful representative of the energy found within a New Year.