Showing posts with label king cakes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label king cakes. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Countdown to king cakes

King cakes. Yum.

But only between 12th Night and Mardi Gras. Eating king cake during Lent -- or anytime else, for that matter -- is just so very wrong. The Associated Press tells us all:
In New Orleans people have always known what king cake is and when you should eat it.

These days that certainty is fading. Once a seasonal treat with a certain taste and texture, king cake is now eaten any time of the year by many non-traditionalists, and it takes a variety of forms.

For years, families in this city celebrated the arrival of Carnival season with king cake — an oval-shaped pastry that commemorated 12th Night, the day the three wise men were supposed to have arrived with gifts for the Baby Jesus. The season for king cakes would last through Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday ushers in Lent.

That’s as it should be, said Mardi Gras historian Errol Laborde. Like oysters, Creole tomatoes and crawfish, things are better at the proper time.

“No king cake will touch my lips before 12th Night or after Mardi Gras,” Laborde said.

For years after the early French settlers brought the tradition to New Orleans, king cake was a plain bread-like pastry topped with purple, green and gold sugar.

But, to the dismay of the traditionalists, these days king cakes can be many flavors and shapes and available all year round.

“I’m a purest,” said cookbook author Kit Wohl. “I believe king cake should be what it’s always been, plain and with a baby, but now people have gilded the lily. Now they can be made with stuffing, it can be sweet or savory.”

Some traditions remain. Each king cake contains a token, now its generally a pink, plastic baby, but it was originally a red bean. The person who gets it is supposed to supply the next king cake.

Although New Orleans is the king cake capital, many cities that have a Mardi Gras tradition have bakeries that produce some version during the season. That has meant more business for people like David Haydel Jr., 32, whose family has been baking in New Orleans for three generations. “It gradually expanded out through whole season and now, with the internet, we do king cakes all year.”