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History of Mardi Gras King Cake + Cupcakes

February 18, 2009

I got the baby!”

Whoever gets the cupcake with the plastic baby gets a year of good luck and the honor of bringing the cake next year. Some people have actually swallowed the plastic object to avoid the burden of throwing next year’s party or buying the cake!

Brief History of the Mardi Gras King Cake + Cupcake

The traditional King Cake is round in shape like a donut with a hole in the middle. It is decorated with the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, gold and purple. The tradition of placing a bean in the cake was a way of picking a mock King for the Mardi Gras event.

A King Cake is usually filled with sweet fruit or cheese. The cake is finished with Mardi Gras decorations like beads, masks, confetti, candy and other embellishments in the traditional holiday colors.

Dating back to the 12th century, the King Cake began in France. The cake would be made of the eve of January 6th to celebrate the visit by the Three Kings to the Baby Jesus. In the 18th century the King Cake was brought by the French when they settled in Louisiana, notably New Orleans. In the 19th century, the King Cake later became more elaborate and established as a Mardi Gras tradition.

The traditional cake has its roots in Northern France. An almond-paste-filled pastry puff cake filled with frangipane called “Gateau des Rois.” However, the more popular King Cake is the southern France “Couronne” made with sweetened, egg-enriched brioche dough. The Couronne is decorated with coarse sugar crystals shaped in the form of red and green glazed stemmed cherries. The cake is topped with an apricot glaze. The New Orleans version of the French Couronne is made with cinnamon and decorated with green, purple and gold sprinkled and iced rather than glazed.

Originally, a fava bean was hidden inside the King Cake after it was baked. Whoever picked the slice of cake with the bean, which later became a small plastic baby was the benefactor of a year of good luck. However, some would call that act of good forune a mixed blessing. The so-called winner became obligated to throw the next year’s party and/or bring next year’s King Cake.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Pen Pen permalink
    February 21, 2009 6:03 am

    YAAAYY!My family is from NOLA, and I LOVE seeing new info I didn’t know!!LOOOVE it! 🙂If anyone wants to order a King Cake, make sure u get it from ‘Haydel’s Bakery’ in New Orleans! THE BEST!

  2. lisa permalink
    February 18, 2009 2:46 pm

    I’m hoping to make my first King Cake this year. I think I’ll use the traditional fava bean instead of a plastic baby. Thanks for the info!

  3. Kitten permalink
    February 18, 2009 12:12 pm

    At my sister’s workplace, each department has their own king cake, and follows the same tradition as you described here.My father worked at the same company, and he was always the one who insisted on slicing the cake. Reason? If he sliced carefully enough the knife would come into contact with the plastic baby, and then he’d hand out all the slices to his staff, then the last one for himself. He insists that this worked every time. (I know he did this so he’d avoid buying the cake for the following year.)

  4. apparentlyjessy permalink
    February 18, 2009 9:30 am

    What an interesting bit of trivia, I love these sorts of posts. Thank you! 🙂

  5. Bee and Rose permalink
    February 18, 2009 2:51 am

    Love this idea!

  6. Bee and Rose permalink
    February 18, 2009 2:50 am

    I love this idea!

  7. The Consummate Chef permalink
    February 18, 2009 1:19 am

    I would be worried about breaking a tooth on the baby!

  8. Jen Sue Wild permalink
    February 18, 2009 1:17 am

    Very interesting!

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