Hello Baby!

Open my kitchen drawer and there, nestled among the hot pads, koozies, and clothes pins, you just might see . . .

three little plastic babies.  And then you would scratch your head like Stan Laurel and do a double take, mentally asking yourself the question, “What in the world are THOSE for?”

Unless, of course, you are from south Louisiana.  And THEN you would understand.  These babies serve a very special purpose.

It is the honor of one little naked plastic baby to be inserted secretly somewhere into a delicious cake.

And this is not just any old cake.  This is a very special cake called a . . .

King Cake. This particular King Cake is a plain cinnamon one, sort of like a huge cinnamon roll. In the old days, when people had more sense, the babies were baked right into the cakes, which made for lots of fun to see who would get the piece of cake with the baby inside.

Why? Because the whole point of the “getting the baby” is to signify that you were “king” of the party, and you would host the next party and buy the next King Cake.

But why do I have King Cake babies hiding in my drawer? Because back when there were more mouths to feed than extra money for frivolities like King Cake, I bought a cake and saved the baby to make my own King Cakes. I mean, a King Cake IS NOT a King Cake without the baby.

Why? Because the baby represents Baby Jesus. Why? I have no clue, other than it has something to do with The Epiphany.  King Cakes hit the shelves here on the 12th night, or the 12th day after Christmas, which is January 6th.  I will leave it to my history, culture, tradition buffs to educate us on the rest of that.

But because the cakes display the colors of Mardi Gras–purple, green, and gold, it seems that The Epiphany and Mardi Gras must all be part of the same religious celebration.  Mardi Gras did not originate in New Orleans, and was called “Carnival” at its inception, but we won’t go into all that here.

And don’t take me for a dummy, I KNOW what Fat Tuesday is all about.  It’s the last big blowout before giving something up for lent, which starts the day after Fat Tuesday, called Ash Wednesday.

Every bakery and grocery store in south Louisiana bakes some version, or multiple versions, of the King Cake.  Since our society thrives on bigger and better, there are now cream-filled and fruit-filled King Cakes. I personally still prefer the plain cinnamon . . . because it was treat enough back then, and it’s treat enough now.

And since our society seems to have no common sense at all anymore, they stopped baking the babies inside the cakes around the mid 1980’s due to the potential of a choking hazard.

So from 12th night until Fat Tuesday, those three colors are prominently displayed everywhere we look, including . . .

Zapp’s, Louisiana-made potato chips . . . but not just ANY potato chips . . .

Cajun Crawtators, just one of Zapp’s many Louisiana-flavored chips!

So, welcome to Mardi Gras, mon ami.  Folks are lining the streets in town for miles, waiting for the floats to pass by, and the costumed Krewe members to toss them some beads and trinkets to the chants of,

“THROW ME SOMETHING, MISTER!!!!!”

Just don’t throw me a King Cake!  And now tell me what you’re doing during the next 4 days of Mardi Gras?

After you leave me a comment, please hop over and read Shoreacres” little blog post about the Courir de Mardi Gras, which I talked about last year and mentioned how much I’d like to go . . . .

BW

PS:  THIS WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED BACK ON FEBRUARY 14, 2010 AND, I HOPE YOU ENJOY THIS POST OVER THE WEEKEND WHILE I’M HEADED OUT ON A NEW CARNIVAL ADVENTURE !  

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Comments

Hello Baby! — 13 Comments

  1. My mouth is watering as I’m reading this post and drinking my coffee…….a piece of king cake would really get my morning off to a good start!

  2. That sounds so good. I see them in the store but, they are so expensive. One of these days, I am going to splurge and get one. I did bake a cake today for hubby for a Valentine treat. It is a fruit cocktail cake and he loves them.

    • B.W. actually has a recipe for King Cake somewhere on this blog. If you decide to make one and don’t have a baby, you could do what they did YEARS ago…they put a Kidney bean in the cake. Like BW, I too prefer the traditional cake.

      • Hey lady! That’s what the little search bar is for! I try to make things as easy as I possibly can! If you’re like me, Steph, all store-bought King Cakes are over-priced!! J baked some at Vo-tec again this year and brought one home the other day. He did a heck of a job! It was plain with the butter, cinnamon, sugar filling like a cinnamon bun, and very, very good!

    • Cammy, I have an easy King Cake recipe that’s really a cheater made with canned crescent rolls, and then there’s a more traditional one where you have to proof the dough and all that jazz!!!

      • I found the ez to do cake and I pinned it to my Pinterest boards. I think I will try it with a cinnamon and cream cheese filling instead of the fruit. That should be a bit closer to the original one.

    • In East Texas? Now, that’s a stretch for me. As in Kilgore area? Just doesn’t seem right! Yep, I go for the old-style plain ones, too, Bill.

    • From TX to MS, looks like King Cakes are spreading far and wide, like my hips if I eat more than my fair share! LOL! Plain cinnamon and sugar wasn’t good enough down south La. They’ve taken to filling them with flavored fillings, like pie filling, mixed with cream cheese. Now all that fancy stuff might taste good, but in my way of thinking, that’s NOT what a King Cake was ever meant to be. So, I’m sticking to the plain ones!!!

  3. Hi, BW, normally I just lurk since I’m a long way from the Bayou, but I have to jump in here! I think your King Cake is clearly a descendant of the French Couronne des Rois—‘the Crown of the Kings’—which is a special cake made to celebrate Epiphany, the feast that honours the visit of the Three Kings or wise men to the Baby Jesus and is traditionally celebrated on 6 January. In France this cake is made in the shape of a ring, with a gold paper ‘crown’ placed on the top, and a small ‘feve’ either baked into the cake or slid under it so that someone gets it along with their slice of cake. The feve is a tiny figure, usually of ceramic, which can be almost anything: a bird, a little man, there are many variations, but whoever gets the feve has good luck for the coming year. There are many regional variants of the cake itself: some are a rich brioche, some include crystallised fruits, some have sugar sprinkled on top, etc. You can see a picture of a typical couronne from Provence here:

    http://www.marmiton.org/recettes/recette_couronne-des-rois-provencale-aux-fruits-confits_26555.aspx

    I think your King Cake, with the little figures in it, clearly comes from this old French tradition. (Although it’s a lot more colourful than any cake I’ve ever seen in France, and probably a lot sweeter, too.)

    Incidentally, Mardi Gras is a different thing altogether from Epiphany. Epiphany more or less ends the Christmas season, while Mardi Gras is a preparation for the season of Lent which starts the next day (‘Ash Wednesday’). Mardi Gras, ‘fat Tuesday’, is literally the day you eat up all the butter and eggs which you would avoid during Lent. In England, the same tradition is honoured in a slightly different way: the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is often called Pancake Day, and it is traditional to eat pancakes for dinner on that night, again to use up butter and eggs.

    It’s lovely the way the same festivals have generated so many different, but related, traditions!

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