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!

BW

PS:  WORDPRESS PUT THIS POST ON THEIR HOME PAGE, AND I’D LIKE TO OFFICIALLY SAY WELCOME TO ALL OUR NEWCOMERS AND ANNOUNCE THAT ALL COMMENTS WILL BE ENTERED IN A RANDOM DRAWING FOR A BAG OF CARNIVAL CAKE flavored coffee from Community Coffee.  So, bring on those comments!  Thank you, WordPress Folks!

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Comments

Hello Baby! — 67 Comments

  1. re: Carnival. I heard that carnival came from the Latin carne vale, or farewell (vale) to meat (carne). And Lent is supposed to be a time of fasting completely from meat.

    Whatever.

    And I do love those King Cakes!!

    • “The seasons and days of penance….(Lent, and each Friday in the memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises…pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (chartiable and missionary works).” From the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

      Unfortunately, in today’s materialistic world, we focus more on Mardi Gras and much less on Lent, but there are still many who try to live this according to their faith. It’s about so much more than just not eating meat on Fridays. 🙂 Just happened upon your blog through WordPress – loved the posting on the King cake and the babies – brought back memories of the days when lawyers didn’t care if you baked little babies into cakes!

  2. I am growing my Lent mustache ala Gregg Allman…
    I ain’t Catholic but I give up Catholic girls for Lent but no one notices.

    Baby Jesus baked in a cake beats being trapped in those big red brick buildings with pictures where the windows ought to be.

    Enjoy. I think we are having beads for dinner Tuesday.

  3. Before plastic and law suits, a red bean (Kidney bean) was baked inside the cake. Like you BW, the “Plain” is my favorite. However I did have a piece last night with Cream Cheese filling that was pretty darn good. Especially after it was warmed in the “Nuker”. *** Another Historical note*** Mardi Gras was first celebrated in Mobile, Alabama.

  4. So one of my favorite Christmas memories (yes, I know it’s Mardi Gras, but indulge me) is one from six or seven years ago. I was at a friends, and some mutual friends arrived with their two young daughters, Maddie about age 5 and Sophie about age 3. When I asked Maddie what she got for Christmas, she replied…”a choking hazard”.

    To add to the historical notes, supposedly the purple, green and gold represent the Passion, hope, and rewards of a Christian life. But I’ve also been told that they mean justice, faith, and power…so who knows. All I know is that King Cake is delicious. Happy Mardi Gras!

  5. In France sometimes there’s a tiny crown baked into the cake. Centuries ago they did put a bean into it. I suppose that’s where the kidney bean Steffi mentioned came from.The lawyers probably did their part, but tradition played a role, too.

    We never had Kings’ Cake when I was growing up in the midwest. But on “fat Tuesday”, every church in town would be having pancake suppers and every homemaker would be baking.The point was to use up all the fat in the household before the season of Lent began on Ash Wednesday – as I understand it, that’s where Fat Tuesday originally got its name and then it was translated into Mardi Gras.

    It’s a good time, that’s for sure! Hope you’re enjoying it.

  6. Our grocery store had some gorgeous King Cakes today. But, those things are expensive!! I can’t see paying $11 for a 8″ wide x 2″ tall, one layer cake! I can bake my own and color the sugar toppings too.

    As for the babies, I always liked the tradition of having them in the cake. Never heard of the bean in it before. I would probably get it and break another tooth!! LOL

    And we have a group here that has their annual pancake day on Fat Tuesday. We were supposed to have dinner their Tuesday night but, forgot it. OOPS! They use the proceeds to help buy Toys for Tots at Christmas.

  7. AND its a long holiday weekend, Valentines day, Presidents day, Mardi Gras, then Ash Wednesday.

    I am pretty sure the kids get Presidents day off school, and we did get Mardi Gras. If we still do I don’t know. So does that mean that the kids got a Sat. to Wednesday weekend?

    Sweeeeeet!

  8. Hi,
    I have spent some time in France and it is interesting to note that the cake with the bean baked inside (now often a little ornament of a king) is called Galette Des Rois and it is a traditional cake for the 6th of January called the Epiphany. The cake if store bought comes with a paper crown and whoever gets the piece with the ornament (in the old days a bean) is symbolically king for the day. It is typically the youngest child who decides who gets each piece of cake prior to hunt beginning.
    I was in France this year on the day and the cakes in the stores are still sold with the ornament inside. There are no pending lawsuits that I am aware of – indeed, different countries different laws.

    It sure sounds like the festival you are enjoying is connected. Thanks for sharing
    Cheers,
    David
    http://www.TheWonderTechnique.com

    • David, I had to pull your comment out of the spam box. If you have more than one hyperlink, the bot balks. So, that is why you did not see it right away. Thanks for the French edition . . yes it must be the same celebration.

  9. WOW! I remember this!!! We used to do this for our Spanish class. My Spanish teacher would use cupcakes and place a walnut inside. Whoever had the walnut would be the King or Queen for the day!!

    … this just took me back down memory lane lol

    • Hi Vy! Well, it’s a hard plastic and that won’t happen, but the hostess cutting is very careful to make sure the baby is still hidden even if she sees it during the slicing! But, since we NOW insert them ourselves, I make a mark so I know where not to cut OR some hostesses insert the baby after the cutting, just as I did in the photo shot of baby hanging out!

  10. I make my own King Cake – it’s a puff pastry filled with almond paste and I bake a silver charm into it. Everyone knows it’s in there somewhere so they poke around their piece before eating it. I DO like the colors on the cake in your picture.

    • Hey Martha! Welcome to the bayou! I would almost kill for your recipe, as my sister JUST TODAY told me about this very King Cake (which I have NEVER had before) and she bought it at a famous bakery in Lafayette, LA. If you want to share, you can email it to me at the bottom of one of my blog pages in the contact box, hint hint! I have recipes on here you are welcome to use, too! Thanks for the comment! Come back soon because Community Coffee gives away a gift each week from a random drawing from comments.

  11. 1. Baby in a cake: hilarious. Awesome. Baby cake.
    2. If you end up drawing my little old name in your drawing, I’d love for you to send a plastic baby too if you can. I’d love to bake that cake for my Armenian coworkers!

  12. Yes, the cake I bought at Poupart Bakery in Lafayette was called a French style king cake made with puff pastry and filled with what they called almondine. It came with a little plastic baby and with a paper crown encircling the cake. It was very tasty!

    • You know, if you don’t win, you can order the coffee yourself AND get a 20% discount by typing “bayou” in the promotional code box. ANYONE can do that for ANY ITEM they sell!!!!

  13. Beads on Tuesday, I told you worst excuse for yankeeized cajun food and fun I ever saw but it was a stinky factory and the poor girl tried hard. I am inviting her down to Loozy my next trip. Claims to be a Native American too. Heck I claim that.

    Something about this thread reminds me of this…..
    I don’t know why really…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pFiFFtlmes

    Martha I like books and thread so share that recipe.

    Hope this all works. I want to catch some real fish soon.

  14. Oh my gosh, I would love a tiny baby! You can email me at breadtobeeaten@gmail.com . We could talk about how a Baby Cake in Armenia could work… (just so you know, I made a cemetary cake for halloween… people loved that… one of my friends said, “Halloween… isn’t that when people eat goose?” And I said, “No… that’s when we eat cemetaries.” I wrote a blog about it if your interested: http://breadtobeeaten.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/scary-things/

    Anyway, email me!

  15. I sure enjoyed my coffee last time there was a drawing. Mardi Gras I have never been but we have a local Mardi Gras party that we attend each year.

  16. Okay, friends and visitors, it’s time for a RANDOM DRAWING:

    Random Integer Generator

    Here are the numbers, generated with randomization from 2010-02-20:

    34

    Timestamp: 2010-02-20 01:11:19 UTC

    I think the winner is autonomouspice!!!! Okay, I need your mailing address. Send it to me in the Bayou Woman page contact form. Congratulations! Hope you enjoy your coffee!

    Thanks, everyone, for all the great comments and interaction!

  17. I meant to send this earlier, but was buried under grading. I teach high school English in Mexico City and here we celebrate with a Rosca de Reyes -roughly translates to wreath of kings- on Epiphany, January 6. It’s a wreath-shaped cake very much like a King Cake (being from next door to LA I have enjoyed King Cake a time or two) with a plastic baby inside, or several if it’s one of the giant-sized cakes they sell for big celebrations like at the office. A student told me that the wreath shape represents the circuitous route the Three Kings took back home to avoid returning to King Herod, and the babies represent the children that were slain by King Herod when he learned of Jesus’s birth.

    And in Mexico, if you get the baby it is your responsibility to make (or buy) the tamales for Dia de Candelaria on February 2. That holiday represents the day that Jesus was presented in the temple. Here it is combined with an indigenous corn ceremony from pre-Hispanic Mexico when the belief was that the first men were made of corn.

    Then there’s the Greek New Year’s cake which I think might be related since it is a cake with a coin hidden inside that you eat on New Year’s Day (in honor of Saint Basil). If you get the coin, you are thought to be lucky for the year!

    I’ve really been enjoying your blog since my best friend sent it to me a month ago…good luck with your house!

    • Oh Heidi, honey, you post a wallop of a blog comment!!!! And I LOVE the history, which I’ve never heard before. And I’m wondering, which one of our readers is your best friend? And does he/she comment or does she/he just lurk? Well, welcome to the bayou, and I’m really glad you enjoy it here. There are some great folks who stop by and entertain us from time to time. Love to count you among them! Merci beaucoup, Heidi!

  18. In a few weeks I figs should be ripe! Yummy! time to start cooking jam. Last year someone posted several recipes w/lemon, bourbon etc. I printed & put in my safe place. My trouble is NOW, I’ve misplaced my safe place. So if anyone has similiar recipes…..would you consider sharing……

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