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I wrote an article last February for a publication called Inside Northside. The article was about local bakers who make their king cakes from scratch. This one came from a bakery called Marguerite's: A Taste of heaven. Inside every King Cake is a treasure, be it a bean or a plastic baby or a porcelain doll. Whoever gets the treasure in his/her slice has to purchase the next cake for the pre Mardi Gras celebrations.
The king cake traditionally was served on King’s Day, the Feast of the Epiphany. In Louisiana it is sweetened yeast bread or brioche, sprinkled with Mardi Gras colored sugars of purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. The colorful topping is representative of a crown in honor of the three wise men who visited the Christ child on Twelfth Night, January 6. This is the official beginning date of our carnival season.
The cake began with French settlers around 1870 who continued a custom which dates back to the twelfth century in France when a similar cake, known as a galette, was baked to celebrate the coming of the Magi twelve days after Christmas with gifts for the holy child on King’s Day. The baby inside the cake symbolizes baby Jesus. In times past, coins, beans, pecans, or porcelain dolls were baked inside the cake. Today the babies are in most cases offered with the cake for the buyer to stuff into the cake from underneath.
Cakes are usually round or oval to indicate the route taken by the Magi who avoided King Herod’s soldiers. Originally, choosing the Queen of Mardi Gras was decided by drawing the baby from the cake. Today, Louisiana tradition dictates that getting the baby in a slice of King Cake indicates who will be the next to purchase a King Cake to share with friends.
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