“Laissez les bons temps rouler.” The slogan of the season. Besides exuberant parades and the roads flooded with a sea of gold, green, and purple, the best part of the Mardi Gras season is the slicing and eating of the anticipated king cake. Have you ever wondered why we eat king cake? Keep reading for a deep dive into the history of this delicious dish, where it originated, and why we eat it.
History — When? Where? Why?
Traditionally, the king cake is first served on January 6 and is served until Mardi Gras Eve or Fat Tuesday (sometimes afterwards if there are leftovers, unless you celebrate Lent, in which you’d give up something). However, the traditional days to eat this cake are from January 6 through Fat Tuesday.
January 6 is known as “Three Kings Day.” The name of this beloved treat is said to have come from this day which represents the Three Wise Men who cheerfully brought gifts for Jesus, which included gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
It is said that the first king cake was introduced to Louisiana in the 1870s by the French. However, it was first made in the 12th century for the catholic celebration of Three Kings Day. From Europe to Louisiana and now in many states across the country, this seasonal cake is one that many people anticipate yearly.
Significance of the baby
Hidden in the king cake is a small, plastic baby, which is said to represent baby Jesus. Whoever has the baby in their slice is the king or queen of Mardi Gras and is said to have a prosperous year ahead. While some say that the baby represents Jesus, others argue that it is simply a symbol of good luck. Additionally, whoever finds the baby in the cake is responsible for cooking or purchasing the king cake for the following year.
Previously, in New Orleans lore, it was said that a trinket such as a bean or ring was placed inside of the cake instead of a baby. However, similar rules apply — whoever has it in their slice would be crowned queen or king of the balls which lead up to the finale on Mardi Gras.
As we know, the king cake is decorated with sprinkles and/or icing that are gold, purple, and green. Do these colors have any significance or are they simply fun, random colors? They absolutely have significance! Along with being bold, fun colors, they have deep historical significance. Gold signifies power, while green represents faith. Lastly, purple indicates justice.
Grab a plate and knife!
This cake epitomizes pure indulgence and bursts with sweetness. It consists of a fluffy, soft brioche dough and is usually filled with cinnamon, chocolate, or cream cheese. After being baked and cooled, it is topped with gold, green, and purple icing and/or sprinkles.
If you’re looking for a king cake this Mardi Gras season, Mississippi has plenty of places to get one. These places include:
- Jody’s Bakery and Caterie (Hattiesburg)
- Hub City Sweet Treats (Hattiesburg)
- Broad Street Baking Company (Jackson)
- Corner Market
- Hattiesburg, MS
- Vicksburg, MS
- Petal, MS
- McComb, MS
- Jackson, MS
- Magnolia, MS
- Laurel, MS
- Ellisville, MS
More of a DIY baker? That’s great! If you feel comfortable, share your favorite king cake recipe in the comments on the Our Mississippi Home Facebook. You can also use this recipe from Amy Nash’s blog, which has over 174 reviews and a whopping 4.91 star review!
The final slice
In short, eating this cake is a traditional celebration of Three Kings Day. While some people still uphold the sacred ritual leading up to Lent, many people eat king cake solely for the delicious taste. Whether you celebrate Three Kings Day or just enjoy eating this seasonal treat, there is no doubt that the king cake is one of the most delicious and anticipated treats, packed with a wonderful, rich history.