From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
A king cake (sometimes rendered as kingcake) is a type of cake associated with Carnival traditions. It is popular in this season in the area of the United States which celebrates Carnival ranging from Mobile, Alabama to South-Western Louisiana, centered on New Orleans. The cakes have a small trinket inside, and the person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket has various priveledges and obligations.
New Orleans King Cake
The king cake of the New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition comes in a number of styles. The most simple, said to be the most traditional, is a ring of twisted bread similar to that used in brioche, topped with icing or sugar, usually dyed purple, green, and gold, the traditional Carnival colors. Some varieties have filling inside, the most common being cream cheese followed by marzipan.
The season for king cake is from twelveth night or Epiphany, 6 January, through Mardi Gras Day. Some organizations or groups of friends may have "king cake parties" every week through the Carnival season.
The person who gets the trinket is declared king or queen of the party, sometimes given a paper, plastic, or costume jewelry crown or tiara. Sometimes there are seperate cakes to select the male and female royalty; the one for women is sometimes called a queen cake. The monarch is usually obligated to supply the next king cake and/or host the next party. King cake parties may be held at the homes of people who live on or near the routes of Carnival parades.
King cake parties in New Orleans are doccumented back to the 18th century.
In some office work places, a variation on this tradition is simplified so that workers share a king cake at lunch or during the day, with the person getting the trinket having to bring the cake for the next work day, with no other ceremony.
Some Krewes select their monarchs via king cake.
The most traditional trinket in the cake is a bean, still seen in some European traditions but rare in U.S. king cakes. It is echoed, however, in some Krewes' use of a gilded bean trinket.
By far the most common trinket from the 1950s on is a small plastic doll of an unclad baby. Many people say this represents the baby Jesus, tied in to the connection with Epiphany. Many people attach no particular religious significance to the cake or trinket. The "baby in the king cake" was said to have become common after a local bakery chain got a large shipment of such plastic baby dolls from Hong Kong very cheaply in the 1950s, and some people say there is little further significance to the baby, but earlier ceramic baby dolls as trinkets are doccumented in New Orleans back to at least the 1930s. Running a distant second to babies, a token representing a king wearing a crown is the next most common design of token. Tokens in the form of other figures have also been seen historically, and starting in the 1990s again became more common in the more expensive "gourmet" varieties of king cake.