YOU MAY HAVE STARTED to see these jewel-toned cakes pop up in your local grocery store. That means one thing: It’s Mardi Gras season. (This year, Mardi Gras falls on February 13.)
Reportedly brought to New Orleans from France in the late 19th century, king cake is a celebratory, vibrant dessert often likened to brioche and cinnamon rolls, though some bakeries use a breakfast danish dough as the base. And unless you live in Louisiana or Mississippi, there’s a good chance your grocery store’s version will fall short of your expectations. In that case, we have two solutions: You can make your own, or you can order one from a Southern bakery.
King Cake Traditions
According to New Orleans food critic, radio host, and author Tom Fitzmorris, king cake is “a widespread excuse to have a party.” That’s where the tradition of placing a small trinket inside the cake comes in.
According to Fitzmorris, this trinket was originally a gold- or silver-plated bean. But since the 1930s, the most common surprise in a king cake is a small plastic baby. Fitzmorris claims the partygoer who gets the piece with the baby in it must throw a party no later than a week from that moment. At the very least, that person must buy the next king cake. And what usually comes with a king cake? A party. So, the party train continues.
How to Make King Cake
King Cake is made from a rich, brioche-like dough with a buttery cinnamon-sugar filling accented with toasted pecans. For our version, we baked this celebratory cake in a Bundt pan and finished it with decorating sugars in the signature Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. For a traditional touch, use the optional toy baby.
The Best Mail-Order King Cake
Many people who want to celebrate Mardi Gras from afar aren’t able to acquire an authentic king cake—or are they? We rounded up seven classic, unfilled king cakes from some of the most popular bakeries in Louisiana and Mississippi. All were made by hand and baked to order, and they ranged in price from $45.99 to $69.95, including overnight shipping to our Boston headquarters.
The Best Mail-Order King Cakes
Even if you're not in New Orleans, you can still get an authentic taste of Mardi Gras—delivered. Which mail-order king cake was our all-around favorite?
Did you grow up eating king cake? What’s your idea of the perfect version? Let us know in the comments!