A Brief King Cake History
Each year, between King's Day (January 6) and Mardi Gras, we offer our own spin on a time-honored tradition: the New Orleans king cake.
You don't have to live in New Orleans or be an expert on king cake history to appreciate this beloved treat. But if you're going to participate in the fun (and delicious) yearly tradition, then it's important to have at least a basic understanding of where it came from and how it all got started.
Sucré Executive Chef Tariq Hanna embraced the tradition when he first moved to the Crescent City several years ago. He looked closely at the king cake history: what locals have loved about this unique cake, what makes it so special, and how it has evolved over the years.
Chef Tariq took what he learned, incorporated all the most beloved elements and created his own extraordinary version: an award-winning, light buttery pastry handmade with Danish dough, a light layer of cream cheese, a light glaze that combines raw cane sugar, cinnamon and glitter, and of course the colors of gold, green and purple (the official colors of Mardi Gras, representing royalty, loyalty and truth). Undeniably Mardi Gras, yet exclusive to Sucré, it's been called “the city’s first 21st-century king cake” by the New Orleans Times Picayune.
So, where did the tradition originate? Here is a quick king cake history ...
King Cake History
The origins of these colorful cakes can be traced back to the 16th century, particularly Carnival season in France. As you may already know, Carnival season starts on the Twelfth Night – which is also referred to as King’s Day. The season ends with Mardi Gras. Traditionally, the Twelfth Night is considered the last night of the Christmas celebration and can fall on January 5th or 6th. Today, most New Orleans residents now celebrate it on the 6th.
In Christian tradition, King's Day is the day that the three kings (or three wise men) came to Bethlehem to visit the baby Jesus. During Carnival season, French peasants would share a unique cake, which would have a bean hidden inside. The guest who found the bean in the piece of cake would be crowned “king” of the party, and for the following year, this person would be blessed with good fortune.
Today, most king cakes have a small baby figurine hidden inside the cake. Tradition now states that if you are the lucky person who finds the baby, then it's your turn to buy the next one. In some cases, people may also insist that you are “king for the day,” granting you certain privileges, such as being treated to lunch.
Now that You Know Your King Cake History …
Start preparing for Mardi Gras now!
We honor and respect the tradition by only selling our award-winning King Cake during Carnival season – but you can start planning early! Our cakes can be pre-ordered, ensuring that you'll be ready once Mardi Gras comes. We ship our cakes anywhere in the United States. And remember: if someone else finds the baby figurine, just make sure they know where to get their own cake: right here at ShopSucre.com.