What’s a King Cake, you ask?
Bread Winners Cafe & Bakery is only too happy to share the story:
The King Cake tradition came to New Orleans with the first French settlers and has stayed ever since. Like the rest of Mardi Gras during those early days, the king cake was a part of the family’s celebration, and really didn’t take on a public role until after the Civil War. In 1870, the Twelfth Night Revelers held their ball, with a large king cake as the main attraction.
Instead of choosing a sacred king to be sacrificed, the TNR used the bean in the cake to choose the queen of the ball. This tradition has carried on to this day, although the TNR now use a wooden replica of a large king cake. The ladies of the court pull open little drawers in the cake’s lower layer which contain the silver and gold beans. Silver means you’re on the court; gold is for the queen.
With the TNR making a big deal over the king cake in the society circles, others in the city started having king cake parties. These parties particularly among children, became very popular and have also continued to today.
Up through the 1950s, neighborhoods would have parties. One family would start the ball rolling after Twelfth Night, and they’d continue on weekends through Carnival. Whoever got the baby (the coin or bean had changed to a ceramic or porcelain baby about an inch long by then) in the king cake was to hold the next party. You can still hear stories from folks who were kids during the Great Depression of what their mommas would do to them if they came home with the baby from a king cake party, since so many families were short on money then.
Today, schools and offices are the main sites for king cake parties these days. Someone will pick up a cake at the bakery on the way downtown and leave it out for everyone to grab a piece, or mom will send one to school on a Friday for the kids to share. You an always tell the locals from the transfers in any given office because the local knows what to do when he or she gets the baby. The foreigner just drops it on the counter or some such, and possibly might not even bring the next cake. Sacrilege.
You can order your Mardi Gras King Cake by calling Bread Winners Cafe & Bakery at 214-754-0099. They need 48 hours advance notice and cakes are $25.99 each.