Easy Peasy Mardi Gras King Cake (and a little bit of history)

Laissez les bon temps rouler! Oui, cher! 

It’s Mardi Gras, one of our favorite times of the year! Not only do we adore this holiday due to its religious significance, the French origin and New Orleans history, but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention how much we love the king cake! 

Mardi Gras, also known as “Fat Tuesday” is of course a day where we get the excuse to really indulge. I mean, pancakes for dinner, and finish that off with sugary, doughy cake for dessert, all in the name of a religious practice? Yes, please. 

Ok, well, we aren’t the biggest followers of Lent. Ok, it has been a while since we gave anything up or fasted for Lent. Maybe, typing out this blog will be motivation to actually follow through with it this year, but we do respect the tradition of it, nonetheless. 

There may be some authentic king cake bakers rolling over in their graves at the site of these ingredients being used, but hey, c’est la vie!

If you aren’t familiar with the tradition of Mardi Gras, we’ll lightly touch on some of the components, but to research more extensively, you can google and read a ton of religious articles, diving as deep as you’d like. 

Lent, of course, begins on Ash Wednesday. The reason why people get so amped up, and party like it’s 1999 in New Orleans for Mardi Gras is because, well, they will be depriving themselves until Easter, during the Lenten season, or so the tradition says. Any excuse for a party, right? 

So, why the pancakes on Mardi Gras? Well, Mardi Gras is also known as Shrove Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is known as the day, of course, before Lent, that you use as a day of self-examination. It is a day you should use to reflect on what areas of life you need God’s help with. Think of it as a planning day for Lent. On this planning day, you also decide how you will get rid of all of those yummy tasting foods that you will be fasting from during Lent. Long ago, some really smart person realized that pancakes are a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season. There you have it! 

There is no reason why we should adore the little king cake baby as much as we do. Odd, yes, but also, adorable.

Now, the king cake… 

King cake enters the Mardi Gras season, which officially begins at Epiphany, on January 6th. Some people eat king cake on the day of Epiphany, which marks the arrival of the three wise men (kings) in Bethlehem. The theme of Mardi Gras, especially throughout the parades in New Orleans is most often, kings, crowns, and of course, those little babies. We’ll get to the baby.  

You’ll find the king cake in a few different styles, though we will tell you that the authentic king cake can only be made and purchased by Manny Randazzo. Message us if you’d like to argue this point. We welcome it. We receive no sponsorship of this blog by Manny Randazzo, we just seriously recommend and back that they have the most authentic king cake bakery in the US. 

But seriously, the most traditional king cake is a cinnamon roll-style dough colored with the three Mardi Gras colors: purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. Cakes may also be filled with cream cheese, praline, cinnamon, or strawberry. You will also find a tiny baby inside, now this is the fun part. 

You can’t see him, but the little baby is already hidden inside the cake, prior to icing.

Why a baby? Well, the baby represents baby Jesus. You hide the baby inside the cake. I know, that always seems sort of odd, but who are we to question tradition. Just do it. The baby symbolizes luck and prosperity to whoever finds it. You can add a bit of entertainment to it, too. Most often, if you are enjoying the cake with a group, or your family, or for us, your partner, the person who finds the baby is “king/queen for the day” or if you are having a Mardi Gras party (post-covid of course) then that person is also responsible for hosting the next Mardi Gras party. You can order your king cake online from an authentic New Orleans bakery (ahem, Manny Randanzzo) if you are not fortunate enough to be in The Big Easy (again, post-covid, of course), or you can purchase one from a bakery near you. Perhaps, like us, you are wanting to try something simple and effortless this year. Well, lucky for you, we have the easiest king cake recipe you will ever find. We promise! The only thing is, you will need to find yourself a little baby. We happened to keep ours from last year’s king cake. We know. You can’t believe we held onto it, but we did. If you don’t have one, there are some traditions that use a dried bean to hide inside the cake, so you could use that.

Just need some Preservation Hall Jazz Band music playing, and we are ready to roll!

Easy Peasy Mardi Gras King Cake

Serving Size:
16
Time:
25 minutes
Difficulty:
Easy peasy

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of cinnamon rolls (8 count each, with icing included)
  • Green, gold, purple sugar or sprinkles
  • Porcelain/plastic tiny baby (or dried bean)

Directions

  1. Place the cinnamon rolls sideways on a lightly greased cookie sheet or pan. To remain in the king cake traditional style, arrange in an oval shape.
  2. Lightly press down on the cinnamon rolls to flatten them a bit.
  3. Bake the rolls according to package instructions. We needed to add 5 minutes to cooking, perhaps due to the rolls being so close together.
  4. Insert the baby into a section of the cake, hidden, where it cannot be seen.
  5. Let cool, then frost with icing that came with the cinnamon rolls.
  6. Using the colored sugar, decorate the king cake, alternating blocks/sections of purple, gold, and green.
  7. Eat, enjoy, laissez les bon temps rouler!!

*Note- if you have children, you may want to place the baby on top, visible, as decoration. Also, it’s always a good idea to let adult guests know that there is a hidden tiny baby in a piece of the king cake, so they are aware, expecting to find something in their cake, as to avoid a dangerous situation.

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