A number of countries make their own version of the King Cake to be eaten at the end of the Christmas period, or January 12th. It originated in France over 300 years ago as a dry bake, with sugar on top. It is now a sugary, sweet and iced Danish type bake. The dough is braided with a cinnamon centre in the shape of a hollow circle. The top is glazed and covered in brightly coloured sugar, and the cake often has a small plastic baby underneath to represent the baby Jesus. The person who finds this small doll receives a number of privileges for the evening.

Ingredients and recipes

As King Cake is made in so many different parts of the world, there are numerous ingredients and ways to make it, however, you will commonly find the following ingredients used:

  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Yeast
  • Water
  • Sugar, both white and brown
  • Eggs
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Flour

Purple, green and gold are often chosen to decorate the cake as a nod to the three kings who visited Jesus 12 days after his birth. Purple is the symbol for justice, green is the symbol for faith and gold is the symbol for power.

The King Cake trinket

The small plastic, or sometimes porcelain, baby found in or underneath the cake is often coloured green, purple or gold. In some areas, a fava bean is used to represent Jesus instead.

For many people, this trinket is more a symbol of luck or prosperity. Whoever finds it in their piece of cake becomes the king or queen for the evening. Traditionally, it means they’re also in charge for throwing next year’s Mardi Gras party or providing next year’s cake.

If you buy King Cake commercially, you will often be provided with the trinket separately, so you can hide it yourself. Additionally, there is the possibility that it will be swallowed by mistake- which commercial bakers want to avoid, and something you should carefully think about.

International  significance

As well as being popular in many European countries, such as France, Spain and Portugal, the King Cake is particularly prominent in New Orleans, where it’s become synonymous with Mardi Gras. Families will come together to celebrate this time of the year and find the trinket hidden inside the cake.

Even after Hurricane Katrina, there were thousands of King Cake orders both in Louisiana and beyond, as the people of New Orleans felt comforted in being able to gather their families around this long standing tradition.

This cake is a great option if you want to spend some fun, quality time with your family this January. Just remember to remain vigilant if you hide your trinket in the cake that no one chokes.