King Cake: Keeping Carnival Alive

10 Feb

Photo courtesy of Ava Gotzkowsky

By Ava Gotzkowsky

New Orleans has observed the Mardi Gras season and its many celebrations and traditions for more than 200 years now, and it has only been canceled on 13 occasions, when the city was faced with unavoidable events such as World Wars I and II. This year, as Mardi Gras would have taken place in the midst of a very contagious, world-wide pandemic, the formal celebrations have unfortunately been cancelled. New Orleanians will not fail to find ways to successfully celebrate in other precautionary ways, despite not getting to attend the usual crowded parades and parties. 

However, one tradition that will be proudly upheld is the beloved King Cake! King Cake is a cinnamon-based cake, sometimes more traditionally baked like a sweet bread, first introduced by the French colonizers that once inhabited the city. 

When asked which King Cake she liked best, Lusher Senior Bamby Daniel-Pougault said, “I like the regular cinnamon. It’s just classic. The filling is too much.” 

Many popular King Cakes have icing, sprinkles of purple green and gold, and delicious, multi-flavored fillings. Each cake is unique to the bakery that sells it.  When asked if eating King Cake would be enough to get her through this untraditional Mardi Gras season, freshman Josie Leali stated, “I will need about 20 King Cakes and a new diet plan to get through this Mardi Gras.”  

While cinnamon is classic, many bakeries and restaurants are now taking their own approach at defining classic. Dong Phuong, a bakery that had extreme King Cake sales beginning in 2019 following its discovery by Uptown, despite the bakery’s opening in 1982, makes a very exuberant King Cake that some may consider traditional because of its bread, cinnamon, and colored sugar topping. However, the Vietnamese bakery, located in New Orleans East, has a very unique spin on the classic white icing. The bakery makes a very light, fluffy, cream cheese icing that turns each piece into a bite of heaven. The bakery is always busy during Carnival season and typically requires that cakes be preordered. Sophomore Sam Carey said, “Their king cake is fire. I’ve only tried it once, but it was great.”     

Though loaded with sugar, every King Cake also possesses a special bit of the Carnival season and is an imperative part of how this vivacious city will manage without its traditional festivities. Whether you prefer a classic, icingless McKenzie’s cake or a decadent, pink, Strawberry cake from Sucre, you will be swept away with memories of Mardi Gras past through any cake you indulge in this year.      

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