Photo credit: BYWATER BAKERY KING CAKE
January 6th is National King Cake Day (North America)
10 Fun Facts about King Cake: (thanks to New Orleans & Company)
- The name “King Cake” comes from the biblical story of the three kings who brought gifts to baby Jesus
- Most king cake is colored with Purple, Green and Gold frosting or sugar. These colors each represent a special meaning: purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. These three colors were chosen by the first Krewe of Rex to be the heraldry for the King of Carnival.
- King cakes typically have a hidden plastic baby inside. Whoever finds it must either bring the next cake or throw a party, thus sparking an unending round of food and fun (most of the babies now come OUTSIDE of the cake and are placed in the cake by the person who buys the cake)
- Some bakeries have signature trinkets in lieu of a plastic baby. For example, restaurant Cochon has a small plastic pig for their king cakes.
- The King Cake Baby has become so synonymous with New Orleans culture that the NBA team Pelicans has a King Cake Baby mascot and the former triple-a baseball team located in New Orleans was called the Baby Cakes
- Though King Cake is available in some forms year-round, New Orleanians are mostly steadfast on only eating it during Carnival Season which starts on January 6th (Twelfth Night) and runs through Mardi Gras Day (aka Fat Tuesday)
- King cakes have continued to evolve through the years and while “traditional king cake” is somewhere between a cinnamon role and coffee cake, many bakeries are now making fruit-stuffed king cakes and even savory king cakes
- A king cake alternative known as a Queen’s Cake or Galette de Rois is a traditional French pastry which is baked to celebrate Epiphany (Twelfth Night) and is typically puff pastry with almond frangipani (on a personal note, I like queen cake better than king cake!)
- It is believed that French-Canadian explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville brought the traditions of Mardi Gras to southern Louisiana, but the king cake tradition itself is thought to have arrived around 1870 from France
- Though it is widely associated with Epiphany/Twelfth Night, which is of significance in Christianity, the King Cake is believed to have Pagan origins
Today’s Food History
- 1884 Gregor Johann Mendel died. Mendel was an Austrian botanist whose work was the foundation of the science of genetics. Working mainly with garden peas (some 28,000 plants over 7 years), he discovered what was to become known as the laws of heredity.
- 1901 Philip Danforth Armour, died. American industrialist who pioneered the use of refrigeration and meat canning. Armour & Co. became the largest meatpacker in the world and this helped Chicago become the meatpacking capital of the world. (The fact that Chicago is the ‘Windy City’ may have helped also).
- 1910 ‘Kid Chocolate’ (Elgio Saldana) was born. He became Cuba’s first world boxing champion in 1931 after defeating Benny Bass for the Jr. Lightweight Championship.
- 1929 Sheffeld Farms of New York began using wax paper cartons instead of glass bottles for milk delivery.
- 1936 Warner Bros. Loony Tunes character ‘Porky Pig’ makes his debut.
- 1988 The famous Paris restaurant ‘La Coupole’ was sold and eventually replaced by an office building. It was famous for its Welsh rarebit, and had been frequented by James Joyce, Henry Miller and many other notable Americans.