Mardi Gras King Cake rich in taste and tradition

It’s been called Portuguese Christmas Cake, Bolo Rei and a bunch of other names but Mardi Gras King Cake is the colorful bakery creation, rich in taste and tradition, that serves as a symbol of the pre-Lenten season of Mardi Gras.

The tradition predates Christianity and was taken from the Roman celebration called Lupercalia. Mardi Gras celebrates the period between the end of the Christmas Season and the beginning of Lent (Ash Wednesday) as a period of merriment and excess. Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, is the final day of this period of festivities since Lent will begin a time of fasting.

As the story goes, the King Cake came about in order to use up ingredients that would not be consumed during the Lenten period. Sweet, rich pastries with lots of eggs and butter ended up being called the King Cake. Similar to a brioche dough and traditionally eaten during Mardi Gras, three colors of sugar are used to represent each of the three kings or wise men of biblical fame. Green is for faith, yellow (or gold) for power and purple stands for justice.

Inside will be some sort of toy, trinket or miniature baby Jesus inside and whoever finds it left duty-bound to provide the next cake or host the next Mardi Gras party.

That’s the basics. From there, like Mardi Gras, pretty much anything goes as bakers have taken great liberties with the original formula.

“The filled king cake trend started in the 1970s,” Liz Williams, president of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans told CourierPostOnline “People wanted things that were sweeter and sweeter, and bakers wanted to be different. Before that king cakes looked the same and were pretty much the same.”

Enter everything from chocolate to most nuts, cream cheese and almond paste. Pastry chef Jean-Luc Albin makes a Bourbon Street King Cake with chocolate custard, bourbon and toasted pecans, General Foster King Cake with a banana’s Foster-type filling and a Woodlawn Plantation King Cake with praline cream and Southern Comfort.

“Every year I do something a little different, something new,” Albin says. “It makes things interesting.

Mardi Gras King Cake rich in taste and tradition
, no matter what goes into it.

Flickr photos by syvwlch and Gruenemann