Hail to the King Cake! The Colorful Story Behind the Season’s Favorite Treat

Dessert Gallery's King Cake surrounded by its hand-decorated butter cookies

IT LOOKS LIKE a giant bagel at a Pride parade, or maybe a wreath gone wild — but was actually created to mimic a jeweled crown. Love it or hate it, oh-so-sweet and sparkly Mardi Gras King Cake is royalty in H-town and is selling like hot cakes this month.

Reportedly, the first King Cakes were made in Europe in celebration of the Catholic Epiphany (Jan. 6). The French brought the cake with them to Louisiana in the 1870s, and all these years later, it’s become synonymous with the French Quarter, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday and the related festivities. King Cakes have their own season starting right after the New Year lasting all the way through Mardi Gras.

“In January 2014, I went on a bakery tour of New Orleans and surrounding areas with bakery owners from all over the country, and had never thought much about king cakes until that trip,” says Sara Brook, owner of Dessert Gallery in Houston. “Holy cow! I've never seen so many varieties and each one better than the next.”

King Cakes are traditionally covered with oodles of green, purple and yellow-gold sprinkles. Those colors aren’t random. The green symbolizes faith; purple stands for power; and yellow-gold represents justice. Let’s not forget the tiny hidden baby inside — whoever gets the slice with the baby is “crowned” king or queen for the day!

Brook brought the tradition home to Dessert Gallery and King Cake has made its annual appearance year after year with increasing popularity. “We've tried fancy flavor combos, but the hands-down favorite with customers is always cinnamon and sugar with that yummy drizzle with colored sugar, beads and a baby, of course.” The sweets boutique offers strawberry and blueberry toppings on the side if a customer wants to gild the lily (whole cakes $24.95, through March 1).

Looking for the ultimate party favor? “Our hand-decorated Dessert Gallery Mardi Gras butter cookies are over the top. Gorgeous and intricate masks, crowns, and fleur-de-lis are popular with big kids and little kids alike,” adds Brook.

Laissez les bons temps roulez!


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