History of King Cakes
The Mardi Gras or Carnival season officially begins on January 6th or the “Twelfth Night,” also known to Christians as the “Epiphany.” Epiphany comes from a Greek word that means “to show.” In Western Christian tradition, Epiphany (also known as “Three Kings Day”) celebrates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. The Eve of Epiphany is known as Twelfth Night, the last day of the Christmas season, and Epiphany Day itself commences the Epiphany season. The three kings cake originated in the Middle Ages in Europe, from whence French settlers brought it to colonial America. It often includes a statue of the Christ Child, and it is believed that the individual who discovers it will have good fortune. The three kings’ cake is consumed throughout Epiphanytide until the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday.
The King Cake, also known as a three kings cake, is thought to have been brought to New Orleans from France in 1870. A King Cake is an oval-shaped bakery delicacy crossed between a coffee cake and a French pastry as rich in history as it is in flavor. It’s decorated in royal colors of PURPLE, which signifies “Justice,” GREEN for “Faith,” and GOLD for “Power.” These colors were chosen to resemble a jeweled crown honoring the Wise Men who visited the Christ Child on Epiphany. In the past, coins, beans, pecans, or peas were also hidden in each King Cake.
Today the “traditional” King Cake is made from twisted strands of cinnamon dough, covered by poured sugar and sprinkled with purple, green, and gold-colored sugar. The “Zulu King Cake” has chocolate icing with a coconut filling. A tiny plastic baby is hidden in the King Cake as a prize. While custom holds that the person who “finds” the baby will be rewarded with “good luck,” that person is also traditionally responsible for bringing the King Cake to the next party or gathering.
It’s important to note that many king cake versions contain various ingredients such as fillings like cream cheese, strawberry, lemon, praline, and other flavors. However, the colored sugar or icing, cinnamon dough, and oval shape are consistent throughout most recipes.
Enjoy a taste of New Orleans by starting the King Cake tradition in your home, classroom, or office today. Have a safe and Happy Mardi Gras!
Source credit: Wikipedia