64 Parishes

King Cake

King cakes are a sweet bread or pastry usually decorated in purple, green, and gold.

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King Cake

Wikimedia Commons

King Cake, 2008.

King cake is a round, braided, sweet cinnamon pastry or bread that is eaten during Carnival season across Louisiana, especially in New Orleans. King cakes are usually decorated with icing or sprinkles in purple, green, and gold, the three colors of Mardi Gras. The king cake tradition probably came to New Orleans from Europe. Catholic settlers ate their own version of king cakes to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. The celebration, which is also called Twelfth Night, remembers the evening that three kings visited the baby Jesus twelve nights after Christmas.

Historically each Catholic culture that participated in the king cake tradition usually filled their cakes with a tiny prize: a bean, a piece of candy, a coin or charm, or a little porcelain doll representing the baby Jesus. Now most modern king cakes come with a plastic baby as the prize.