King Cake. We all love it. We even crave it when it's seasonally appropriate to do so, but what is it? It's not just milk, butter, active dry yeast and a whole lot of sugar. Plenty of things have all of that. Plenty of things are harder to make, too. Most recipes only require about forty-five minutes of prep time. Heck, it takes longer for it to cool than for an aspiring Cajun confectioner to cook one up. What is it that makes king cake such a crucial part of our Mardi Gras tradition?
The “King” of “king cake” refers to the three wise men that came to visit Christ when he was a little infant. In a lot of countries, King Cake is a Christmas food. We take our tradition, though, from “The Feast of the Epiphany”, which is sometimes celebrated in the French “Mardi-Gras” the day before lent starts. (Lent is a celebration of the forty days leading up to Easter.)
The baby that gets stuck in the cake sometimes is, pretty obviously, meant to be Christ. Before the plastic baby was used, uncooked beans or peas took its place. The custom of the person who pulls the surprise from the cake is that he/she is crowned “king” for the day and goes back to medieval France. However, the responsibility of the “king” today is to furnish the next king cake; that is our local tradition. (In Mexico, the “king” has to make tamales! Yum.)
If you collegiettes want to get a little ambitious this Mardi Gras, a king cake might be the way to go! This online recipe has received rave reviews and can be found at this recipe site. Take a shot at it, and let us know in the comments how it turned out! Just be careful when you take a bite! You might be providing the next king cake!