What Are King Cakes
King Cakes are a traditional New Orleans delicacy served during Mardi Gras and are believed to have been brought to New Orleans from France in the late 1800s. King Cakes feature a rich, brioche dough and a wide array of fillings, such as cinnamon, cream cheese, and pecan. The crown shaped cake is then decorated with purple, green, and gold icing and sugar. Dong Phuong King Cakes include the signature baby figurine that comes sanitized and placed on top. Traditionally, the host of the party places the baby figurine in the King Cake before its sliced and served. Each person then looks to see if their piece contains the hidden item. If so, then that person is named King for a day and bound by custom to host the next party and provide the King Cake.
King Cakes Every Which Way
New Orleans king cakes take after the Southern French tradition of a ring-shaped cake made with a rich yeasted bread similar to brioche, but as Walker explained to me, there is a lot of room for the individual bakers tastes and interpretation. Yes, the very original king cakes were fairly plain yeasted loaves, included no filling, and were barely sweet, but they have evolved with the times and with peoples tastes.
These days, you can find or make! king cakes that are filled or unfilled, shaped in a plain circle or twisted into a braid, and topped with plain icing or covered with glittering sprinkles on every surface. The most popular versions are stuffed with a cream cheese filling or with a cinnamon filling, but Walker also talked about seeing king cakes filled with everything from pecan praline to goat cheese and apples. Walker says, People like their own styles and often have loyalties to a particular bakery.
The Best King Cake Delivery
King cakes have become so popular in recent years that theres a chance your local bakery makes them regardless of your location. But if you want a fresh mail-order King Cake from New Orleans, these NOLA bakeries deliver nationwide . Make sure to order early in the season:
Gambinos Gambinos Bakery has been making King Cakes since 1949.
Haydels Three generations of bakers make local specialty pastries.
Randazzos A family-run Metairie-based bakery focused solely on King Cakes.
Caludas Chef John Caludas bakery offers year-round King Cakes.
When Cooks Illustratedtested seven mail-order King Cakes back in 2018, Gambinos was their favorite.
Note, some bakeries dont advertise shipping, but will ship for a fee. And bakeries in other cities around the state also ship. Call your favorite bakery to see what is available.
New Orleans: A complete list of the best New Orleans bakeries offering cakes.
Baton Rouge: A map of the Capital Citys local options.
Monroe: Where to find whole cakes and slices.
Mississippi Gulf Coast: Places like Picayune, Waveland, and Bay St Louis are closer to New Orleans than Baton Rouge.
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When Do You Eat King Cake
King cake is indeed a heavenly treat for New Orleanians when it appears in supermarkets and bakeries between early January and Ash Wednesday. Some bakeries across the city begin selling as early as December, but always at the start of Carnival – January 6. While we hold firm to our belief that king cakes taste best in New Orleans, dont fret if you arent here during that special time of year. Several bakeries offer fast delivery anywhere in the United States.
These New Orleans Bakeries Are Shipping King Cakes For Mardi Gras
Boxes at Gambino’s await shipping as king cake season commences yet again.
- File photo
Advocate staff photo by Ian McNulty – Bakers at the Rouses Supermarkets chain call their most traditional king cake “old school” and finish them with nothing but sugar on top.
The Manny Randazzo King Cake is a traditional version with a dedicated local following.
- Staff file photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ
The pink parade strawberry cream cheese king cake from Brennan’s Restaurant, a new addition for 2021.
- Staff photo by Ian McNulty
Traditional king cake from Brennan’s Restaurant, a new addition to the king cake line up in 2021.
- Staff photo by Ian McNulty
Haydel’s king cakes getting the finishing touches at Haydel’s on Jefferson Why. in Jefferson, La. Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019.
A small chocolate king cake from Bittersweet Confections in New Orleans, where down-sized king cakes are big in a curtailed Carnival season.
- Staff photo by Ian McNulty
A mini king cake for one from Cannata’s, sold through King Cake Hub in New Orleans.
- Staff photo by Ian McNulty
A traditional king cake from Antoine’s Famous Cakes and Pies in Gretna.
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Hero Doughnuts & Buns
Hero Doughnuts & Buns is currently whipping up brioche bun King Cakes for Mardi Gras! Made with Heros signature brioche dough, OG glaze, cream cheese frosting, and sprinkles, this one isnt from Louisiana, but its dang delicious. While Hero Doughnuts does not ship their baked goods nationwide, you can pick up or order local delivery from their five bakeries in Atlanta, Birmingham, and Charleston.
Each King Cake is $30 and feeds 12 to 14 people. Order from your local Hero Doughnuts. Image: Angie Mosier
The Best King Cake Recipes
In Louisiana, most people purchase cakes from bakeries throughout the Mardi Gras season. But if you plan to make a homemade King Cake, these traditional King Cake recipes from Louisiana resources will provide inspiration:
New book: In 2022, author Matt Haines released The Big Book of King Cake. It includes recipes and stories of the diverse NOLA bakers who make the cakes. The books bakery index is a whos who list of New Orleans bakeries.
Gracious Bakery has been featured in national publications like Food & Wine and Travel & Leisure and their baked goods are served in some of New Orleans finest hotels and restaurants. See their homemade King Cake recipe or use their King Cake Kit which includes the Mardi Gras colored sanding sugars, a King Cake baby, yeast, and cinnamon filling.
Some of Louisianas best cookbooks include King Cake recipes, such as Cooking Up a Storm and the Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine.
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Can I Make King Cake At Home
Yes! You can definitely start a tradition of making your own king cakes at home with your loved ones. Check out Sucres award-winning king cake recipe for inspiration this Mardi Gras season. Voted “A Favorite” by the Times-Picayune King Cake Contest and “BEST” King Cake by a Washington Post blind taste test. Sucre’s signature buttery danish pastry is sweetened by cinnamon and raw cane sugar then folded with a light layer of creole cream cheese.
The Tradition Of The King Cake
King cakes are named for the Three Kings of the Bible and were part of the Epiphany celebration at the end of the 12 Days of Christmas. Theyre variously called Galette des Rois in France, Rosca de Reyes in Spain, and vasilopita in Greece.
I spoke with Judy Walker, retired food editor for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and author of Cooking Up a Storm, about how the king cake tradition has taken shape in Louisiana. She told me that it was originally brought to the area by French settlers, but it wasnt until the 20th century that the cakes really took firm hold. Two local bakeries, McKenzies and Gambinos, were key in establishing the cultural significance of the king cakes. They started selling their versions of king cake during Carnival season, and the popularity just skyrocketed. Walker told me that king cakes from New Orleans bakeries are now shipped all over the world, and its become a major industry in the area.
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Best Package: Haydel’s Bakery
Many bakeries offer King Cake packages, bundling the pastry with all manner of bric-a-brac for your Mardi Gras-themed gathering. If you want masks and jester dolls with your King Cake, more power to you, but in our opinion, the package from Haydel’s is the most straightforward and satisfying combo out there.
Haydel’s Da Parish King Cake Package comes with its signature Da Parish King Cakea braided, cinnamon Danish dough topped with green, gold, and purple sugar, plus, icing, and sprinklesas well as a King Cake History Scroll, a pack of Mardi Gras beads, and a pack of classic NOLA French Market Coffee. Best of all, it’s $58, next-day shipping included. It’s everything you need to finish off your annual properly.
Haydel’s makes other flavors of King Cake, too, including Cream Cheese, Strawberry Cream Cheese, and Praline Pecan. All the King Cakes provide roughly 30 to 35 one-inch slices. Haydel’s ships King Cakes year-round to anywhere UPS delivers. It even ships internationally, but you’ll have to call them on the phone to place an international order.
Where Do I Buy A King Cake
New Orleans is filled with a number of bakeries, sweet shops and restaurants eager to begin sharing this sweet seasonal treat. Enjoy customized, traditional and unique king cakes from across the city. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see a list of bakeries that offer king cakes, or browse a this list of some of our favorite king cake spots.
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The Best Mardi Gras King Cakes Shipped
The revelry of Mardi Gras is in full force, and its time to appreciate one of its most delicious traditions: The King Cake. In many European countries, the Wise Men bringing gifts for the baby Jesus is celebrated annually 12 days after Christmas on January 6th. Called Epiphany or the Twelfth Night, this is a time of celebrating and feasting, and the official commencement of Mardi Gras or Carnival season.
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The tiny plastic baby hidden inside each King Cake symbolizes this day, and King Cakes are enjoyed from the Feast of Epiphany until Mardi Gras Day . The ring-shaped cake is covered in colored sugars: purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. Tradition says that if your slice has the baby in it, you will host the next party and provide the next King Cake. Others say it makes you King or Queen for the day. We have found several fantastic King Cake options available for shipping, whether you found the baby last year or youre looking to win this year.
How To Ship A King Cake
When ordering a King Cake from out of state, using a bakery listed above will be cheapest, as they use FedEx bulk shipping rates. But if your favorite bakery doesnt offer shipping, maybe you have a good friend in Louisiana who is willing to mail a King Cake to you.
Flat sturdy boxes designed for packaging and shipping king cakes are available at Pack Rat on Magazine Street. If needed, mark the box “fragile” and draw arrows pointing to the top of the box. Make sure to include beads, doubloons, and masks. For freshness, ship the king cake FedEx overnight versus USPS.
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How To Make A King Cake For Mardi Gras
King cakes are made around the world as part of the festival of the Epiphany, but in New Orleans, king cakes have truly taken on a life of their own. From the start of Carnival on January 6 through Mardi Gras at the beginning of February, youll find one of these sweet, color-splashed king cakes just about everywhere.
Did you get the baby? That means you bring the next cake and we have just the cake youll want to bring.
Best Overall: Caluda’s King Cake
Caluda’s King Cake
Pastry expert John Caluda is the founder and head pastry chef at Caludas King Cake. After completing his pastry education at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, he returned to his hometown of New Orleans to build his culinary empire.
Chef Caluda honed his chops at several landmark NOLA establishments before hanging up his own shingle in Metairie, his childhood neighborhood. Called Coffee Cottage, the joint proved to be so popular that Caluda has now outgrown those humble digs, expanding operations to a state-of-the-art, 10,000 square-foot bakery in Harahan, Louisiana. Caluda’s King Cakes are beloved by customers and consistently prevail in King Cake Snob’s annual tasting competition.
Caluda’s ships King Cakes year-round and offers many flavors, both traditional and unique. Caluda’s traditional Mardi Gras King Cake sells for about $23, with standard overnight shipping included to the lower 48 United States. Shipping to Alaska and Hawaii may cost more. Bulk ordering is available if you want to send King Cakes to your entire Rolodex.
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Our Recipe For King Cake
The particular king cake that I made for this recipe is adapted from Walkers own recipe in Cooking Up a Storm. I took her advice on the filling and stuck with cinnamon and sugar my favorite and rolled it up like one giant cinnamon roll. I love the pretty spiraled layers this makes. If youd like a more sweet and doughy bread with less filling than weve made here, just roll your dough more thinly and make fewer rolls.
Mix the dough.
History Of Mardi Gras King Cakes
Nothing marks the start of Mardi Gras season like the sudden debut of King Cakes at every grocery store in New Orleans. Mardi Gras, also known as Carnival, officially begins on January 6th, also known as Twelfth Night, but New Orleanians begin eating their fill of these traditional cakes long before then. In fact, King Cakes are available all the way through Fat Tuesday, which is the day before Ash Wednesday.
While the precise origin of the New Orleans King Cake is not known, its widely thought that it was one of the many rich and delicious traditions French brought with them when they settled the area in 1870. Traditionally, king cakes are oval-shaped and resemble a twisted, colorful, oversized cinnamon roll. Theyre typically distinguished by their creamy white glaze and colorful Mardi Gras-themed bands of purple, green, and gold sugar which represent justice, faith, and power, respectively. These colors were chosen to resemble the jeweled crowns of the three wise men that visited baby Jesus on the Twelfth Night .
Joes Cafe was founded on family and tradition. Get your Joes Cafe King Cake! #joesknowsfood #joesknowsdonuts #joesknowskingcake
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Best French King Cake: Poupart’s
King Cakes have been around for a long time. The tradition began in France hundreds of years ago as part of the feast celebrating the Christian Epiphany. These original King Cakes are a bit different from those associated with Mardi Gras. Rather than an iced, ring-shaped coffee cake, the French King Cake is a round puff pastry filled with sweet almond paste, meant to be served warm.
It’s no surprise that the title of Best French King Cake goes to a traditional French Bakery. Pastry Chef Francois Poupart began his career in Paris, but soon decamped to Louisiana, bringing the French country village bakery aesthetic along with him. Cajun country welcomed his thick French accent and the classic pastries he produced. Now, Poupart’s bakery delights customers in New Orleans.
Poupart’s authentic traditional French King Cake costs about $69, plus shipping. The shop also sells the Mardi Gras version as well for the same price. King Cakes must be shipped overnight, and go out only from Tuesday through Thursday.
Order Online Year Round
You can order your cake with a variety of fillings, and seasonal cakes are available for holidays and other occasions.
Each cake is shipped with sugar and glaze decorating packets, one Mardi Gras cup, two strands of beads, two doubloons, and a king cake baby baked inside. Extra souvenirs may be purchased separately.
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Manny Randazzo King Cakes
The current owner of Randazzo’s is Manny himself, the son of the company’s founder who decided in 1995 to dedicate their entire bakery business to focusing on king cakes .
The cake: The Randazzo king cake is for icing loversit’s slathered, smothered, and covered in a sweet white icing , in the style of a squidgy Danish pastry. Colored sprinkles give it color, but not garishness.
The 14 Best Places Online To Order Your King Cake For Mardi Gras
On January 6, a yearly event known as Twelfth Night, or the eve of the Epiphany, serves as the opening of the Carnival season . There are many rituals, parades, and events that come along with this unique time, especially when it comes to food. One such custom is the arrival of King Cake, which got its name from the Three Kings who were believed to have arrived to Bethlehem to see Jesus on this very day . No matter what celebration you attend around the Gulf South, this distinctive French pastry is never far from reach during Mardi Gras season. Thanks to the advances of modern food delivery, local bakeries these days facilitate online ordering so that King Cakes can be enjoyed by people across the U.S.
The bakeries below have been included for their wide selection of options. Some serve the more time-honored and original styles of King Cake, while others present a special twist on the famed dessert. Traditionally, King Cakes are made from sweet dough that has been topped with a white vanilla icing and cinnamon sugar. The last component typically comes in Mardi Gras colors. Purple represents justice, green for faith, and gold for power . So, one should do justice to their fresh King Cake by having faith that they can eat it all, and the power to get it done. This is Fat Tuesday after all.
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