King Cakes

When everyone else is packing up their Christmas decorations in early January and succumbing to a slight post-holiday funk, revelers all around the Gulf Coast (and in Europe and South America, too) are gearing up for another major holiday season: Mardi Gras. New Orleans is, by far, the most famous North American city to revel; however, 15 years before New Orleans was founded, the fair port city of Mobile, Alabama held the very first Mardi Gras in 1703. This is reason alone to host a king cake tasting party, but if you’re not in Mobile, don’t feel left out. You can do it, too!

Pecan Praline King Cake with Cream Cheese Filling
Blinged out baby

Today’s celebrations involve parades, balls, beads, and luscious, decadent food. And let’s not forget the king cake. One of my favorite ways to entertain during Mardi Gras is to throw a King Cake Tasting Party. This Mardi Gras season, why not try hosting this unique and fun event yourself? (Not trying to tell you what to do or anything, but you should, endofstory.)

from front to back: Pollman’s, Warehouse, Cartozzo’s, Le Bakery, Whole Foods.

Today, king cakes customarily come with a little plastic baby, representing baby Jesus, for the buyer to place inside the cake. The finder of the baby is granted luck and the obligation to bring a king cake to the next gathering. Perhaps, like mine, your king cake tasting will become an annual tradition.

Party Details

The Invitation

The objective is to taste as many local offerings of king cake as possible, so I ask each guest (or couple) to bring a king cake from a local bakery or grocer. The details can get a little complicated, as you want to ensure there won’t be any duplicates. I host my king cake tasting at ten on a weekend morning—brunch time. I create an event in Facebook, invite guests (that’s the easiest part–everyone wants a slice of this), and ask them to comment in the discussion which one they’re bringing. This guarantees we will have a wide variety.

The Décor

I cover our dining room table with a purple tablecloth–remember those Mardi gras colors? I set out platters on the table ahead of time (king cakes usually come boxed, but for aesthetics I like to plate them), so that when a guest comes in, they have a ready spot for their cake. The absolute easiest Mardi gras decorations are the ubiquitous strings of beads, which I scatter in between the platters. I add some feathered masks, as well, and voila: instant Carnival vibe.

The Beverages

Because it’s around brunch time, we set up two beverage stations: coffee with cream and sugar (and a little Bailey’s, if so inclined), and a mimosa bar with Champagne and a selection of juices, usually grapefruit, orange, and cranberry. Instead of mimosas, you could always do a Bloody Mary bar, (but don’t forget the pickled okra and green beans)!

The Cakes

It’s up to you if you want to restrict the tasting to just plain, traditional cakes (usually cinnamon-filled) or if you want to open it up for a free-for-all, like me. (Cookie dough filling, anyone?) I put a place card in front of each cake stating its flavor and origin. If you plan on having a vote for “best king cake”, make sure to have plenty of paper and pens on hand. Put a plastic cup at each place, give each of your guests one dubloon (a plastic coin in Mardi gras colors), and instruct them to put their dubloon in the cup of the best king cake. You could even have different categories like “most aesthetically pleasing,” “most delicious filling,” “best traditional,” etc. 

Guests Beth, Laurie, Mitch, Doris, and Tucker checking out the buffet

To read more about these shindigs, visit my articles on our 2017 and 2018 king cake tastings.

Feeling brave and want to make your own? Here’s the recipe for my decadent and delicious Praline Pecan Cream Cheese King Cake

I hope this article has inspired you to host your own tasting this year for Mardi Gras.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

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