King Cake Lite
Preparing for a long season
LORI OSIECKI ILLUSTRATION
A king cake is a thing you buy, not a thing you bake, if you got any sense. But my sister-in-law Larva, God help us all, is baking a king cake. A DIET king cake.
Every Friday in Carnival season is king cake day at Larva’s office. Last week, she got the plastic baby in her piece, so she has to bring the next king cake. That’s the rule.
Problem is—I never thought I would ever say this— king cake season is too long this year. It started King’s Day, January 6, when we was still burping from the holidays, and waddled right through Super Bowl —when we ate whatever we could scoop into our mouth with our hands— and now we got Valentine’s (chocolate!) before it ends at Mardi Gras, March 5. People will be spontaneously exploding on the streets of New Orleans before then.
And Larva joined the Baronesses de Pontalba Carnival Club and they got big plans to flounce around on Mardi Gras wearing long skirts and tight bustiers. Larva will bust out of her bustier if she don’t do something. So she turned herself in to Weight Watchers.
Now, in a normal office, she could eat just one skinny piece of king cake. But in her office, the rule is, everybody has to keep eating until somebody gets the baby.
So Larva gets the idea to bake diet king cake. Actually, she asks her mother, Ms. Larda.
I got to explain. Whenever anyone in the Gunch family got to bring something to a potluck occasion, whatever we bring is the hit of the party. You wouldn’t think people would fight over the last bean in a green bean casserole, but they will if a Gunch brought it.
When they ask for the recipe, we always say it’s a family secret. The secret is that my mother-in-law, Ms. Larda cooked it. She got two freezers; one for regular stuff and one for desserts. That’s where we get our party food. She is the kind of cook who drops a extra stick of butter or pours some condensed milk in whatever she’s making. Well, it takes more than that, but whatever the magic is, she got it.
Unfortunately that magic don’t extend to diet king cakes. She is horrified at the idea.
“Just arrange carrots sticks in a oval and hide a baby in there,” she says. Then she sets down to peel some jumbo shrimp I just brought her, and mutters to herself.
Larva is rummaging through cookbooks. She finds a angel food cake recipe — that’s low calorie, right? —and she can top it with marshmallow creme — 19 calories a serving— in Mardi Gras colors. And decorate with fruit—frozen banana chunks, berries, pineapple. Weight Watchers approves of fruit.
She gets out Ms. Larda’s cookie sheet, and make a oval with aluminum foil, and pour in the angel food ingredients —with double the egg whites— no fat in egg whites— and two kinds of sweetner — never used by Ms. Larda, of course— instead of sugar. While it bakes, Larva dyes bowls of marshmallow purple, green and gold.
The cake comes out oval-shaped but lumpy, so Larva smooths it with the cake knife and feeds the lumps to Chopsley, Ms. Larda’s Chihuahua. Then she spreads the marshmallow cream and arranges the fruit.
She is finishing up when Ms. Larda looks out the window and says, “Chopsley’s outside eating grass.”
In case you don’t know, that’s what dogs do instead of taking Pepto-Bismol.
Larva decides she better test this cake. She takes a slice out of each side of the oval, pushes it back together, and covers the cuts with marshmallow.
She eats both pieces before she admits it’s awful.
Come to find out, them “frozen banana chunks” were frozen roasted garlic. Also, the label on one sweetner says it loses sweetness if heated longer than 15 minutes. And the other “causes indigestion if consumed in quantity.” By indigestion, they mean the runs.
Larva had to call in sick to work. But there’s a bright side: she lost her appetite. She’ll probably be a gorgeous Baroness.
Chopsley is still mad.