Tuesday was Cecilia’s 26th birthday. When she was a child every year for her birthday Andrew, and I would throw a large kiddie bash that would hold her over until the following year. The highlight of the kiddie party was always the king cake that served as her birthday cake. Back then king cake varieties were pretty much limited to Haydel’s, Randazzo’s, and Rouses, all good but a small sliver of the varieties available today.
Dong Phuong hit our radar when it hit the nation’s radar in 2018 when the New Orleans East bakery picked up the James Beard “American Classics Award for its general standards of excellence, which include its sensational brioche king cake, which comes sans hole and sans baby. Though parent-hosted birthday parties are a thing of the past the Dong Phuong king cake is now the regulation birthday cake. Last year when I visited her in Birmingham, I brought one of the hard-fought trophies with me. Cecilia is a very, very health-conscious scientist and competitive rock climber. She reads every label. But she does this thing where she will cut a practically transparent sliver of her Dong Phuong cake, eat it, drift back 10-20 minutes later, and repeat the process until the whole thing is gone. This takes about 24 hours with a break tossed in for sleeping for her to polish one off. Poor dear, she can stand up to anything but a Dong Phuong king cake.
This year’s birthday request was a pair of black leather/pleather pants (I should have kept my old pair). With no plans to visit her in Birmingham before Mardi Gras I fought hard last weekend to score a DP king cake to toss in as a surprise. She was not expecting one. I have never shipped one to her in the two years she has lived in the ‘Ham.
After consulting a list of those places near my Uptown home that re-sell the coveted confections, I set out at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. I started at Bourrée. Sold out. I went to Adam’s Street Market where they literally laughed at me. Sold out. I hiked it out to DP Bakery in the East. No dice sold out. As Andrew drove, I started calling DP distribution sites within a 50-mile radius. Everyone I called was sold out. I went home to order one on the DP website. They are only available through pre-order, and you must give a 2-hour time window within which you expect to arrive to collect your prize. Don’t show up thinking you may get lucky with no pre-order. You probably will not. There is also no deliver through DP (They are missing out and I am volunteering to launch and staff the department that manages this). Delivery is available only through Goldbelly. Though DP sells them for $24 at the bakery, they are $69.99 from Goldbelly with free shipping, ha ha. Whatever, it’s my girl’s birthday. The bad news: Delivery was fully booked through January 19, 9 days after the birthday. Pass.
I got up early on Sunday and stood in line in the rain waiting for Bourrée to open and begin distribution of the coveted king cakes, which are sold first-come, first-served. When I took the first spot in line others who were waiting in their cars followed suit to stand with me in the rain. We all agreed we felt reduced to groveling as we stood in the rain for king cake—the lovely NOLA ex-pat lady who had driven in from Monroe especially so. I felt graced as I forked over $38 plus a 20 percent tip then spirited away with my DK cream cheese king cake prize.
I packed it off with the leather pants (could there be stranger bed, eh, box-fellows?).
Upon the Tuesday arrival of the boxed treasures came a picture of the DP box with the exclamation “F— me up!” Score!
For kicks I checked he DP website about additional orders. Wait for it. They are 100 percent booked with orders – as in no more orders – through Mardi Gras 2023. The wait in the rain was worth it.