Each January 6, revelers rejoice as the first day of the Carnival is marked by Twelfth Night celebrations and the first pieces of king cake are shared amongst friends. With the origin of king cakes dating to France and the Middle Ages, companies such as King Cake Hub are doing all they can to shine light on what is a beloved local tradition. Will and Jennifer Samuels began King Cake Hub to bring a one-stop shop to all those looking to enjoy the multitude of king cake options offered throughout the city. After Will’s passing in 2021, Jennifer decided to continue the business in his honor and resume the work they do, which brings joy to many each Carnival season.
Q: What is the King Cake Hub? King Cake Hub is a one stop shop for all your favorite king cakes you have ever and never tasted!
Q: How did the idea for King Cake Hub come about? My family loves king cake. I started making them to sell through our restaurants, but we also love trying all king cakes. My daughter and I would make these long lists every year of all the cakes we wanted to try and then when my late husband, Will and I would be out moving around the city it was our job to go get these cakes. One day, Will had the epiphany ‘What if there was one place where you could go to get all these cakes?’ I answered I would shop there and from that moment on Will started work developing the concept.
The first two years we were at the Mortuary on Canal Street. While a little quirky, it was a great spot for us. We loved seeing zombies on a smoke break outside the shop. Our third year we were at the Broad Theater when they had to close temporarily due to COVID-19. Finally, we found our new home at Zony Mash.
Zony Mash has been a great partner for us. They are so easy and fun to work with. Not to mention they make great beer and I just love their space. It’s great for live music or just hanging out with friends. They even created a special beer to celebrate our collaboration. Last year they made a King Cake Stout, which will be back again for 2023 along with a barrel aged version.
Q: Why was it important to continue the legacy of the King Cake Hub after your husband’s passing? King Cake Hub has become a family passion. It was never a consideration to give it up. I started making king cakes for our restaurants 12 years ago and it has evolved from there. My daughter has grown up obsessed with king cake and all things Carnival just like her father and I have always been. From the beginning, we were all involved. I remember making king cakes in our kitchen together. She would be so proud to sell them (and a little bit sad, too). Soon, she would help us by stocking shelves with cakes and eventually she started helping customers. She knows as much as anyone about king cake as this point. Now at 14, she is an amazing partner for me.
It’s really the customers who keep us going. Hospitality can be a tough business, but we are blessed to have found a niche where we can make so many people happy. I love seeing people come in and be completely overwhelmed by our selection and taking the time to help them find a cake they will love. We are very quality conscious. We offer a closely curated selection of cakes and one of my favorite jobs is king cake matchmaker. I love every cake and every bakery that we work with, and it is a honor to work with and to be able to highlight so many amazing bakeries.
Q: How many businesses are participating this year? As of Thanksgiving I’m up to 16 bakeries, but always looking to add more. I must add that we are a curated selection. Any cakes I sell have to be amazing, but out of respect for all my bakery partners I strive to find cakes that fill a niche. We want to present a wide variety of flavors, fillings and styles of king cake to keep variety up and still let all my bakeries thrive.
Q: Any new or exciting aspects this year? Because we want to start eating king cake the second it becomes legal, we are revamping the launch party to be a countdown to carnival when we will share the first slices. At 9 p.m. on January 5 we will co-host with Zony Mash the first ever King Cake Pageant. Our newly crowned King Cake Royalty will cut the first cake at midnight and will open the doors to the hub the next morning. Like a traditional pageant, we will have contestants compete in a variety of events, only with a Mardi Gras slant. Categories will include best costume, parade route obstacle course and an interview. We must measure their fitness to protect and not spill their king cake and beer through a number of obstacles like ladders, throws, wagons and more. The event will be hosted by our longtime friends Professor Carl Nivale and The Grand Marshall Marty Graw.
Q: What are you most looking forward to ahead of the Carnival season? Carnival, the whole thing is such a time of joy and community. It’s my favorite holiday and season. I’m a member of Muses and Krewe du Vieux and I absolutely love getting together with all my krewe mates for den days to build floats and garage days crafting shoes. I’ve been blessed to make so many dear friends who I not only toast and dance with but have also supported me through my darkest days.
I love eating so much good food, spending a day on the neutral ground catching up and celebrating life and friendship and the fun and frivolity of costuming and best of all dancing in the streets with my krewe!
Q: What is the Epiphany King Cake? The Epiphany is our first King Cake Hub exclusive cake. It is made for us by Gambino’s who was our very first partner. The name ties back to Will’s idea to bring all these great cakes to the same place. Epiphany is also another name for Twelfth Night, which is the official start of the Carnival season.
Q: Are there any plans of expanding in the future? Maybe a permanent location? We are definitely growing and once again this year we will have a satellite location in the French Quarter at the Shop at The Historic New Orleans Collection.
As far as a permanent location, since we only operate during Carnival when it’s legal to eat king cake I don’t think it’s practical. Zony Mash has been such a great partner I will stay there as long as they will have me back.
I grew up in central Illinois. I remember seeing the national news on Mardi Gras long before I ever knew what it was all about and being fascinated by the floats and costumes. I wanted to experience that and once I did I knew I had found home.
Favorite king cake flavor (plain, cream cheese, jelly, etc.) Which child do you like best?
Favorite Mardi Gras parade: Muses has the best floats. I’m amazed by the artists who take the satirical themes and make them so beautiful. I remember seeing Muses their first year and the beautiful goddesses on the floats and I wanted to be like them. I signed up shortly after and waited my turn. I had to try it once. That was 20 some years ago and I keep doing it. I also love my Krewe of Spank which is a sub krewe of Krewe du Vieux where we take an idea and work for months to turn it into a float which brings so much joy to the spectators and the participants.