The Best Incarnations of King Cake
While most of us were sleeping, with the stroke of midnight last night Carnival Season was upon us, and king cakes and king-cake-flavored things have rolled out in great abundance. What follows is a simple smattering of the hundreds of king cake-inspired creations out there this year.
Does anyone remember that weird craze back in 2015 when some pop-up was pulling lines a block long down Poydras Street for cheeseburgers served on sweet brioche king cake buns, complete with colored sugar? I don’t have the fondest memories of that fad and a very informal investigation did not unearth anything of the sort about town this season.
The plan at Bywater Bakery was the same for today as it is every January 6 (Twelfth Night/King’s Day/The Feast of the Epiphany): A big open street party with plenty of live music to herald the launch of the season. Sadly, due to surging COVID-19 numbers and the concerns that go with it, the party has been postponed until an as-yet-undetermined date. Meanwhile, party or not, Bywater Bakery opened this morning at eight o’clock with a parade of king cakes. This year’s lineup includes old favorites Like Traditional, Chantilly, Praline, Cheesecake, Carnival, Azul Dulce Blueberry, and last year’s hit, Lemon Cream. This year brings two new flavors to love, including a vegan king cake! Check these out: Brownie Bomb — if a brownie and a chocolate lava cake had a baby this would be it; Bywater Bourbon Cinnamon Swirl — this completely plant-based king cake is made from a soft sweet potato dough, smeared with a cinnamon bourbon filling. I have become a fan of BB’s savory king cakes — Crawfish, Boudin, and Spinach Artichoke.
Back again this year, Gris-Gris is now serving King Cake Daiquiri. The customer favorite is prepared frozen with vodka, Evangeline Praline Liquor, dairy-free vanilla soft serve, cinnamon, and seasonal spices. King cake daiquiri can be enjoyed in house, on the street in plastic pouches the look Capri sun juices for adults, or via pre-order by the half-gallon (24 hours advance notice, please) for pick-up.
Brennan’s Pink Parade King Cake is a rosy-hued beauty inspired by the deep-pink façade of Brennan’s, itself. Strawberry jam made from the fields of the Johnsdale Farm in Ponchatoula is folded into a light-and-airy cream cheese filling. The cake is covered with pink icing enlivened with glitter and topped with white chocolate and white chocolate croquant pearls and a finishing shower of pink cocoa butter. Check it out at brennansneworleans.com where Traditional and Bananas Foster varieties are also available.
Chef Meg Bickford of Commander’s Palace has rolled out king cake ice cream. The rich confection is currently on offer as the house-made, daily special ice cream on the Commander’s menu or you can grab it to go from Le Petit Bleu, Commander’s next door to-go market. Open daily and just steps from the St. Charles Avenue parade route, the upscale take-out spot is ready for parade goers and party throwers with muffulettas, pimento cheese & pepper jelly finger sandwiches, Chisesi ham & brie croissants, and parade route poor boys, and daily selections from the Commander’s menu.
Today Executive Pastry Chef Maggie Scales of the Link Restaurant Group began offering several flavors and sizes of king cakes. Find both traditional king cake and French Galette des Rois, (two rounds of puff pastry filled with almond cream, topped with a small porcelain feve) at La Boulangerie. Find the traditional king cake and the famous “Elvis,” filled with peanut butter, banana and topped with house-cured bacon, marshmallow, and traditional Mardi Gras sprinkles at Cochon Butcher. In place of the traditional small plastic “baby,” the traditional king cake and the Elvis contain a petite pink pig as the Link Group’s signature token. The cakes will be available through Fat Tuesday, March 1, which is the day before the beginning of Lent.
For those in search of a variety of king cakes under one roof, King Cake Hub is back and expanded this year. On offer are Brennan’s Traditional and Pink Parade king cakes; Steve Himmelfarb’s (of now-shuttered Cake Cafe) Goat Cheese and Apple king cake, and, new this year, Gluten and Dairy Free king cake made, both made in partnership with students from NOCCA’s culinary program; and king cakes from Caludas’s, Cannata’s, Caywood and Randazzo Bakery, Joe Gambino’s Bakery, Hi-Do Bakery, Bywater Bakery, Breads on Oak, Gracious, Bittersweet, Sugar Love and Big Boys Gooey Cakes.
There are two new locations this year: The primary King Cake Hub will share space in the Zony Mash Beer Project, making it possible to take a yoga class then slam a pint of beer with a hunk of king cake. King Cake Hub is located in the Broad facing portion of the building at 1464 S. Broad St. house. A second permanent pop-up location is now open at The Gift Shop at Historic New Orleans Collection. The partnership with HNOC coincides with today’s opening of the museum’s Masking Mardi Gras exhibition.
Starting today King Cake Hub will be open daily from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. beginning Jan. 6 through Lundi Gras (Jan 31).
That’s it from me. Enjoy your fill of king cake confections during this extra long Carnival season. Ya’ll play nice.