“King Cake: A party staple from January 6 through Mardi Gras day, the cake is named for the three kings who visited the Christ Child and whose feast, the Epiphany, is celebrated on January 6, the Twelfth Night after Christmas. Traditionally, the cake is a brioche pastry baked in a circle, suggesting a crown (although for convenience, large ones are oval). They are sprinkled with gem-like sugar crystals in the official Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. A plastic baby (symbol of the Christ Child), or in some cases a bean, is baked inside. By custom, the one who finds it throws the next king cake party. Lately, the brioche recipe has been supplemented by a coffee-cake ring alternative. French settlers brought the gâteau des rois to Louisiana in the 18th century. Their original round, flaky pastry pie filled with almond crème and topped by a paper crown, is now making a comeback in the French pastry shops around the city.” from New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau website
I’ve never been a big fan of Mardi Gras parades, but I love the history and lore associated with the holiday. My particular favorite is the King Cake. Just about every grocery store and bakery has their own special version with a variety of flavors ranging from plain (a little cinnamon) to Voodoo and Praline. Heated discussions revolve around where to find the best King Cake in the state and everyone has a favorite flavor. Natives lament the fact that the baby is no longer baked into the cake (liability now that they are shipped around the world, you know.) King Cake parties are frequent so everyone can get their fill because these treats are only made from January 6 through Mardi Gras day.
Since I have celiac disease and food allergies, King Cake has not been on my menu for many years. Each year as I run the gauntlet of brightly colored boxes stacked as high as my head and savor the rich aromas, I feel a little twinge of longing. This is one of the few times I miss being able to eat something on my “bad” list. I can watch dinner companions eat fresh bread, biscuits, cornbread and more without batting an eye but when it comes to King Cake, it’s another story altogether. That all changed this year. I learned last week that a local bakery/deli specializing in gluten-free, allergy friendly foods would be making King Cakes. Oh Joy!! I skated close to the deadline, picking up my special strawberry cream cheese King Cake yesterday afternoon, but I will eat King Cake this Mardi Gras season! In honor of this momentous occasion, I decided to create a Mardi Gras/King Cake inspired Zendala. The tangle Brayd fits my purposes perfectly as the dough of a King Cake is braided and decorated with Mardi Gras colored purple, gold and green sugar. Add beads, a crown and masks and it’s Mardi Gras on my tile. Now I am off to enjoy these last few hours of Fat Tuesday and my first taste of King Cake in years. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Heartfelt thanks to Eric at Truly Free Bakery for creating my special treat!