I had my own Mardi Gras party today because my king cake from Paul’s Pasty Shop arrived!! What’s a king cake? Let me start out with a little Mardi Gras backstory. Mardi Gras, as you may well know, is a big party and it’s big deal where I’m from. Hattiesburg, Mississippi is my hometown and it’s about 1 1/2 hours from New Orleans, so Cajun/Creole culture is prevalent in my neck of the woods. As a matter of fact, Mardi Gras was a holiday for us when I was in college at the University of Southern Mississippi. Mardi Gras is a day–Fat Tuesday (this year falling on Feb. 28th)—but it’s also the season prior to the day, starting on January 6th (the Twelfth Night and the Feast of the Epiphany) and leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season.
Now for the king cake history. Those European Twelfth night celebrations are where king cakes first appeared, honoring the three kings that visited baby Jesus. Back then, the cake was baked with a bean inside. Now days, they’re baked with a small plastic baby inside and whoever gets the baby when you’re eating the cake, is the lucky one AND the one who has to buy the next king cake. King cakes are a big part of the entire Mardi Gras season and while the parades, balls, and celebrations are enjoyable (and for the many who may be overindulging ahead of the depravity of Lent, it’s a whole lot of enjoyment!), king cake is what I enjoy the most about Mardi Gras.
We’ve always gotten our king cakes from Paul’s Pastry Shop in Picayune, Mississippi. Picayune is close to the Mississippi/Louisiana border and they’ve been in business since the 70s. Paul’s was the first to do ‘filled’ king cakes–with fruit and cream cheese fillings and you can’t beat ’em!! You can get them in many combinations and flavors. You can have one flavor for the whole cake or up to 4 different combinations. My favorite is Blueberry Cream Cheese–delicious! When you shop at the store, the cakes are fully decorated, but when they ship them to you, they arrived unadorned and you get to have all the fun of sprinkling on the Mardi Gras-colored sugar, almonds, and that delicious glaze.
If you’ve never been to Mardi Gras or you’ve been many times like me and you want to partake in some carnival culinary delights, call down to Paul’s or go online and order a king cake for your family or your office. They ship overnight to arrive the next day and they even include some Mardi Gras trinkets to enjoy and you can order extra for a party. They make king cakes all year round for all occasions, too. Fat Tuesday is February 28th so you’ve got plenty of time. I’ve got time to order another one because this one was gone in about a day! Here’s their website: www.paulspastry.com.
So, while you might not be on Canal Street stuffing your bag full of beads and “doubloons” from the Krewe of Bacchus parade this Mardi Gras season, you can at least slice off a piece of delicious king cake and taste the sweet flavor of an authentic Mardi Gras tradition…and here’s hoping YOU get the baby!