Category Archives: King Cake

King Cake Baby Needlepoint

King Cake Baby Needlepoint

At my annual physical with my doctor we had this conversation:

DOC: How’s the book biz?

ME: Busy with an upcoming release.

DOC: Oh good, I bought your last book. My son lives in Manhattan and needlepoints in Central Park. He made a King Cake. Look, he added the baby! 💜💚💛👑😍⚜️🎭

How cool is that! KCB in NYC.

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Little Bookworm Bookstore Author Visit

Little Bookworm Bookstore Author Visit

Laissez les bons temps rouler! Passed a good time at the Little Bookworm bookstore with illustrator Vernon Smith dancing, singing, reading THE KING CAKE BABY and of course eating King Cake! 💜💚💛👑🎭🎺🎵🎷🎶

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Happy Almost Mardi Gras!

Happy Almost Mardi Gras!

On this day last year I wrote a blog post about the popular song, The 12 days of Christmas.  This is the time of year to actually sing that song. The first day is today, December 26th. The twelfth day is January 6th, Little Christmas, also known as the Twelfth Night, Feast of the Epiphany, Women’s Day, Three Kings’ Day and or Kings’ Day.

During this time of year of course you’ll hear Merry Christmas, Happy Hanakkah, or Happy Holidays. Thanks to the Dirty Coast store there’s have another greeting you should know…


While the holiday season ends for most on New Year’s Day, those of us with roots in Louisiana are gearing up for another season -Mardi Gras, baby!

We get this party started on January 6th with King Cake. And we’ll keep buying, baking and eating them all season long. According to tradition, you want to “get the baby” because it will bring you blessings or good luck.

This year, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is February 13, 2018. That’s 39 days of celebration. Can’t wait to get this party started!


 

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Mardi Gras 2017 Visits

Mardi Gras 2017 Visits

I had wonderful time celebrating Mardi Gras 2017. The King Cake Baby and I ran all over south Louisiana parishes visiting with students, parents, teachers, and school librarians.

As a guest author for Scholastic I met many wonderful educators who work tirelessly to bring books into schools for kids. Book fairs are quite popular in Louisiana and the state is recognized as one of the top sales areas!  📚

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And while there of course I ate a lot of different types of King Cake!  I even ate a King Cake hamburger. Yes. I. Did. The food truck @FoodDrunknola sold them at the King Cake Festival. To my surprise, it was deliciously sweet and savory. Yum.


     

I was fortunate to visit Impact Elementary School at their Family Literacy Night. And had delightful visits at Port Allen Elementary and North Iberville Elementary. Watch these Port Allen Pre-K students dance! 🎶🎶

Second graders sang the 12 Days of Carnival. So much fun!  🎶🎺🎵🎷🎶 

Kindergarten students at North Iberville sang “Five Little King Cake Babies“. Cutest babies and baker in the city!

The King Cake Baby and I love to Skype with classes, especially during Mardi Gras. We hung out with a great group of first grade students in Kentucky who knew all about Kings’ Day.

Just so happens World Read Aloud Day, known as WRAD, is always during Carnival season. So the baby ran west…to Texas!

All hail the North Pointe Elementary grade 2 Kings and Queens!

                                                                                

                                              💜💚💛🎶🎺🎵🎷🎶 📚

It was wonderful to see kiddos from coast to coast celebrating Mardi Gras, like this Girl Scout troop from San Diego!   💜💚

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 Every year I bring a King Cake to my tennis club. Guess who got the baby?

Eating King Cake during Mardi Gras is a longtime tradition and fun no matter your age or where you live. But no worries if you don’t eat any by Fat Tuesday on February 28th, there’s always next year!

                                                                                                                                                 

 

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Bridget and the Books Giveaway

Bridget and the Books Giveaway

Eh la bas! A young kidlit blogger at Bridget and the Books is hosting a giveaway of THE KING CAKE BABY. Run to her blog and comment on her post to enter. Last day to enter is February 17th. Good luck!

Happy Mardi Gras! 🎶🎺🎵🎷🎭🎶👑

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Easy Peasy Pillsbury King Cake

Easy Peasy Pillsbury King Cake

Happy Almost Mardi Gras! Every January 6th kicks off the official King Cake season and Carnival. I wrote a guest post, ‘Tis the season of King Cakes, over at Charlotte Riggle’s blog for all you food and culture buffs.

Today I want to share another easy King Cake recipe. The recipe in my book, THE KING CAKE BABY, uses frozen bread dough with a cinnamon-sugar filling and includes a recipe for making a Cream Cheese icing. In this recipe, I use three Pillsbury Crescent Dough Sheets, the cinnamon-sugar mix, and a can of Pillsbury Cream Cheese icing. Easy peasy! The only thing easier than making this King Cake is picking one up at your favorite grocery or bakery.

Pillsbury Crescent Dough Sheet King Cake Recipe

 Ingredients:

  • 3 Pillsbury Crescent Dough Sheets

  • Cinnamon sugar mixture: ½ c. granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons cinnamon 

  • 1 Plastic King Cake Baby (to hide inside, of course!)

  • Purple, Green, & Gold sugar sprinkles

  • Optional fillings: fruit pie filling, or Nutella, or almond paste

  • 1 can Pillsbury Cream Cheese Icing 

Directions:

Cover a baking pan with parchment paper or use a nonstick cookie sheet. Unroll dough sheets and sprinkle each with about a tablespoon of the cinnamon-sugar mix. 

Roll each dough sheet from the shortest side of the rectangle. 

Arrange into an oval shape. Press seams together to connect. Bake according to directions on Pillsbury package. EDIT: Add an extra 5 or 10 minutes depending on your oven. Check to make sure the inside is done.

Decorate the King Cake

Soften ½ can of Pillsbury Cream Cheese icing. Have purple, green, gold sprinkles handy.

While the cake is still warm, pour icing on top. Alternate with purple, green and gold colored Mardi Gras sprinkles.

Hide a plastic King Cake Baby in the underside of the cake. Before eating, check to see if you got the baby!

Click Mardi Gras King Cake from Pillsbury Dough Sheets to download the recipe.

Bon appétit!

And if any of you need a gluten free recipe, see this Red Mill cinnamon roll recipe.

 

 

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Mardi Gras 2016 Visits

Mardi Gras 2016 Visits

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School visits are a wonderful way for authors to share their passion for literacy and share the joys of living a creative life. This baby ran all over New Orleans, over the Mississippi River, and across the Twin Span Bridge! I am very fortunate to have met wonderful faculty and great students during each visit.

 

The kids and I had a blast reading The King Cake Baby and singing 12 Days of Carnival. My song is all about New Orleans food. And what food tops the Mardi Gras food pyramid? King Cake!

The following links are to pages dedicated to each school visited:

St. Pius X Catholic School, New Orleans

Terrytown Elementary School, Jefferson Parish Schools

Akili Academy, New Orleans

Abney Elementary School, Slidell

Homer A. Plessy Community School, New Orleans

St. Michael’s Special School, New Orleans

 

I also attended my first King Cake Festival, a benefit for Ochsner Pediatrics! And as you can imagine, ate lots and lots of King Cake! Maurice French Pastries won the People’s Choice Award for the second year. Delicious. Félicitations!

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I am so fortunate to be able to participate in this wonderful tradition and be a part of a very unique culture. And it’s celebrated year after year! Can’t wait till January 6th to kick off Carnival 2017. Mardi Gras Day is February 28, 2017. Who’s counting? ME, Baby!

Mardi Gras 2017 Countown

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Happy Mardi Gras 2016!

Happy Mardi Gras 2016!

Happy Mardi Gras! After two weeks of Carnival back home I can imagine the excitement in New Orleans today. It wasn’t a long season, but sure wasn’t short on fun. I was able to indulge in family, friends, music, and my favorite foods while there. Of course all appear on the Mardi Gras food pyramid, but there’s only one at the top.

King Cake!

1. Mardi Gras food pyramid

Here’s a look at King Cake consumption over the Carnival season from the Twelfth Night on January 6 to Ash Wednesday, courtesy of a poster on reddit. I believe this info is pretty accurate!

King Cake Consumption

And just about as popular as this tasty treat is our beloved King Cake Baby! Everyone loves that baby.

The best part of this holiday is that we get to enjoy Carnival again and again, year after year. Here’s to Mardi Gras 2017. Start the clock. Only 364 days away. But who’s counting? ME!

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Mardi Gras Season 2016

Mardi Gras Season 2016

Mardi Gras Season 2016 will kickoff, as always, on January 6th. New Orleans and Brazil are well known destinations for those who want to experience one of the greatest parties on earth – Carnival. Although the season varies, Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras day will always fall on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, 40 days before Easter in accordance to the liturgical calendar.

To get this party started, those who celebrate will make, bake, or buy a King Cake on January 6th.

Here’s one from last year. Keyword…”one”…I make, buy, and eat them throughout the season!

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And to show how big a deal these traditional cakes are, the King Cake Festival is an annual event to honor these delicious confections. The 3rd annual festival is January 31st. It’s a FREE family friendly event benefiting Ochsner Hospital Pediatric Departments. There’s something for everyone; music, games, food, and lots and lots of King Cakes to sample! A People’s Choice Award is given to the bakery with the most votes for the tastiest cake of the season.

Past winners included:

2015 Maurice French Pastries

2014 Haydel’s Bakery

Very excited that I will be there in Champions Square this year as a vendor with The King Cake Baby. Click here for more details and updates on this event.

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There will be lots of celebrations on January 6th too.  Some will attend the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc parade. Joan of Arc is a symbol of New Orleans’ French heritage. January 6th is her birthday.

Some will attend the ball of The Twelfth Night Revelers, a Carnival organization that had their first ball on January 6, 1870, a tradition that continues today. The female from their court who finds the bean- la fève – in the wooden King Cake is crowned Queen – La Reine.

The Krewe of Phunny Phorty Phellows will parade on the St. Charles Streetcar line the night of January 6th. That krewe is known as being the “dessert of Carnival”, a satirical and fun group. One of their mottos is “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the best of men.”

Click here to read my post from last year about the history of Louisiana Creole Carnival celebrations –    Le Petit Noël (Twelfth Night or Little Christmas or Feast of the Epiphany or Kings’ Day) and Mardi Gras.

And you don’t have to be part of a high society, live in New Orleans or where King Cakes are sold to celebrate the kick off of Mardi Gras. You can make a king cake in your very own kitchen. Watch Alex the French Guy make a French version –La Galette des Rois, he’s adorable and funny. CookingAndCrafting demonstrates how to make a New Orleans King Cake from scratch. The recipe I put in The King Cake Baby is a very easy one because it’s made from frozen dough. I used it with a handful of adults and a cafeteria full of kids to make 50 King Cakes in a few hours that we sent to our troops in the Wounded Warriors Project at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

If you don’t have a plastic baby, use a bean or a coin (wrap the coin in foil for hygienic reasons) to hide. Just remember, before you take a bite, be sure to check for the baby or whatever is hidden inside!

Bon appétit!

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SCBWI Book Launch Party – You’re Invited!

SCBWI Book Launch Party – You’re Invited!

It’s the SCBWI Book Launch Party! Click here to visit, like, comment, and share my party page for a chance to win a copy of The King Cake Baby.

 

Follow the baby on his Facebook page here.

While on the SCBWI site, check out other great kidlit titles.

 

Let’s get this party started!

SCBWI book launch

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Northern Ohio SCBWI Conference 2015 Re-cap

Northern Ohio SCBWI Conference 2015 Re-cap

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The Northern Ohio SCBWI Annual Conference -THE MAGIC OF 13 – was truly magical. The sessions inspired. The speakers motivational. The inspiration to writers to continue telling stories abundant. And as always, meeting new people and making new friends – unforgettable. Here’s a recap:

kcb badge       KCB Bookstore                     The King Cake Baby & me, all checked in!                  The King Cake Baby in the bookstore!

Kudos to Heather Price, the Regional Adviser for Northern Ohio SCBWI. With her guidance the conference was quite a hit. Juliana Lee and I traveled together to the conference and had lunch with Lindsay Bonilla, founder of World of Difference, a theatre-in-education company.

Heather Price Lisa Amstutz            me Lindsay Bonilla Juliana Lee             Heather Price, N.OH RA & Lisa Amstutz                                Me, Juliana Lee, and Lindsay Bonilla

Conferences are the perfect place to meet writers in person we befriend in our virtual worlds. Kathy Halsey shares the same digital space many of us kid-lit writers do. Also had a chance to catch up with a local Cincinnati SCBWI superstar award winning author Mary Kay Carson, a faculty member at the conference. I had to give her and the other members a shout out at the Publication Celebration for their mentorship which helped me get started in this crazy, creative business.

me Kathy liana                Me mary kay liana                        Me, Kathy Halsey & Juliana Lee                                       A toast! Me, Mary Kay Carson & Juliana Lee

The keynote, delivered by Viking Senior Editor Kendra Levin was quite inspirational. She motivated the audience by her comparison of our journey as writers to a hero’s  journey. Thanks for sharing, caring, and comparing Kendra! Agent & author Marie Lamba shared what it takes to make a manuscript picture book worthy. Can you tell she loves a good story?

Kendra Levin                      Marie Lamba                 Kendra Levin, Senior Editor, Viking, keynote                          Marie Lamba, Agent, Jennifer DeChiara Agency

Agent Viki Selvaggio treated us to some tips on how to add magic to our manuscripts. Each and every element has a purpose, know their roles and why they exist. Agent Jodell Sadler shared her knowledge of pacing in picture books. She gave us lots of picture books to use as mentor texts that are particularly good at using one or more of the pacing tools she shared.

Victoria Selvaggio, Agent DeChi                        Jodell Sadler               Vicki Selvaggio, Agent, Jennifer DeChiara                         Jodell Sadler, Agent, Sadler Children’s Literary

Author Miranda Paul shared some ideas on revision, something every manuscript needs. Whether tweaking an idea, a pitch, or a manuscript at the sentence or word level, we must be our own editors first. Little, Brown Books Editor Nikki Garcia gave her insight during the critique of “first pages”. Conference participants submitted the first page of a manuscript for editor input. Thanks for your insight Nikki.

miranda-paul                                  Nikki Garcia                                           Miranda Paul, Author                                           Nikki Garcia, Editor, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

A highlight for a debut author like me was meeting author and poet Shutta Crum! Fortunately I was assigned the space right next to her at the book signing table. What a treat for me. And signing a copy of my book for someone thrilled to have it will never get old!

Shutta Crum and me                       signing kcb                                         Shutta Crum & me!                                              Signing a copy of The King Cake Baby

And if you think those who write for children are not HOT, we were on FIRE! Well, actually someone pulled the fire alarm on the 5th floor of the hotel so technically not a real fire, but we still had to evacuate to the lobby. Bet the agents and editors visiting from NY had no idea O-HI-O could be as exciting as New York City!

Firetruck   Miranda taping   Miranda who me           Excitement in Cleveland             “Are you filming this Miranda?”                        “Who me?”

Finally, there were two conversations I recall that are too funny not to share. I spy a thread, do you?

Writer #1: Congratulations on your book. My son loves New Orleans. He still has the king cake baby he got in a cake.
Me: I still have my collection too! What grade is he in?
Writer #1: College, he’s twenty.
Me: Oh. (wondering if this was from a spring break trip)

*********************
Me: Who should I autograph the book to?
Writer #2: My son Alex. He loves everything New Orleans.
Me: Cool! How old is Alex?
Writer #2: Twenty-four
Me: (kid lit works for adults too)

Not exactly my intended audience for The King Cake Baby, but proves picture books are enjoyed by all.

Happy reading and writing!

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Amazon Giveaway #2

Amazon Giveaway #2

The baby is on the run again. CATCH HIM IF YOU CAN! 

#‎AmazonGiveaway #2! Click here to enter for a chance to win a copy of The King Cake Baby. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.

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Amazon Book Giveaway, Ends 09/21/15

Amazon Book Giveaway, Ends 09/21/15

That ended quickly!! Check back tomorrow. New giveaway will be announced!!

Catch him if you can! #AmazonGiveaway! Enter here for a chance to win a copy of The King Cake Baby. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends September 21, 2015!

If you’ve ever had king cake, you know a tiny plastic baby belongs inside the cake. But what if the baby runs away before he’s hidden inside the cake?

The King Cake Baby is a tasty re-telling of the Gingerbread Man tale, told New Orleans style! The runaway baby is chased by an old Creole lady and an old Creole man, a praline lady in Jackson Square, and a waiter at Café du Monde. But can he outrun a clever baker?

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Goodreads Book Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The King Cake Baby by Keila Dawson

The King Cake Baby

by Keila Dawson

Giveaway ends July 31, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

                 **Win an autographed copy**


Celebrating my debut picture book half birthday with a giveaway! 

The King Cake Baby is a tasty re-telling of the Gingerbread Man tale, told New Orleans style! The little plastic baby escapes before he’s hidden inside a cake. Then chased by an old Creole lady and an old Creole man, a praline lady in Jackson Square, and a waiter at Café du Monde. But can he outrun a clever baker?

Enter to win a copy to find out what happens. Because you can’t have a king cake without a king cake baby hidden inside!

“No, mon ami, you can’t catch me, I’m the King Cake Baby!

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New Orleans Trivia Quiz-Mardi Gras, Baby!

New Orleans Trivia Quiz-Mardi Gras, Baby!

New Orleans trivia quizzes are designed as a fun way learn about one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Rich in tradition and culture, New Orleans is known as the festival capital of the United States. The culture, customs, and many traditions celebrated throughout the year started long before US statehood which makes the city genuinely unique.

New Orleans Carville

This first quiz tests your knowledge of Mardi Gras and that includes king cake, baby!

See my other posts about Mardi Gras and king cake and another about how to catch throws at a parade.  Head over to Goodreads to take the New Orleans Trivia multiple choice quiz. For a heads up, the questions are below.

How’s your knowledge of New Orleans culture?

Bonne chance! Good luck!

1. What is the first day king cake is traditionally eaten in New Orleans?

2. What does the New Orleans king cake symbolize?

3. Other than a plastic baby, what else is known to be hidden in king cakes?

4. Mardi Gras is an official holiday in which of these states?

5. Who chose purple, green, and gold as the official colors of Mardi Gras?

6. What do the words Mardi Gras mean in English?

7. What happens when you find the plastic king cake baby inside the cake?

8. What New Orleans Carnival krewe uses a bean and “mock wooden” king cake to choose their queen?

9. At a new Orleans Mardi Gras parade, the following may be caught from floats.

10. Where can you go to sample the best variety of Louisiana king cakes?

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Gingerbread Man & Runaway Tales, Near & Far

Gingerbread Man & Runaway Tales, Near & Far

Gingerbread Man runaway tales from near & far are as old as they are vast, brought to us in many versions from around the world. Research shows the story began as an oral storytelling tradition, a folktale. According to a researcher at The The Straight Dope, the history behind “gyngerbreed” dates back to 1386, that’s the 14th century folks! And the early gingerbread treats were made in the shape of a fluer de lis, or men or pigs.

Leave it to the Brothers’ Grimm to show the dark side of what most think of as a moral lesson to children about vanity. In their nightmarish twist on the Gingerbread Man a young child is splashed with mud and the mud steals the child’s eyes, nose, and mouth. Yikes! Then it runs off yelling, “You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!” You can see a short clip of their creepy version on YouTube  here. Yeah, run, run, as fast as you can to get away from that thing!!!

The first documented account of a Gingerbread tale in the United States appeared in 1875. “The Gingerbread Boy,” was a story printed in the May issue of St. Nicholas magazine, a children’s literary journal. And over centuries, it has been re-imagined over and over.

What’s your favorite spin on this re-told tale? You know mine, The King Cake Baby, about our very own New Orleans runaway of course!

*updated with new titles

Follow my Gingerbread Man board on Pinterest.

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Say what? New Orleans Speak

Say what? New Orleans Speak

Say what? New Orleans Speak – How to Sound Like A Local

The King Cake Baby  picture book is filled with local lingo which includes French vocabulary. Here’s a handy guide if you want to learn more about the language and sound like a local too. Enjoy!

NOLA historical marker

New Orleans: (noo OR-lunz, noo OR-lee-unz, noo AW-linz) a city in the state of Louisiana, former French and Spanish colony.

king cake baby: a small plastic replica of a baby hidden inside a king cake. People want to “get” the baby or find it in their piece of king cake.

king cake: an oval cake decorated in Mardi Gras colors of purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power).

Kings’ Day: celebrated every January 6th, the first day of the carnival season in Louisiana.

Creole (KREE-ohl) spelled Créole in French. Louisiana Creole is a culture and a language created by people in the colony when multiple old world cultures lived together in the new Louisiana territory during the French, then Spanish colonial periods and continued after the American purchase. Today, the culture is practiced and visible all over south Louisiana through statewide celebrations, use of Louisiana French, Louisiana Creole & Louisiana Spanish languages, architecture, food, music, traditions, festivals, and general joie de vivre.

ma chérie- (mah- SHAY-ree) French word, feminine, used in the English root for the word “cherish”. Means my dear or my darling.

French Quarter:  the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans since the founding of the city in 1718. Locals refer to the area as the “Quarter”. The original name is Vieux Carré (VOO cuh-RAY or Vyoo cuh-RAY ) which is French for “old square”.

Mardi Gras: (MAH-dee-graw or MAW-dee-graw) French for Fat Tuesday, the last day of the Carnival season. The length of the Carnival season varies, but always ends the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent on the Liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church.

French Quarter cottage: a small, single story creole style home.

mon ami: (mohn a-MEE) French, masculine, means “my friend’’ in English.

praline: (PRAH-leen), a creole candy made with sugar, butter, cream and pecans. A pralinière (prah-leen-YAIR) in French is a woman who sells pralines on the street. Not pronounced “pray-LEEN” in Louisiana.

How you doing dawlin’: (DAW-lyn) a local greeting; example of ”southern drawl” where vowels sounds are prolonged. Omission of the ”r” and final ”g” sounds is also common.

Jackson Square: originally named Place d’ Armes (plahs-DARM) during the French colonial period. The area, renamed Jackson Square after the Battle of New Orleans, showcases  an equestrian statue of US President Andrew Jackson.

Come with me by my house: New Orleans local lingo. Means to stop in, not to literally pass by.

Café du Monde: (kah-FAY DOO-mawnd) famous café located in the French Quarter neighborhood known for making the beignet (BEN-yay), a deep-fried French doughnut or fritter.

Where y’at: (yuh-AT) New Orleans local lingo, a traditional greeting and contraction for “you at’’. Y’at is pronounced with 2 syllables.

C’est la vie: (SAY- la-vee) French expression often used in New Orleans, means “such is life” in English.

Creole Queen Riverboat: an authentic paddlewheel riverboat in New Orleans known for Mississippi River cruises, built to mimic the days of Mark Twain.

Yeah, you right: a statement of agreement. Sometimes spoken as one word – YEAH-you-right.

Bon appétit: (BAW na-PAY-tee) French saying, “good appetite’’, means enjoy your meal in English.

 Next time – New Orleans street names!

 

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King Cake, Mardi Gras, Baby!

King Cake, Mardi Gras, Baby!

King cake, Mardi Gras, parades, krewes – all traditions unique to New Orleans and Louisiana culture here in the US.

Everyone in Louisiana knows what day it is! It’s Kings’ Day, January 6th, the first day of the Carnival Season!

When people learn I am from New Orleans, they often ask about our Carnival or Mardi Gras traditions. I always include a bit of history about king cake and the tiny plastic baby that is hidden inside. The idea for my upcoming debut picture book, The King Cake Baby, came to me while making a king cake. I couldn’t find a baby and panic ensued. If you don’t have a  king cake baby to hide inside, the pastry is just a cinnamon roll!

And I was listening to New Orleans music. So first, here’s a song. Sing along!

Eh là bas! Eh là bas! [Hey over there! Hey over there!]

Eh là bas chérie! [Hey over there, dear.]

Komen ça va? [How’s it going?]

(New Orleans musician Don Vappie on banjo and vocal)

Read on if you’d like to learn more about our traditions. The history of our Carnival and Louisiana king cake practices stem from the periods of colonization as well as English tradition. Combining cake customs from the French and Spanish rulers created the foundation for this Louisiana Creole tradition celebrated on the last day of le petite noël (Little Christmas or Feast of the Epiphany). The beginning of Carnival is always on January 6th and is also known as Kings’ Day. King cakes are baked and eaten throughout this time, known as the  pre-Lenten season. Carnival or “carne vale,” means “farewell to the flesh”. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent, is the last day of Carnival. In 2015, Mardi Gras Day is February 17th. Although always a Tuesday, the date varies, therefore the length of the season does too. The number of days during Carnival depends on the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church. It’s the time between Twelfth Night (in New Orleans, that’s between January 6th and the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday.) Actually, the date for Easter Sunday sets the length of the Mardi Gras season.

Carnival is celebrated all over the world. And cakes are made too. In France & Québec the cake is called La galette de rois, in Spain and places they colonized like Mexico, South America, Florida, and California the cake is called Rosca de Reyes or ring of kings, in Germany its Dreikonigskuchen, in Scotland, the Black Bun, in Portugal, Bola-Rei. And many more I did not mention. In Louisiana, king cake is a symbol associated with the spirit of Carnival.

Many are surprised to hear that Carnival was not always a mass public daytime celebration in New Orleans. The first Mardi Gras parades were organized in Mobile, Alabama! In 1837, when the people of New Orleans started publicly celebrating in the streets, they were so wild that the government almost banned these celebrations. Yikes! By 1856, the private club or ”krewe” named the Mistick Krewe of Comus from Mobile came to New Orleans to save Mardi Gras. They organized a festive and safe event with floats, masked members who paraded in the street wearing costumes, and hosted masquerade balls .

Credit for the merriment of Mardi Gras seen today in New Orleans goes to the Krewe of Rex dating back to 1872. When Russia’s Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff visited New Orleans, the Krewe of Rex arranged a daytime parade. In 1875 Mardi Gras became a legal state holiday. Decade after decade the celebration grew. More krewes started, bands and throws like beads and doubloons were added to the parades. With the addition of larger krewes and celebrity participation Mardi Gras in New Orleans became an international event.

Louisiana “king cake”, known as kings’ cake or three kings cake in Europe and Latin America, takes its name from Catholic liturgical tradition commemorated on January 6th that celebrates the visit of the Wise Men or three kings to visit the Baby Jesus. The Twelfth Night Revelers, a Carnival society from 1870 chose the “Lord of Misrule” as their king at their ball, following old English tradition. The following year they started the tradition of choosing a queen for his majesty on January 6th. Today that tradition continues, using a “mock” king cake, and the event is considered a kick-off to the Carnival season. King cake eventually became a symbol for the start of the Mardi Gras among locals who were not members of these grand societies. The Krewe of Rex chose the colors associated with Mardi Gras today; purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power also used to decorate king cakes. In the French tradition, originally a bean or la fève, was hidden inside a king cake. Early on Spain used figurines to represent the Baby Jesus. In Louisiana, pecans and even jewelry were used. However it wasn’t until the 1940’s, that a beloved New Orleans bakery, McKenzie’s, started using the plastic baby we see hidden in king cakes today. In Catholic tradition, the baby represents the Baby Jesus. Whoever gets the baby or whatever is hidden inside is supposed to bring the next king cake or host the next king cake party or could be “crowned” king or queen.

Retail stores love Christmas, florists love Valentine’s Day, chocolatiers love Easter, and Louisiana bakeries love the king cake season!  By 1950, the public began buying lots of king cakes. Today, thousands of cakes are eaten and shipped around the world during the Louisiana Mardi Gras season.

And now New Orleans hosts its very own King Cake Festival! The second annual King Cake Festival scheduled for January 25, 2015 is sure to be fun!

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Starting today, EAT. KING. CAKE. if you are in New Orleans, join the festival. Plan a trip to see a Mardi Gras parade. Just don’t forget the baby mon ami!

 

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The King Cake Baby & Mr. Bingle

The King Cake Baby & Mr. Bingle

What do the King Cake Baby & Mr. Bingle have in common? They are both New Orleans icons. And about the same age too.

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Every baby boomer who grew up in New Orleans visited Mr. Bingle in the Maison Blanche window then went inside the store to take a photo with Santa himself. Credit for the creation of this Christmas icon goes to Mr. Emile Alline who was the window-display manager at the store. Back in 1948, a French Quarter puppeteer named Edwin H.Isentrout was hired to promote the little snowman named Mr. Bingle and advertise the MB franchise. Between the storefront window display, TV commercials, and visits to other store locations, the image became a New Orleans icon.

We can thank Daniel Entringer, Sr. for popularizing the icon of the small plastic baby known as the king cake baby hidden inside king cakes.. He was a cheesemaker from Wisconsin who bought McKenzie’s Pastry Shoppes from Henry McKenzie in 1932. At one time, McKenzie’s bakery was the most popular bakery in New Orleans offering sweets such as buttermilk drops, blackout cakes, petit fours, eclairs, and chocolate turtles to name a few, in addition to their famous king cakes. When a Carnival Krewe named the Twelfth Night Revelers asked Entringer to make king cakes for them, they supplied their own trinkets to hide inside the cake as custom dictated.  However, according to the history told, a friend of Entringer found a plastic baby in a French Quarter shop back in the 1940’s and suggested he use it. The baker started using the plastic baby then and created the tradition that continues to this very day. A king cake without a baby hidden inside is simply a cinnamon roll!

King Cakes are so popular in New Orleans, they have their very own Festival! Check out the King Cake Festival website here. Check out their facebook page for updates.

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2014 King Cake Festival Winners!!

2014 King Cake Festival Winners!!

2014 King Cake Festival Winners! Congratulations!

Best Traditional King Cake: Bakers Dozen
Best Filled King Cake: Mr. RONNIE’S FAMOUS HOT DONUTS
Best Savory King Cake: Loretta’s Authentic Pralines
Best Non-Traditional King Cake: Ye Olde Bake Shoppe
Best Baby: Thee Heavenly Donut
Best Looking King Cake: Bakers Dozen

People’s Choice:
3rd Place: Maurice French Pastries
2nd Place: Manny Randazzo’s
1st Place Haydel’s Bakery

kc fest haydel winner

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The 1st King Cake Festival

The 1st King Cake Festival

What do you need in the most festive city in the USA? Another festival! The 1st Annual King Cake Festival coming this February. It’s a family friendly festival too. Live performances, kid’s games, stroller fun run and of course a King Cake competition. And it’s FREE.

Wish I could be there with y’all. Have fun! Eat King Cake. AND DON’T FORGET THE BABY!  http://www.ochsner.org/king-cake-festival/

KC festival

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