It wouldn’t be Carnival if I didn’t share Mike Artell’s song! HAPPY 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!
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! 📚
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! 💜💚
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!
I was so pleased to receive an advanced copy of Chicory and Roux: The Creole Mouse and the Cajun Mouse to review for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday. What a fun retelling of Aesop’s fable, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, told Louisiana style!
Written by: Todd-Michael St. Pierre
Illustrated by: Lee Brandt Randall
Publisher: Pelican Publishing (February 10, 2017)
Suitable for ages: 5-8
Themes/Topics: Louisiana, Creole and Cajun culture, animal folk tale, city vs. country living
Brief Synopsis: This is a story about two mice, Chicory from the city of New Orleans and Roux from the countryside of Southwest Louisiana. One day, Chicory fell asleep in a picnic basket and ended up in the countryside where she met Roux. They explored Roux’s hometown. Chicory found Roux’s food boring, and yikes…there were alligators in the swamp! Chicory invited Roux to explore the city of New Orleans. Although they did pass a good time during Mardi Gras, Roux prefers the way the tradition is celebrated back home. The city may have fancy food but there were dangers Roux was not used to! Chicory and Roux parted ways but promised to keep in touch. They agreed that where they live is exactly where they’re meant to be.
“Once upon a Louisiana time, there lived a Creole mouse named Chicory. One morning she climbed into a picnic basket to nibble on some French bread, and she feel fast asleep. A nice New Orleans family had packed the basket with their favorite foods, such as roast-beef po’boys, Creole tomatoes, and pecan pralines. As Chicory napped, she was carried away to a picnic on a humid day!
When she awoke, Chicory discovered that the basket was smackdab in the middle of a swamp!”
Why I like this book: Author Todd-St. Pierre cleverly adapted Aesop’s fable, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, to create Chicory and Roux: The Creole Mouse and the Cajun Mouse. He highlighted city vs. country life through the lens of Louisiana culture.
When people find out I’m from New Orleans, often they ask, “What’s the difference between a Louisiana Creole and Louisiana Cajun?” And I always reply that the difference is similar to any region’s city vs. country living. Simply, where you choose to live influences how you live. As a city girl I attended undergraduate school in Lafayette, Louisiana located in the southwestern corner of the state. I had a wonderful experience, but I’m a New Orleans girl and identify with Chicory, the Creole Mouse! Yet I have friends and family who are like Roux, the Cajun Mouse, who would never leave the countryside. Truthfully, whether folks live in the city or the country we all celebrate the same wonderfully unique Louisiana culture.
There are two original songs at the end of the book, “Song of Roux: The Cajun Mouse and Song of Chicory: The Creole Mouse.
Read about Courir de Mardi Gras celebrated in the countryside of Southwest Louisiana
Mr. Donn’s Page for kids and teachers: The Louisiana Purchase for Kids
To read more reviews of today’s picks, visit author Susanna Hill’s blog.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
And if any of you need a gluten free recipe, see this Red Mill cinnamon roll recipe.
‘Twas a great World Read Aloud Day, er, WEEK! There were so many teachers and librarians requesting visits that I wanted to accommodate them all. I couldn’t, but I did end up scheduling visits over three days instead of just one. The King Cake Baby was a fun B.A., Baby Ambassador for the city of New Orleans!
Students in kindergarten through 3rd grade, were well prepared with great questions. One librarian surprised the kids on camera- they were all going back to their classrooms to eat King Cake. Fun! One kindergarten class showed up wearing beads, and they made masks too. And students danced with me to some Mardi Gras music. What a wonderful way to share New Orleans and a beloved tradition.
The educator in me did sneak in a little geography lesson during Skype visits. When visiting with a school in Minnesota, first graders were quick to identify their state and knew the Mississippi River starts there. We traced the path of the river down south to Louisiana. In one spread where the baby is running toward the Mississippi River Bridge in New Orleans, I always ask students if they think the baby will travel over or under it, and where they think he’s going. For the kids in Minnesota, the King Cake Baby was going to hop on a boat and head north, of course!
Until next year!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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:
2014 Haydel’s Bakery
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!
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!
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?
International Dot Day is named for the story written by Peter H. Reynolds titled The Dot. The book is about a girl who does not believe she can draw but through the encouragement of her art teacher learns she is able to “make her mark.” Every September schools all around the world are encouraged to celebrate International Dot Day through activities that inspire and encourage creativity. The teacher in the book told the little girl, “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”
My Celebri-Dot, inspired by my hometown of New Orleans is definitely known for the creative spirit found throughout the city. And deserves a WHO DOT! The design is dedicated to all the creatives who live there and to the people who had the courage to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. It’s been ten very long years.
Here are some tips of how to participate in International Dot Day:
- Check out the Dot Gallery to see examples of how others have celebrated.
- Read and discuss The Dot.
- Sign up and download the free Educator’s Handbook for International Dot Day.
- Follow the Celebri-Dots blog. Ask your favorite creative to share a dot.
- Share your DOTS and Dot Day activities!
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.
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?
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.
Thanks to Video Production by Carrie Charley Brown!
How to catch Mardi Gras throws is a question asked every year. Is it an art? Is it a science? Catching “throws”, the beads, cups, toys, doubloons, and trinkets thrown from Mardi Gras floats is serious business. Can visitors learn to maximize their chances of returning from parades with a huge haul?
Yes, Indeed! As we say in southern Louisiana.
1. Comfortable clothing. Seems like a no-brainer, but yes, I’ve seen people in open toe shoes and heels. Clothes worn to the gym or yoga are great. Parades are no place for vanity, people! Keep your eye on the prize, catching free stuff!
2. Training & Exercise. Competing with locals who are obviously born with the ”catch” gene will take some preparation. Work on your vertical jump. Start a stretching routine. Flexibility is key. Improve your reflexes.
3. Anticipation. You have to be able to recognize when a float rider has targeted you for the throw or someone else. If the 3 year-old on his or her father’s or mother’s shoulders is the target you have seconds to decide if you will snag that throw. However, if you do, I suggest you move to a new location.
3. Practice. Get in front of a mirror, raise your arms up high, wave furiously while jumping up and down and scream, “Throw me somethin’ mista’!” Acceptable alternatives include, “Hey, ova here!” or “Me! Me!” or “Here, here! Mista’!” I’ve witnessed many falls. Can you say, EMBARRASSING! Practice, practice, practice.
4. Visual attention. Never take your eye off a passing float! Let’s face it, some float riders have really poor aim. Use your peripheral vision to avoid elbows, arms, and crashing bodies. Ouch.
5. Competition. It’s important to size up those parade goers around you. Assess the number of parade ladders with seats. How many are nearby? Cute kids in costume. No explanation necessary.You think older people are no threat to a successful haul? See #2. For locals, it’s their natural habitat. Do not be deceived. Missed air born throws that reach the ground are their specialty. Do not try to pick them up, feet are used to accommodate for their lack of upper arm mobility. Crushed fingers are no fun.
4. Science and more. Here’s where that high school physics class you thought you’d never need could be useful. Speed. Distance. Velocity. Mass. Are the beads small or large? Short or long? Single or in a full pack? With or without medallion attached? Applicable to other trinkets and toys as well. Consider the type of toss. Underhand or overhand? Adult or child? Factor in the level of inebriation. How badly does the krewe member sway and lean? These float riders may throw intact bags of beads. Small muscle motor function is usually impaired. In short, they have difficulty opening the plastic bags. Be brave. Be ready.
Good luck out there. Should you catch so many beads and trinkets that you have to consider paying the airline overweight charge, or you need to check an additional bag on your flight home, félicitations!
You did it! Be proud. Start planning a return trip. You know you can do better next year.
Happy Mardi Gras!
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!
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!
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!
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!
What do the King Cake Baby & Mr. Bingle have in common? They are both New Orleans icons. And about the same age too.
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!