Category Archives: King Cake Baby

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 Christmas also known as Little Christmas, Feast of the Epiphany or Twelfth Night. 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!

Happy New Year 2015! Bonne Année!

Happy New Year 2015! Bonne Année!

Happy New Year 2015! Bonne Année!

To everyone near and far, wishing you a very productive and prosperous year ahead. I am very excited the new year is finally here. And can’t wait to get started promoting my debut picture book, The King Cake Baby in February.

Until then, the baby extends his welcome to 2015 and has high expectations for the new year too.

KCB New Year & Ginger

 

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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The King Cake Baby celebrates Halloween

The King Cake Baby celebrates Halloween

The King Cake Baby thinks beignets may be good to eat on a crisp fall day!

 

kcb halloween

 

 

 

 

Writing Process Blog Tour

Writing Process Blog Tour

Marcie Wessels, author of PIRATE’S LULLABY (Doubleday, Spring 2015) invited me to participate in this Writing Process Blog Tour. Marcie and I met in an online facebook group for writers. Although we live in different regions of the country we had an immediate connection and for good reason. We have traveled some of the same familiar paths, just in different stages in our lives. This time, however, we are virtually in the same place at the same time as we both become debut authors.

What am I currently working on?

I have completed a companion story to my original book, THE KING CAKE BABY (Pelican, Spring 2015). I have two other works in progress also set in Louisiana.

I am really excited about starting a new project which involves co-authoring a non-fiction children’s book with my husband who is a research scientist.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

THE KING CAKE BABY is a fractured fairy tale that follows the familiar rhythm and rhyme found in classic fairy tale of The Gingerbread Man. However the characters, setting, language and colloquial lingo used in THE KING CAKE BABY gives my story cultural significance specific to New Orleans.

Why do I write what I write?

I enjoy sharing my Louisiana culture with others. Our traditions and customs are very important to us. As a genealogy researcher and family historian I research and write frequently about our unique contributions to the multicultural landscape of the United States.

How does my individual writing process work?

The ideas I use in my writing are usually based on experiences or observations. While baking a king cake the idea for THE KING CAKE BABY popped into my head. For this story I started by using the framework of the traditional Gingerbread Man story adding my own characters and twist. Then I research. I read about the genre as well as many, many other comparable books.

THE KING CAKE BABY has a refrain mixed with English and French, so I spent a lot of time working on the rhythm and rhyme and making sure I used correct French grammar. Because this was my first children’s book I decided to seek out other writers in my area. I found a local SCBWI group, and just happened to go to my first meeting on the night scheduled for critiques. With their advice and direction I began to learn about the craft of picture book writing as well as the business end of the kidlit industry. I was very fortunate to find this wonderful group of ladies.

Revision is by far the most crucial part of my writing process. I can easily write 1,000 words but revision means getting rid of almost half of them when writing a picture book!  I have agonized for weeks over finding the perfect word or perfect rhyme. I believe every word counts.

KCB Memorial Day

To continue the writing process blog tour, it is my pleasure to introduce three authors whose work I admire. Each author will answer the same four questions I answered above. Click on the author’s name to learn more about them and their work. Look for their answers next week, Monday, June 2nd.

Diana Jenkins writes books, magazine stories, articles, and comic strips for kids and teens. Diana generosity shares her vast knowledge about writing with our local SCBWI group. Her newest release, TACKLING TOUGH TOPICS WITH FAITH AND FICTION (Pauline Books & Media 2014), is a resource book for parents and  teachers who want to help middle school and junior high students deal with moral challenges using faith.

JaNay Brown-Wood has published poetry in Highlights for Children and her debut picture book, IMANI’S MOON (Mackinac Island Press, October 14, 2014) is  about a young Maasi girl with a loving mother and a desire to do something great. When she decides she wants to touch the moon, she works hard to reach her goal, even in the face of teasing from the naysayers around her. IMANI’S MOON won the 2013 NAESP Children’s Book of the Year Picture Book award.

Kerrie Hollihan writes award-winning nonfiction history and science books for young people. Her latest book, REPORTING UNDER FIRE (Chicago Review Press, June 1, 2014), is about 16 trailblazing war correspondents who are also 16 trailblazing women. How appropriate to share Kerrie’s work on the day our country celebrates Memorial Day. In between researching and writing, Kerrie is the fearless leader of our local SCBWI group.

Cinco de Mayo Baby

Cinco de Mayo Baby

Siesta time for the baby!

KCB Cinco de Mayo

 

 

 

 

 

Earth Day Baby 2014

Earth Day Baby 2014

Earth Day Baby 2014!

Everyday is Earth Day. And the king cake baby can sure use some help. So just in case you need ideas, NOLA City Park shared a link to this article by Jenn Savedge, an author of parenting books blogs.

Don’t wait for April 22! Here is a month-long list of eco-awesome activities you can do to celebrate the planet every day.

KCB Earth Day crop