Wait?! What's a king cake? And why is there a baby inside?
Everyone knows they celebrate Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Mardi Gras or Carnival season officially begins on January 6th or "King's Day" - also known to Christians as the Epiphany. Epiphany comes from a Greek word that means "to show". Bethlehem is where infant Jesus first showed himself to the world. As a symbol of this holy day, a tiny plastic baby is placed inside each King Cake. The King Cake tradition is thought to have been brought to New Orleans from France in 1870.
A King Cake is an oval-shaped bakery delicacy - a cross between a coffee cake and a french pastry that is rich in history as it is in flavor! It is decorated in royal colors or Purple which signifies "Justice", Green for "Faith", and Gold for "Power". These colors were chosen to represent a jeweled crown honoring the wise men (the Three Kings) who brought gifts to the Christ Child on the Feast of Epiphany. In the past, such things as coins, beans, pecans, or peas were hidden inside each King Cake. Today, a tiny plastic baby is the common prize. At a party, the King Cake is sliced and served. Each person looks to see if their piece contains the baby. If so, then that person is named "King for a day" and bound by custom to host the next party and provide the next King Cake!
The King Cake Baby is also a character in my friend, Keila Dawson's, adorable picture book, The King Cake Baby, a tasty New Orleans style retelling of the Gingerbread Man.