The History of King Cakes

City Bakery King Cakes

The history of the King Cake is a long and complicated one, but a delicious one at that! Read below to learn how the Mardis Gras tradition of King Cakes got started!


The “King Cake” derives its name from the biblical kings. In Christian tradition, the Epiphany, also known as the Twelfth Night (the Twelve Days of Christmas are counted from Chrismas Eve until this night), is commemorated on January 6th and celebrates the visit of the three wiseman to the Christ Child. The season for King Cakes extends from the Twelfth Night up until Mardis Gras, or Fat Tuesday, the day before the start of Lent.

While the King Cake tradition is thought to have been brought to New Orleans from France in 1870, early instances of this culinary tradition used what was then known as the galette des Rois, which was made of a puff pastry and frangipane. In France, a little bean was traditionally hidden in the King Cake, a custom that originated in the Roman Empire, and the person who found the bean was called the “king of the feast.” Throughout the ages, other items were also hidden in the King Cake such as coins, pecans or peas. Since 1870, the bean was first replaced by porcelain babies and eventually substituted by plastic figurines.

King Cakes Today

Originally, King Cakes were simple rings of dough with minimal decorations. However, today’s cakes are much more festive. First, the dough is braided into in an oval shape. Then, it is baked with a “baby” inserted and topped with delicious sugar toppings. Lastly, it is decorated in traditional Mardi Gras royal colors of Purple, which signifies “Justice,” Green for “Faith,” and Gold for “Power.” All of these colors were selected due to their resemblance of a jeweled crown, honoring the Wise Men who visited Jesus on Epiphany.

Today, King Cake Parties parties are thrown in celebration of Mardis Gras. During the festivities, the Cake is sliced and served to each guest; then, all attendees look to see if they are the “lucky” person to receive the piece containing the “baby”. If so, that person is named as “King” for a day and is expected to host the next party and provide the King Cake.

Our King Cakes are made with cinnamon sugar filled yeast dough. The dough is then shaped into a ring and topped with a sugar glaze and purple, gold, and green sprinkles, and, of course, has a plastic baby hidden inside! Each cake serves 8-12 people and is available by special order (with a 48 hour notice) for pickup on February 5th through Fat Tuesday, February 9th (Sunday, February 7th is the last day to pre-order)! $20. Contact us to order your King Cake today!

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