Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Day-late king cake

Wouldn't you know it. The first time I mail order a king cake and the damn thing arrives the day AFTER Mardi Gras!

Frances Bakery gets an F for on-time delivery, but the Metairie, La., shop didn't disappoint once we started eating the thing. Frances (pronounced fransis-sez if you're a yat from Metairie) has long been at the top of my king cake maker list.

For those of you unfamiliar with king cake tradition, this sugary, cinnamon-roll doughy treat is served throughout Carnival season in south Louisiana. Hidden inside each cake is a small plastic baby. Whoever finds the baby is on the hook for buying the next cake - usually expected within a week.

My co-worker Jennifer (below) and others at my office just didn't get it. They struggled with the notion that finding a baby, or a facsimile thereof, could be anything but a joyous event. Convinced that the pink glob of hard Chinese plastic somehow was a talisman of good fortune, Jen spent the day hoping she would be the lucky one to find the baby in her piece of cake.

But she struck out. The baby ended up inside one of several pieces that I brought home to share with Rex's housemates. (For what it's worth, Rex says the cake, as seen in these photos, looks like Linda Blair threw up on a cheap pound cake.)

I gave up trying to imbue my coworkers with the Louisiana king cake tradition. Maybe here on the Left Coast the baby should be the bringer of good luck.

6 comments:

Jumpthesnark said...

At the department next to yours, fellow Louisiana native and expat Nancee brings a king cake in on occasion. Maybe not every year, but she's done it a few times since I've been here. So at least some of us know the obligations that come with finding the baby.

I don't know if they just don't ship well or what, but it always looks like someone chained the damn thing to a bumper and dragged it here when Nancee brought hers in. And Rex is right about that one - Linda Blair all the way!

Anonymous said...

Don't you just hate it when you try and share a tradition with folks and they just don't get it? or they make comments that can undo a moment for you when all you really want is the opportunity to enjoy and share your tradition in new surroundings?

King Cake-- great comfort food when you're missing New orelans...

Zoya said...

Certainly looks interesting. i'm glad you can keep up traditions.

John H. said...

Here's my take on the baby. Finding it IS a good thing. You get the honor of buying the next king cake and hosting the next party, and that's similar to the honor of giving someone a present at Christmas. Both the sharing of a king cake and the giving of Christmas presents are ways of commemorating the giving of gifts by the three wise men to the Christ child.

Zoya said...

I was just reading a mexican friends blog and they have something similar called a rosca. There a baby toys hidden in the donut shaped cake and whoever finds the toys has the next gathering. is this the same or similar tradition?

Keith said...

Zoya,
Looks like the New Orleans king cake and the rosca de reyes were born out of the same French tradition of marking the Epiphany, when the three kings visited Jesus, with a circular cake representing a king's crown with an infant figurine hidden inside.
Here's a link to a website that explains the Mexican tradition: http://www.mexgrocer.com/10096.html
Thanks for enlightening us.