Mardi Gras has a reputation for being an extended “Girls Gone Wild” party, and wrongfully so. The Mardi Gras or Carnival season begins on the “Twelfth Night,” when Jesus showed Himself to the three wise men. For one month, New Orleanians celebrate with parties, parades and elaborate costumes. Some, like the Mardi Gras Indians, spend the entire year hand-sewing 300-400 feathers for a costume. The beauty of Mardi Gras is that everyone–friends, strangers, whites blacks–celebrates together. It’s such a big deal in New Orleans that Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras day) is a legal holiday.
No other food marks Mardi Gras like king cake, a cinnamon roll-like wreath. The top is sprinkled with purple, green and yellow sugar, signifying justice, faith and power (respectively). A baby figurine is also hidden inside. It’s good luck to find it in your slice, but you also have to host the next party and supply more king cake.
I tried the king cake recipe that appeared in the article I wrote for the AP, but Southern Living’s is better. It’s even better than the king cake shipped from Randazzo’s Bakery in New Orleans. The addition of sour cream (reduced-fat is fine) makes the cake stay moist and soft for days. It also makes the cake taste tangy and more buttery.
Please make this cake before next Tuesday, though. Eating king cake out of season is as unfashionable as eating fruitcake outside of December. (Although some argue that fruitcake should never be eaten, I disagree.)
More info about New Orleans: CulinaryCorps cooks up a storm in New Orleans