You’ve seen them at the grocery store every Mardi Gras season: rings of king cake topped with icing and purple, gold, and green sprinkles and sugar crystals. Plus, that little plastic baby is hidden somewhere within the cake, ready to surprise one lucky eater. The story behind king cakes, which are a tradition that comes from our Louisianan neighbors, goes back centuries.
The first king cakes date back to the Middle Ages in Europe, as part of the celebration of Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day (Jan. 6) when the Three Wise Men visited baby Jesus and brought him gifts. As Catholicism and Christianity made their way to the New World, so did king cake, where it became a part of Mardi Gras season in New Orleans, which runs from Epiphany to Fat Tuesday. The colors, gold, green, and purple, represent power, faith, and justice, respectively. And the plastic baby inside the cake? Some say it represents baby Jesus, while others say that it goes back to Mardi Gras traditions when a bean or ring was put inside the cakes during the commemoration of the king’s ball in Louisiana. Whoever finds the baby in their slice is said to have luck and prosperity coming their way, but they’re also responsible for providing the next king cake.
Oftentimes, you can find king cakes at grocery stores such as Central Market and H-E-B, but locally owned bakeries across the state also make them for special orders and keep them in stock during Mardi Gras season.
Here’s where to find king cakes across Texas this year.
A Beaumont institution since 1941, Rao’s Bakery has king cakes available in all their locations across East Texas. Stop in for a store pickup, or order online and have it shipped across the country. Flavors include strawberry cream cheese, blueberry cream cheese, raspberry cream cheese, traditional cinnamon cream cheese, and Voodoo. Each regular king cake order comes with three strands of Mardi Gras beads, a plastic baby, a king cake history flyer, and a customizable gift message.
Not only can you order a regular king cake here, but you can also snag a king cake-inspired cheesecake, Mardi Gras petit fours, and Mardi Gras-themed cookies. King cake flavors include cinnamon cream cheese, strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry. Cream cheese and fruit mixes are available as well, and a plastic baby is included with each purchase. For a slice of king cake, head to any location.
In downtown Austin, Easy Tiger’s “dough punchers” (bakers) are busy cranking out king cakes until Fat Tuesday for Friday and Saturday pick-ups. These are made with the bakery’s signature pain au lait dough and filled with cinnamon sugar and topped with Mardi Gras-colored sugar. Individual-sized king cakes are also available at all locations. A cool feature of these king cakes: Instead of the plastic baby, a plastic tiger figurine is placed inside.
For a king cake made by a bakery that’s been a Fort Worth favorite for about 90 years, check out Blue Bonnet Bakery on Camp Bowie Boulevard. The bakery is currently taking king cake orders, so give them a call and then pick it up in-store.
Haute Sweets Patisserie’s chef Tida Pichakron is a New Orleans native, so you know these king cakes are the real deal. The bakery takes preorders for pickup and delivery, and they also do mini king cakes and king cake “haute chocolate bombs” that are filled with king cake-flavored hot cocoa and marshmallows.
Aside from serving breakfast and lunch, Belmar Bakery serves retro-inspired cakes and baked goods and has since 1965. During Mardi Gras season, king cakes are available, although it’s best to do a custom order online, as they’re not always available in store.
Executive chef Pieter Sypesteyn was born and raised in New Orleans and has been bringing delicious Crescent City eats to San Antonio since 2012. And while the eatery isn’t serving king cake, they’re doing a seasonal king cake beignet, which is stuffed with cream cheese filling and drizzled with cinnamon syrup and finished with Mardi Gras sprinkles. Laissez les bons temps rouler, indeed.