Saturday, January 17, 2009
History Of The "King Cake"..............part #1
Several people have asked me about the traditions and history behind the "King Cakes" that we in Louisiana, and else where, divulge ourselves in eating this time of year.
I'm going to break this into two posts so as not to "bore" anyone so please stay tuned for "part deux."
King Cakes not only have a rich and wonderful taste to them, but they have fascinating stories behind their existence.
It's the classic tale of "paganism, religion, greed, murder, and mystery, glorious food, celebrations, holidays, babies, rich Rulers, Kings and Queens and power, revivaly, foolishness, masks..........
I started to tell you about "King Cakes" and went off into "Louisiana Politics" instead.
Terrible of me. I know.
Well, moving along....let's just say that all those things mentioned previously are involved in the story of the "King Cake" as well.
In fact. It's very complicated and if you read and study you will find tons of information. Most of which you will never need in life. HA!
So let me just "condense" the vast history on this one sweet pastry for all of us.
And then I will give you some of my own thoughts and experiences as well along the way.
"Cake" somehow gets thrown into the MIX of "Twelfth Night" which if you know nothing about..... let me give you this much to go off of.
"Twelfth Night" is the day in which the event of the coming of the "Wise men bearing special gifts to the Christ Child" is celebrated.
This celebration is ALSO called "Epiphany, Little
Christmas, or the Twelfth Night." One of the most popular customs in this celebration of giving gifts is the
baking of a special cake in honor of the three kings.
Hence...."The King's Cake."Makes sense to me so far. Sort of.
Inside of the cake somewhere is a plastic baby. The tiny plastic baby is supposed to represent the Christ Child.
The person receiving it is to have "good luck" and blah, blah, blah, but MOST importantly....they are to "buy the next King Cake" which sort of represents.....one of the Kings bearing a gift. It's odd but that's what is is supposed to mean.......but HONESTLY.....I have NEVER known that person getting the baby to buy the next King Cake. Hummmm........
What's wrong this that tradition because it's not working??
In fact.....just the other day in my very own house. Just moments after writing my first post regarding the King Cake we had gotten......ONE of my precious children got the "Baby" in a piece they must have taken to eat..... and didn't even acknowledge that they had gotten it.
I just so happened to "stumble upon" the baby all dirty with cake stuff on it just "thrown" in the BOX still.
Ummm.....when I went to get another piece. UGH!
(sorry for the blur....)
I still don't know who got it but I'd like them to "fess up" and get that next King Cake here because we are out of it now....and need another.
Dirty rats!!(Fuzzy little baby Jesus replica)
(This is a better example of the "baby.")
Anyhow.......in Louisiana, Twelfth Night also signifies the beginning of the carnival season which ends with Mardi Gras Day.
The New Orleans connection/tradition, which begun in the 1870s, is very, strongly ingrained with European customs.
As part of the celebration of Mardi Gras, it is traditional to bake an oval cake in honor of the three kings - thus your "King Cake."
The shape of a King Cake symbolizes the "unity of faiths." Which is interesting because not ALL "faiths" participate in all these customs or even know what they stand for.
However,many DO eat the cake.
Like us. HA!
The cake is decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors which you will see EVERYWHERE you go in Louisiana right now....
These colors are said to stand for: purple represents justice, green represents faith and gold represents power.
And don't forget...again most important...each cake has a small plastic baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, inside of it.
Some bakery's leave the baby out of the cake but included inside of the cake box for you to put in the cake at your discretion. People don't want "sued" over someone "swallowing the baby" or damaging your teeth.
The place we buy our cakes at......puts the baby right in the cake so look out.
I will however write more on "King Cakes" and what they taste like and costs and flavors and such and possibly touch a tiny, tiny, bit on this "Mardi Gras" thing if I am in a good mood next time.