UNITED STATES NEWS

Fat Tuesday means big business for New Orleans bakers under exploding demand for king cakes

Feb 2, 2024, 4:04 AM | Updated: 11:00 am

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — It’s Carnival season in New Orleans and that means lines are long outside local bakeries and the pace inside is brisk as workers strive to meet customer demand for king cakes — those brightly colored seasonal pastries that have exploded in popularity over the years.

“Mardi Gras is our busiest time of year,” says David Haydel Jr. of Haydel’s Bakery, who estimates the sale of king cakes in the few short weeks between Christmas and Lent accounts for about half the bakery’s income.

Behind him are racks holding dozens of freshly baked cakes ready for wrapping. Nearby, workers are whipping up batter in large mixers, rolling out lengths of dough, braiding and shaping them into rings and popping them into ovens.

It’s a similar scene at Adrian’s Bakery in the city’s Gentilly neighborhood, where Adrian Darby Sr. estimates king cakes make up 40% of his business. “Without Mardi Gras, you know, you have to make cutbacks, and you don’t want to do that. You’ve got full-time employees and you want to maintain that.”

Food historian Liz Williams says the roots of king cake culture date to Saturnalia celebrations of ancient Rome, when a cake was baked with a bean inside and whoever got the slice with the bean was deemed king for a day.

Over the centuries the traditions developed and were adapted into European pre-Lenten festivals that evolved into the modern Mardi Gras traditions.

The evolution hasn’t stopped, according to Williams. King cakes in New Orleans were once uniform and simple — a ring of braided lightly sweet brioche topped with purple, green and gold sugar. Instead of a bean, tiny baby dolls — made of china at first, now plastic — were baked inside.

“There was not really one variation from one bakery to another,” Williams said. But by the 1970s, changes were happening. Some bakers began using Danish-style pastry dough. Some began filling their king cakes with cream cheese or fruit preserves.

The treat’s popularity grew from one Mardi Gras season to the next amid the usual frenzy of parades and colorful floats, costumed revelry and partying in the streets. Years ago, Williams said king cake was probably consumed a few times a year, perhaps during a king cake party during Carnival season.

Now, said Williams, Mardi Gras season means almost daily king cake consumption for some. “People will pick up a king cake and take it to work, and whoever gets the baby has to bring one the next day, so people are eating it all the time.”

Still, it’s not a year-round binge treat. Tradition holds that king cake is not to be eaten before Carnival season begins on Jan. 6 nor after Mardi Gras — Fat Tuesday — which falls this year on Feb. 13.

King cake’s popularity was evident one recent morning at Manny Randazzo’s bakery in New Orleans, where a line of more than 60 people stretched down the street. Customer Adrienne Leblanc loaded the back of an SUV with king cakes for friends and family in New Orleans and beyond.

“Some of these are going to go to Houston, some will go to Mississippi,” said LeBlanc. “And some will stay here in New Orleans.”

United States News

Associated Press

Strong winds, steep terrain hamper crews battling Los Angeles area’s first major fire of the year

GORMAN, Calif. (AP) — Strong winds pushed flames through dry brush in mountains along Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles on Sunday, and officials warned residents in the wildfire’s path to be prepared to leave if it explodes in size again. Los Angeles County’s first major wildfire of the year swiftly grew to nearly 23 […]

19 minutes ago

Associated Press

Woman holding large knife at Denver intersection shot and killed by police, chief says

DENVER (AP) — Officers shot and killed a woman who was holding a large, hunting-style knife at an intersection in downtown Denver on Sunday, police said. Officers used a Taser on the woman twice but she began advancing toward them as they tried to back up from her, Denver police Chief Ron Thomas said a […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

2 killed when vintage plane crashes during Father’s Day event at Southern California airfield

CHINO, Calif. (AP) — Two people were killed aboard a vintage plane that crashed and burst into flames near a Southern California airfield during a weekend Father’s Day event hosted by an air museum, authorities said Sunday. The Federal Aviation Administration said the twin-engine Lockheed 12A crashed shortly after 12:30 p.m. Saturday, just west of […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

2 people seriously injured after small plane crashes near interstate south of Denver

LARKSPUR, Colo. (AP) — Two people were hospitalized with serious injuries after their small plane crashed near Interstate 25 in Colorado on Sunday, officials said. The plane crashed in a field just off I-25 near Larkspur, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Denver, after it apparently hit a sign on the highway, causing it […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Kansas lawmaker’s law license suspended over conflicts of interest in murder case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican Kansas lawmaker who already dropped his re-election campaign last month after he was arrested in a traffic stop has now been barred from practicing law for at least a year for mishandling conflicts of interest in a murder case. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that state Rep. Carl Maughan […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Police identify Michigan splash pad shooter but there’s still no word on a motive

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Authorities on Sunday identified the man who opened fire at a splash pad in suburban Detroit before taking his own life, but his motives remained unknown as investigators worked to determine if he left behind any hint of his plans. Oakland County Sheriff’s spokesperson Stephen Huber said the shooter was […]

15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

Fat Tuesday means big business for New Orleans bakers under exploding demand for king cakes