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The Legend of the Mardi Gras King Cake

Do you know the legend of the Mardi Gras King Cake? I confess, that I didn’t until this year. I have lived in Mardi Gras territory for almost 1/2 of my married life; but, have obviously been hit in the head with too many parade beads and moonpies. I have noticed the sugary pastries in the bakeries and grocery stores, but I’ve never been tempted to indulge, therefore, I’ve just not paid that much attention to them. Yes, I’ve been to Mardi Gras parties, bunko parties and office functions where it was served, but, honestly just thought it was pretty with the purple, gold and green sugar. I had no idea there was a purpose to this cake. I’ve never found the baby!

The Legend of the King Cake

The Legend of the Mardi Gras King Cake

The twelve days of Christmas begins on Christmas Day and the celebration ends on January 6, the day of Epiphany. In many Christian religions, the day of Epiphany is also known as Three King’s Day or Twelfth Night and there is a feast to celebrate the gifts brought to the baby Jesus by the Magi. A King Cake is the traditional “pastry” that begins the festivities. A cake is served at a party and whoever finds the baby (thought to be symbolic of the baby Jesus) has to bring a King Cake to the next party and so it goes until Mardi Gras.

The Baby King

A Traveling Salesman

The legend of the baby in the cake is, however, a little sketchy. In many tales it is said that a traveling salesman happened upon a New Orleans baker and showed him a collection of porcelain dolls that he had a surplus of in his wares. They were small enough to fit inside a dollhouse; and the baker had no idea what to do with them. The salesman suggested he hide it in a cake, and voilà! The tradition was born. His cakes became very popular, however, and he soon exhausted his supply of porcelain dolls. He made a trip to the French Quarter and found a bag of tiny, plastic babies and replaced the porcelain dolls. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather find porcelain in my pastry than plastic; but, then again, I wasn’t aware that there was a baby in the cake, so what do I know!?

King Cake with Mardi Gras Beads


Whether the doll was originally meant to represent the baby Jesus or not, it has become a fun and festive part of the season. Today, the cakes can be filled with anything from bananas to almond cream and the baby is packaged separately. I searched the internet over and read many “quick and easy” King Cake recipes and settled on two that I thought worthy to share with my readers. Holly Clegg with Trim and Terrific has the first quick, easy and reduced-fat recipe to share.

King Cake Recipe


2 (8-ounce) cans reduced-fat crescent rolls
4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Mardi Gras Icing (recipe below)


1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Separate crescent rolls at perforations into 16 slices. On 10-inch round pizza pan coated with nonstick cooking spray, place slices around pan with points in center. About half way down from the points, press seams together.
2. In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Spread cream cheese mixture on dough in center where seams of dough have been pressed together.
3. In another small bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon with fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over cream cheese. Fold dough points over cream cheese area and then fold bottom of triangle over points forming a circular roll like a king cake.
4. Bake 20–25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly, drizzle with colored Mardi Gras Icing (recipe below).

Icing Ingredients:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons skim milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Yellow, green, red, and blue food coloring


1. In small bowl, mix together confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla. Divide mixture into three bowls.
2. In first bowl, add a few drops yellow food coloring. In second bowl, add a few drops green food coloring. In third bowl, add equal amount of red and blue food coloring (will create purple color).
3. Drizzle each color over baked cake.

The second recipe I want you to check out is over at Jenna’s Painted Apron. Her recipe has pecans with the cinnamon and brown sugar.

If you make one of these delicious recipes and serve it at your Mardi Gras party, may I suggest that you place the baby in the cake right before serving?  Be sure to warn your guest that a baby is inside, especially if  your revelers have their cake with a beer or two.

King Cake

Happy Mardi Gras!

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Leslie Anne February 11, 2016, 7:52 am

    My dog ate the arms off the baby Jesus this year. What terrible foreboding does that imply?

  • Judy Pimperl February 10, 2016, 9:08 pm

    I tried to avoid the King Cakes this year, along with doughnuts and cookies here lately, but I will say that they can be delicious, especially the ones with flavored cream cheese fillings…yummy. And I always wondered how many dental emergencies were caused by the porcelain babies…
    I’m enjoying the new blog.

  • Jenna February 9, 2016, 8:52 am

    thanks for the shout out Kim! I have bought 2 cakes locally this year and tossed them both because they were a pile of sugary glop! The crescent roll versions are the way to go, and light on the icing. I have also read that the baking of a King’s Cake was to honor the three Kings, portraying the circular route taken by the kings to confuse King Herod who was trying to follow the wise men so he could kill the Christ Child. In ancient days, baby Jesus was represented by a bean or a coin. Incredible that this cake is still part of so many celebrations! Happy Fat Tuesday!

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