Friday, January 6, 2012

King Cake

Happy January 6th!  Did you know that today, known as "King's Day" or "Epiphany", officially marks the start Mardi Gras season?  "Epiphany" comes from a Greek word that means "to show." Jesus first showed himself to the three wisemen and to the world on this day. You may be thinking, "I didn't know that! What can I do to celebrate Epiphany?" The answer, friend, is to enjoy a King Cake! (New Year's resolutions can wait.)
Why is a King Cake the perfect way to celebrate?  
  1. Because King Cake is delicious. It is a pastry that resembles a cross between coffee cake and a buttery croissant. Filled with cinnamon, cream cheese and/or fruit. Topped with icing. Decorated with sprinkles. 
  2. Because King Cake is symbolic and rich in history. Reportedly first brought to the US from France, the cake is decorated in royal colors of purple, green and yellow. Purple for "Justice," green for "Faith," and gold for "Power." These colors were chosen to resemble a jeweled crown honoring the Wise Men who visited the Christ Child on Epiphany. 
  3. Because King Cakes are fun...for kids and grown ups. Many King Cakes come packaged with Mardi Gras trinkets such as beaded necklaces or masks. And traditionally, a tiny plastic baby (symbolizing baby Jesus) is placed inside each King Cake. When the cake is sliced and served, each person looks to see if their piece contains the "baby." The person who finds the baby is named "King" for a day and bound by custom to host the next party and provide the King Cake. (With most King Cakes, you have to insert the baby yourself. Don't hide the baby if it is small enough to be a choking hazard!)  
It's safe to say that I am enamored with both the taste and history of the King Cake. I have loved it as long as I can remember. Maybe because I only had it once a year growing up. Or maybe it was because my dad's boss would send us the best of the best - a King Cake overnighted from Randazzo's bakery in Louisiana.  I still remember, as a kid, how excited I would get when I saw that big white box sitting on the kitchen counter in January.  
So, pick up a King Cake at your grocery store or local bakery, and start at January 6th tradition in your family today! 
(Note: I've tried grocery store versions of King Cake several times, and none are quite as good as Randazzo's.  But this year I got a cream cheese filled cake from the in-house bakery at HEB, and it is wonderful!) 

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