Mardi Gras Cliff Notes
Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday) is more than a NOLA parade and feast day. The religious holiday is the end of a season of celebration that starts with the Feast of Epiphany (Twelve days after Christmas). January 6 marks the arrival of the Magi and, thus, the much-revered King Cake.
This year Mardi Gras, the final day of the feast, is celebrated on February 16th and followed by Ash Wednesday, that begins the 46 somber days of Lent leading up to Easter.
The King Cake
But enough church catechism, let turn to the feast part. New Orleans has the celebration down pat with the gumbo, étouffée, jambalaya, muffuletta, po’ boy, and red beans and rice. But today let’s focus on the colorful, ring-shaped King Cake.
There are also a number of bakeries in the Lou, where you can get the cake: La Patisserie Chouquette, Federhofer Bakery in Afton, Diana’s Bakery on Cherokee, La Bonne Bouche, Missouri Baking Company on the Hill, Pint Size, and The Sweet Divine in Soulard. I’m sure there are other locations, as well.
Unique to the colorful confection is the tiny figure of a plastic, baby Jesus hidden in the cake. The finder is crowned king/queen of the party and is expected to buy the next cake and/or host next year’s event. Hmm . . . so the “losers” get to eat cake and await their invitation to the next feast? Good deal.
You can make the cake from scratch or from a box that has all the toppings, the figurine, and mix. A few years ago, a friend made the festive cake from a mix she got at World Foods and shared with us at the farm.
The Cake Mix
With the traditional NOLA festivities cancelled this year, you might want to don your purple, green, and gold-colored beads and serve up a bowl of jambalaya to your bubble mates, (Andouille sausage, chicken, and vegetable are perfect for an Instant Pot along with seasonings, stock, tomatoes, and rice. Shrimp goes in at the end.)
Or just enjoy a slice of King Cake before launching into 46 days of Lenten austerity. In the South, some are putting up “Yardi Gras” decorations, transforming their yards and houses into giant Mardi Gras “floats.” (You’ll want to take a look at some of these, they’re pretty funny as well as creative.
You can’t keep a good feast down.