January 6th (Twelfth night) has come and gone, so it’s officially carnival season, which also means that it’s officially KING CAKE season. And continuing the tradition at Dickie Brennan and Co., the overall flavor profile remains the same, but the actual King Cake desserts are a far departure from the traditional coffee cake like pastry. From a three layer gateau to a pate a choux, the pastry chefs at Palace Café, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, Bourbon House and Tableau have been hard at work creating unique and delicious takes on this New Orleans tradition.
The king cake is thought to have come to New Orleans from France in 1870. A traditional king cake is an oval pastry decorated in the colors of Mardi Gras – purple, green and gold. The colors purple, green and gold as a symbol of Mardi Gras have been traced by Errol Laborde to the first Rex parade in 1872. Why three colors and not one or two? Laborde and his fellow researchers came to the conclusion that Rex founders believed “a king must have a kingdom and a kingdom must have a flag” and because the United States, Great Britain, and France all have tricolor flags, it would make sense for the flag flying over Carnival to have the same.
Twenty years later, in 1892, the Rex parade theme “Symbolism of Colors” gave meaning to these colors. Purple Represents Justice. Green Represents Faith. Gold Represents Power.
In addition to being decorated in purple, green and gold, most king cakes contain a tiny prize of a small plastic baby hidden inside. The person who receives the baby in their slice of cake is considered “King” for the day and bound by custom to buy the next king cake.
So now that the history part is laid out, let’s get to how our pastry chefs are shaking things up a bit with their creative approach to King Cakes.
Bread pudding in New Orleans is as loved as King Cake, and at Tableau, pastry chef Caroline combines the two to create a King Cake Bread Pudding – it’s a cinnamon spiced bread pudding, stuffed with cream cheese and topped with a rum sauce.
Palace Café’s pastry chef, Nettie White is upping the ante in terms of color with her triple layer vanilla-orange chiffon cake. Purple, green and gold each have its own layer with cinnamon cream cheese frosting providing the definition between those layers.
Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse’s pastry guru, Katie Anderson is doing something of a throwback! She’s created a King Cake Banana Split – with Creole cream cheese ice cream, King Cake bites, bruleed bananas, salted caramel, and finished with candied orange and pecans.
Bourbon House is doubling down with two sweet options. The King Cake Bevvy is returning by popular demand for yet another season. It’s a frozen cocktail consisting of house made vanilla ice cream, almond syrup, cinnamon, orange zest and Old New Orleans Rum. On the non-boozy front, pastry chef Natalie Fortier has created a King Cake Pate a Choux – a puff pastry filled with almond, orange, and cinnamon pastry cream, topped with almond icing and finished with a sprinkling of festive sugar.
All of these options are available through Lundi Gras – March 4th. The restaurants are continuing the tradition of closing on Mardi Gras day, so that our team can hit the streets and enjoy the festivities!