What does the French Festival, Mardi Gras, mean in English? It literally means "Fat Tuesday." Mardi Gras is an annual festival held in France - and many large U.S. cities too, most notably, New Orleans, Louisiana - on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. Mardi Gras signifies the last day to enjoy rich foods before the Lenten fast begins.
Last year I shared the Polish Paczki tradition of eating deep fried, jelly filled pastries [doughnuts] on Fat Tuesday. [You can read about it here.] This year I decided to focus on the King Cake that New Orleans is so well-known for. New Orleans bakeries bake between 750,000 to 850,000 King Cakes every year, and many make as much as 80% of their annual revenue during Mardi Gras. That's A LOT of King Cakes!
The southern style King Cake is a yeast confection similar to a sweet bread or coffee cake, and is much different from France's galette des rois [also called a King Cake], which is made with puff pastry. The southern cakes are decorated with colored sugars in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, for royalty and justice; green for faith; and gold for wealth and power. They're very colorful and pretty.
I decided to try my hand at making a King Cake this year. It's definitely not a cake that can be whipped up in a hurry. I made the traditional cinnamon flavored King Cake, but they come in pecan praline, and assorted fruit flavors too.
Not bad for my first attempt, but there are things I would do differently if I ever make it again.
Since I won't be serving the cake to guests, I left out the traditional hidden treasure, which is a small plastic baby symbolizing the infant Christ child.
It seemed fitting to pair a French Mariage Frères tea with this cake - Earl Grey Silver Tips.