New Orleans king cake, and the French kind

by Walter Olson on January 18, 2007

In its traditional presentation, the celebrated Mardi-Gras-season New Orleans King Cake contains a small concealed figurine of a baby which someone gets as part of their slice; the lucky recipient then has to throw the next party or buy the next cake. Back in Feb. 2002 we ran an item, quoting columnist James Lileks, on how purveyors of some store-bought King Cakes no longer were willing to conceal such a figurine, tradition or no. For a discussion of King Cakes, including a picture of what one looks like, check Blawg Review #90, just published the other week at Minor Wisdom.

Now the New York Times introduces us to what is apparently the original French version of the cake, a flat round galette, also served during Carnival and also concealing a good-luck figurine. Don’t expect to encounter this delicacy in American stores, however, for reasons readers of this site will easily anticipate:

Alexandre Colas recalled that he once met a baker from Syracuse, N.Y., at a trade show in Paris, who at first showed interest in buying porcelain favors for his baked goods but later backed off. “He said there were too many legal issues,” he said.

(John Taglibue, “3 Lands of Orient Compete With French Holiday Favors”, New York Times, Jan. 17).

{ 2 comments }

1 LAN3 01.18.07 at 12:49 am

I believe their’s an English tradition of a Christmas pudding with coins mixed in– presumably that too cannot be done by stores.

I consider the baby-in-the-King-Cake to be a major problem as well– these days they’re all plastic, so you don’t want to bake it inside, but it’s tricky to get the bugger in without defacing the cake in an obvious manner, even from the bottom. Porcelain would be perfect!

2 Dr. Mary Johnson 01.18.07 at 6:21 pm

I once lived in King Cake country. I wondered if there had ever been any lawsuits over cracked teeth or choking or mental distress (from unexpectedly eating a baby).

Not everybody is Fat Bastard, (“Get in my belly!”)

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