New Orleans: A City In The Grip Of King Cake Madness


A few weeks ago, I ate three pieces of cake on a single day. All in the name of research, of course.

You see, it was Jan. 6, otherwise known as Epiphany or Kings Day — and in New Orleans, that signals the start of Carnival season. And that means we eat king cake.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is, of course, a single day: Feb. 9 this year. But in New Orleans, Carnival is a season that starts with Kings Day and ends in ashes — on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 10). In between, the entire city is gripped with king cake madness, its diet and culture dominated by the colorful cakes.

King cakes are most prominently featured in a kind of ritual exchange tradition in workplaces. One person brings a cake to the office to start off the cycle.

Kings cakes are supposed to come with a plastic figure hidden in them (usually a plastic baby). The person who finds the hidden figurine in a slice must bring the next cake to the office. This exchange goes on until Mardi Gras, after which the cakes disappear for another year.

What do you think?