Rejoice! Now that Mardi Gras season has started, you can now eat king cake! Never had a king cake? You're missing out! Don't know what a king cake is? New Orleans.com explains:
The name "king cake" comes from the Biblical story of the three kings who bring gifts to Baby Jesus. A blend of coffee cake and cinnamon roll, king cake is usually iced in yellow, green and purple – the colors of Mardi Gras — and is frequently packed with fruit fillings and decadent cream cheeses. Hidden within these season sweets also lie a special surprise: a plastic king cake baby to continue the fun.
Luckily, you can get king cakes even if you don't live anywhere near New Orleans. Because I grew up in Louisiana, I'm lucky to have lots of friends who are totally in the know about where to get the absolute best king cakes. I did a little crowd sourcing and here's what folks were suggesting:
The old standbys like Haydel's Bakery, Joe Gambino's Bakery, and Manny Randazzo Original King Cakes are recommended by many. Others great places to get king cakes that folks suggested are Celtica French Bakery (a friend said it's "the best for authentic French Galette") and La Boulangerie (same friend said this "runs a distant second" to Celtica). Many friends also swear by Dong Phuong Bakery. One friend said they make their own, using this recipe by Emeril Lagasse.
If you don't trust my NOLA network (but you should!), you can also check out New Orleans.com's "Ultimate New Orleans King Cake Guide," which features most of the ones my friends recommended, along with several others. If you want more info about what you're getting before you order, check out this 6-minute video by LOVE NOLA tv, which features an array of traditional king cakes curated by King Cake Hub, and also savory king cakes—crawfish king cake and boudin king cake—from Bywater Bakery.
Some bakeries (including Randazzo's) are already fully booked for the season, so if you want a king cake, you should go order one soon from one of the other options! Enjoy!