I was in New Orleans last week and had a grand ole time! I was there with cousins from all over the country. While we were there, we met up with a family friend and her boyfriend. They both are in Med School in New Orleans (She is an implant from San Diego, and he is a N.O. native) and they were our tour guides for the weekend. Basically, they rule.
While having a nice meal in their apartment, they presented us with a King’s Cake for dessert.
I have never heard of King’s Cake until I moved to Mobile. I have seen them around lately, since we are approaching Mardi Gras, but I thought it was just a regular cake that you decorate for any holiday, like a birthday cake, Valentine’s day cake, congratulations on your 12th marriage cake, or any one of these.
No no no, my friends! This cake is different. On the outside, it is decorated with the traditional Mardi Gras colors, but on the inside, hidden within the deliciousness, there is a bean and a baby. For all you readers who are not familiar with this, I will give you an extra second to re-read that last sentence…..Yep, you read right, a bean and a BABY! There is a BABY. INSIDE of the cake. But this is not just any miniature baby in the cake. Its baby Jesus. Yeah. That’s right. Imagine my confusion. I am handed a delicious looking piece of cake, but it may have baby Jesus in it. Am I supposed to eat baby Jesus if I find it in my cake? As for the bean, that doesn’t sound nearly as weird, so I just let that one slide.
Upon voicing my concerns, I was told that mini plastic baby Jesus is there to symbolize some religious/cultural meaning. I had way too many questions to be answered, so when I got home I did some research. Here’s the deal:
- Pre-Christianity, there were Pagans. Every year, they would choose a tribal king. He was treated like royalty (literally) and then when it was time to celebrate the harvest, they would sacrifice the king, returning his blood to the soil in hopes for a successful harvest.
- They chose the king by making a cake for all of the men (Hence “King’s” cake). They hid a bean inside the cake. If you found the bean, you were the next king (YAY!), and the next sacrifice (Dangit).
- Later, Christianity takes over. They weren’t feelin’ the whole sacrifice thing, so they got rid of that tradition, but kept the tradition of the cake. They decided that the king’s cake now represents the Three Kings who came to visit baby Jesus.
- So what happens if you find the hidden trinkets in the cake? You are designated the King or Queen of the night, and instead of being sacrificed, you get to host the Mardi Gras party next year! Lucky, you!
P.S: Don't eat baby Jesus.