Real Englewood Area Dish

February 24, 2022 at 11:21 a.m.
Real Englewood Area Dish
Real Englewood Area Dish

By Sharyn Lonsdale

It’s King Cake Time!

Toni Newton lived in New Orleans for 40 years before moving to Englewood in 2017. Unable to go to one of her favorite bakeries for King Cake, the traditional Carnival season confection, this year she had one shipped to enjoy with her husband, Tom Newton, who is the publisher of The Englewood Review. It wasn’t cheap and it wasn’t perfect. “There were no beads with it,” said Toni. But it was King Cake and it was a hit in the office. 

Carnival season began on Epiphany, January 6 and ends March 1 on Shrove Tuesday or “Fat Tuesday,” in French that’s Mardi Gras. The next day is Ash Wednesday. That’s almost two months to eat, drink and celebrate before Lent begins. 

It’s traditional to eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. That’s not much of a challenge for any home cook. But King Cake is another story. The traditional King Cake is a yeast brioche dough, flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon, braided and then covered in a special icing. Then it’s decorated with sugar sprinkles in the traditional Mardi Gras colors, gold for power, green for faith and purple for justice. In all her years in New Orleans, Toni confessed she never made a King Cake from scratch. “It’s too much work,” she said. No argument here. If you follow the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens, prep to presentation takes three hours and 35 minutes. 

But Toni is not a fan of the King Cake “hack” which calls for two cans of refrigerated cinnamon rolls, a tub of frosting and sprinkles. “I think it’s cheating,” she said.

Whatever King Cake you make or buy, it’s not a King Cake without a surprise inside. According to NPR, the practice of hiding a trinket in King Cake began in the late 19th century. It could be jewelry, a nut or something else. Since the 1950s that something else is traditionally a baby. That’s when a New Orleans bakery used their King Cakes to get rid of an overstock of promotional baby dolls. If you get the piece with the doll, it’s good luck, but it also means that you have to bring the next King Cake. And says Toni, that means more like next week than next Carnival Season, at least in New Orleans. “They’re pretty serious there,” she said. 

If you are craving King Cake, Publix bakery said that their stores usually have them delivered during Mardi Gras season, so watch for them. They do not bake them there. I went to other royalty, King Arthur Flour, for this five-star recipe for King Cupcakes. If you don’t have a “baby” you can hide a pecan inside one of the cupcakes. Just make sure your guests don’t have a tree nut allergy. And be sure to remind them to break open their cupcake before enjoying, so they don’t break a tooth. Definitely not good luck.