Thursday, January 23, 2014

What's a "King Cake" in Cajun Country?



At Betty’s RV Park we’ve partaken of a plethora of “king cakes” in the recent weeks.  So, I decided to find out a little more about what this cake represents.   I’m so enjoying learning about Cajun culture:  people, history, language, and culinary traditions of this group of overt a million Acadians, the Cajuns, who live in Acadiana, the Cajun country of southwestern Louisiana.
Abbeville, home of Betty's RV Park, is about 18 miles south of Lafayette
In many countries throughout the Christian world, the “king cake” is traditionally served during the Christmas season, from Christmas Eve through the Epiphany on January 6th to commemorate the time from the birth of Jesus until the visit of the Magi (the 12th night after His birth).   Here in Cajun country the "king cake" is also traditional to commemorate the Mardi Gras season, which extends from the Epiphany (12th night)  until Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), the day before the start of the Lent.

The traditional Cajun "king cake" is a round or oval-shaped cake decorated with the colors of
Mardi Gras:  purple, green and gold.  In 1872, New Orleans was visited by Russian Grand Duke Alexis Alexandrovich Romanoff, who suggested the colors:  purple represents Justice, green represents Faith, and gold represents Power.                                                         


Inserted into the cake before it's baked is a (usually) plastic baby representing the Baby Jesus.  The tradition is that, as the cake is consumed at parties given during this Mardi Gras season, the person who finds the baby Jesus in his piece is responsible to host the next party!    Every day is a party day at Betty's; so the tradition here is that the person who finds the baby Jesus is responsible for buying the next "king cake!"  I think we're now up to about 5 "king cakes' during our daily happy hour.

Of course, as with so many traditions, there are almost as many variations as there are Cajuns!  Generally speaking, the traditional cake, Recipe, is actually an artisan bread, with many of the traditional Cajun cooking ingredients, like raisins, pecans, bourbon, brown sugar, spices . . .

At our happy hour gatherings the "king cake" servings are accompanied with libations (from non-alcoholic beer to all varieties of wine to mixed drinks and straight shots), great conversation and lots of laughter and camaraderie . . .    

21 comments:

  1. It's fun seeing you connect with the various southern cultures.... Mardi Gras will be going on beginning next month ... officially March 4th.,.. Nawlins is quite a place ...

    Betty's sounds perfect... what a great crowd!

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    1. Hi Carolyn:
      I've had the experience of one Mardi Gras in Nawlins, years ago - all I can say is WOW. I'll be out of Louisiana before Mardi Gras this year but I'm sure it'll go off without us!!!

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  2. I've heard of King Cakes from another blogger and I too had to go and google and find out more about it.
    My mom and dad were proud Acadians and during the Acadian Day celebrations August 15, they always hung up the Acadian flag and streamers on their house along with everyone and celebrated their roots.

    Did you read about the expulsion of Acadians from Acadia in 1755? A good number of Acadians migrated to Louisiana.

    The Happy Hour sound like a lot of fun. You might have to walk around the park several times to wear off those cake slices.
    Hugs,
    JB


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  3. Hi MP: Love reading your updates. You are really loving life on the road. I am reading "Travels With Charley" for the first time, and of course think of you on the road with your poodle as Steinbeck was with his.

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    1. Hi Tamra:
      I'd read "Travels . . ." many years ago; then picked it up and reread it at the beginning of our adventure. Steinbeck's experience was much more planned and regulated than ours. I came to Abbeville with a two-week reservation and I'm ending up staying for 6 weeks!

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    2. Good for you. I think plans should be treated more as suggestions. Always need to be flexible so you can keep enjoying what you're doing, and then, when you don't enjoy it anymore, do something else. Steinbeck didn't have much time I think, as he had to get back and write. Being retired is great. Not limits on time.

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  4. I have enjoyed my share of King Cakes, growing up in the New Orleans area. There is a local bakery in Jefferson, LA that sells the cakes and they are sooooo good! It is called Haydels! I haven't had one is many years now, so enjoy a slice for me!

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    1. I've heard about that bakery so it must be famous; I'll see if I can find their recipe for KIng Cake.

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  5. We just had a "Mardi Gras" birthday celebration for my granddaughter complete with King Cake. I didn't realize that it is more like coffee bread but it was delicious and she loved it. It was great reading the background history here in your blog.

    Colleen
    http://travelinglongdogs.blogspot.com/2014/01/morgans-mardi-gras.html

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