February 13, 2024

Celebrate Mardi Gras with an easy King Cake

Mary Apel

Mardi Gras is here! The day is a popular Christian holiday, despite its raucous reputation, though the parties and parades at this time of year date back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites.

In French, Mardi means “Tuesday” and gras means “fat”, thus Fat Tuesday is used to describe the day before Ash Wednesday, when revelers would binge on rich foods and booze before the fasting of Lent began. The word carnival also derives from this feasting tradition: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means to take away or remove meat, from the Latin carnem for meat. In many countries this is celebrated as Carnival or Carnaval, especially in places with large Roman Catholic populations. Brazil, Venice and New Orleans host some of the most famous celebrations, with tourists flocking to the parades from around the world. Brazil’s weeklong Carnival festivities blend European, African and native traditions. In Canada, Quebec City hosts the giant Quebec Winter Carnival. In Italy, Venice’s Carnevale dates back to the 13th century and is famous for its masquerade balls. Known as Karneval, Fastnacht or Fasching, the German celebration includes parades, costume balls and a tradition that empowers women to cut off men’s ties. For Denmark’s Fastevlan, children dress up and gather candy in a similar manner to Halloween, and then ritually flog their parents on Easter Sunday morning, according to History.com.

But you can celebrate from home! The King Cake, an iconic part of the Mardi Gras tradition, is easy to find this time of year. A mix between a coffee cake and cinnamon rolls, the king cake is usually iced in yellow, green and purple – the colors of Mardi Gras. The colors are symbolic of faith (green), justice (purple), and power or prosperity (yellow or gold). Hidden inside the cake (or on top in plain sight, for chewing safety) is a small plastic baby. Whoever finds the baby in their slice will be King or Queen for the day, and will have good luck for the year. Often they are also expected to bring the king cake to the next year’s party.

To make this fun treat at home, take the easy route and buy a can of cinnamon rolls. Create a ring with the rolls, like a wreath, then bake and ice as you normally would. The fun part is the colorful sprinkles or icing, which you should be able to find at any store, and the tiny plastic baby you can hide inside or use as a topper. Don’t swallow the baby, and Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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