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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Gateau de Roi - The King's Cake Story

This is an excerpt from "Mr. Lake's New Orleans Forum":

Gateau de Roi

Twelfth Night or King Cake

The story of the king cake begins, like the story of Mardi Gras itself, with the pagans. They had a celebration where a young man from the village was chosen to be treated like a king for a whole year. He was not denied during his reign, but after the year was over he became a human sacrifice to the gods. To eliminate this pagan custom, the Christian Church encouraged an observance calling for the preparation of a king cake containing a bean; whoever received the slice with the bean became king for a week and was allowed to choose a queen to reign with him. This took the place of the sacrificial pagan rite.

The King Cake tradition is believed to have been brought to New Orleans, Louisiana, from France in the 1870's. It evolved from the Twelfth Night or Epiphany pastry made by those early settlers. They added their own touches with the Spanish custom of choosing Twelfth Night royalty.

In European countries, the coming of the wise men bearing gifts to the Christ Child is celebrated twelve days after Christmas. The celebration, called Epiphany, Little Christmas on the Twelfth Night, is a time of exchanging gifts and feasting. All over the world people gather for festive Twelfth Night celebrations. One of the most popular customs is still the baking of a special cake in honor of the three kings..."A King's Cake" or Gateau de Roi.

A King Cake's ring shape, too, is significant, as some believe it symbolizes the unity of all Christians, and others believe it aptly resembles a king's crown.

A dried bean was originally hidden inside the cake but was replaced by coins, peas, pecans, rubber dolls, porcelain dolls, and in recent years plastic dolls. Starting around the 1930s, a tiny naked baby (Frozen Charlotte) was used instead of the bean or pea. The baby can be pink, brown, or golden. Some people believe that the baby represents the baby Jesus because Twelfth Night was when the three kings found the baby in Bethlehem.

Tradition has it that the person who finds the baby in the king cake is the next queen or king, he or she receives a year of good luck, is treated as royalty for that day and must host the next king cake party.

King Cake season lasts throughout Mardi Gras from the feast of the Epiphany until Mardi Gras Day.

The royal colors of purple, green and gold on the cake honors the three kings, Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, who visited the Christ child on the Epiphany. Purple represents Justice. Green stands for Faith. Gold signifies Power.

The three colors appeared in 1872 on a Krewe of Rex carnival flag especially designed for the visiting Grand Duke of Russia. He came to New Orleans just for the carnival, and the universal colors remain his legacy.

You can visit Mr. Lake's New Orlean's Forum for more outstanding King Cake recipes (including a Mexican King Cake). Thanks Frank!


Special Note: I couldn't help but notice that the first of the Three Kings was named "Gaspar". Seems as though someone may have forgotten to add the letter "d" at the end of his name.

Ahheee!! Laisser le bon temps rouller!
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3 comments:

  1. The Season of Epiphany

    by Dennis Bratcher

    Publisher: The Voice - Biblical and Theological Resources for Growing Christians

    "In western Christian tradition, January 6 is celebrated as Epiphany....Epiphany is the climax of the Advent/Christmas Season and the Twelve Days of Christmas, which are usually counted from the evening of December 25th until the morning of January 6th, which is the Twelfth Day.

    The evening of January 5th is the Twelfth Night. This is an occasion for feasting in some cultures, including the baking of a special King's Cake as part of the festivities of Epiphany (a King's Cake is part of the observance of Mardi Gras in French Catholic culture of the Southern USA). In some church traditions, only the full days are counted so that January 5th is the Eleventh Day of Christmas, January 6th is the Twelfth Day, and the evening of January 6th is counted as the Twelfth Night."

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  2. So, I guess that means we should be celebrating Mardi Gras from the 6th of January until Fat Tuesday (Ash Wednesday Eve). Imagine that! All these years I didn't know I could have been celebrating more days than I realized :-)

    Ahheee!!

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