All Hail the King Cake

It's not Carnival until you find the hidden baby

King cakes from Dai Due (Photo by Dai Due/ Facebook)

In New Orleans, king cakes are a regular feature of the Carnival season, showing up for the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th) and holding a place of honor at parties and celebrations through Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before Lent begins.

The brightly decorated crowns of sweetened yeast dough or flaky puff pastry have a baby (representing the Christ child), a bean, a nut, or a coin baked into the dough and the person who finds the treasure in their slice is responsible for providing the king cake at the next party. Carnival season is short this year but there's still time to order one of the king cakes from the businesses listed below and begin your own tradition. Ordering with 24-48 hours' notice is a good idea.

Central Market (both stores) and H-E-Bs with in-store bakeries: New Orleans-style sweet yeast dough braids filled with cinnamon-sugar ($9.99), cream cheese, or strawberry cream cheese ($10.99).

Curious Confections (www.curiousconfections.com, 512/465-2879) Gemma and Michael Matherne maintain a busy stall at the Downtown SFC Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings and HOPE Farmers Market every Sunday. Give them at least 24 hours' notice on orders and they’ll whip up traditional, cinnamon-sugar-filled New Orleans-style king cakes ($10 small, $20 large) or try more exotic fillings, such as lemon curd, Voodoo chocolate, or chocolate hazelnut ($12 small, $24 large). This year, they've added the traditional French galette des rois ($6) to their offerings. Pick up or delivery by arrangement.

Cypress Grill (4404 W. William Cannon, 512/358-7474) This popular Cajun/Creole restaurant imports king cakes from the legendary Gambino’s Bakery in New Orleans for sale during Carnival season, but the supply is limited, so order soon. They also serve slices with meals to restaurant customers on Mardi Gras day.

Dai Due (2406 Manor Rd., 512/ 524-0688) Pastry chef Abby Love is whipping up brioche-style rolls made with leaf lard rendered in the butcher shop, and filling them with a Texas apple compote and Full Quiver Farms' creamy Neufchâtel cheese ($15). The icing sugars are made with organic vegetable dyes and there's a Texas hickory nut hidden inside to represent the baby. Order in advance for pick-up in the store.

Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden (709 E. Sixth, 512/614-4972) David Norman is the best baker in town for our money, and we really love his king cake ($18), a twisting circle of buttery Danish dough filled with cinnamon-sugar, dusted with Mardi Gras-colored sugars, and with a tiny tiger hidden inslide. Order by phone for in-store pick-up.

Fiesta Mart (both stores) Small New Orleans-style cakes fully decorated ($7.99)

Sweetish Hill Bakery (1120 W. Sixth, 512/472-1347) Austin’s oldest French bakery is preparing both the classic galette des rois with almond-paste filling (special order only) and the New Orleans-style sweet yeast dough filled with cinnamon-sugar, which they’ll have every day until Mardi Gras.

Upper Crust Bakery (4508 Burnet Rd., 512/467-0102) The artisan baker here uses a sweet Danish dough for the brightly decorated cake, $18.

Whole Foods Market (all stores) New Orleans-style sweet yeast dough braids filled with cinnamon-sugar, pecan praline, chocolate, or raspberry cream cheese ($12.99). Cake slices are available for $2.49 each.

Have we left anyone off the list? Email us at food@austinchronicle.com.

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