In New Orleans, king cakes are a regular feature of the carnival season, showing up for the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 6) and holding a place of honor at parties and celebrations through Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before Lent begins – Feb. 21 this year. The brightly decorated crowns of sweetened yeast dough or flaky puff pastry have a baby (representing the Christ child), a bean, or a coin baked into the dough; those who find the treasure in their slice are responsible for providing the king cake at the next party. Though Austin doesn't celebrate the entire carnival season as yet, king cakes are growing in popularity and can be purchased at the following local businesses with 24 hours' notice.
Bakerman's Patisserie and Chocolatier The New Orleans-style sweet yeast dough cakes here are filled with a choice of traditional cinnamon sugar, napped with frosting, and dusted with bright green, purple, and gold sanding sugar, as well as plenty of Mardi Gras beads. Half-sheet: $13; full sheet $23. Cakes filled with cream cheese are $18/$28. 120 E. Seventh, 476-0060.
Central Market New Orleans-style sweet yeast dough braids are filled with cinnamon sugar ($9.99), cream cheese, or strawberry cream cheese ($10.99). 4001 N. Lamar, 206-1000; 4477 S. Lamar, 899-4300.
Cypress Grill This popular Cajun/Creole restaurant imports king cakes from the legendary Gambino's Bakery in New Orleans every week. Enjoy slices with your meal or order a whole one to take home. 4404-L W. William Cannon, 358-7474.
Fiesta Small New Orleans-style cakes come fully decorated ($7.99). Various locations.
La Madeleine This French bakery/cafe always features the classic French galette du roi. Various locations.
Quack's 43rd Street Bakery Quirky Quack's will offer its own king cake interpretation the weekend before Mardi Gras. 411 E. 43rd, 453-3399.
Royal Blue Grocery will serve authentic New Orleans-style muffalettas, chicken-and-sausage gumbo, and give away slices of homemade, Louisiana-style king cake all day on Feb. 21. 609 Congress, 469-5888.
Russell's Bakery & Coffee Bar The 8-inch round cakes here are made with Danish pastry dough and retail for $28. 3339 Hancock, 419-7877.
Sweetish Hill Bakery & Cafe Austin's oldest French bakery is preparing both the traditional French galette du roi with almond-paste filling and the New Orleans-style sweet yeast dough filled with cinnamon sugar. 1120 W. Sixth, 472-1347.
Upper Crust Bakery The artisan baker here uses a sweet Danish pastry dough for the brightly decorated cake, $18. 4508 Burnet Rd., 467-0102.
Whole Foods Market New Orleans-style sweet yeast dough braids are filled with cinnamon-sugar, pecan-praline, chocolate, or raspberry cream cheese ($12.99). Cake slices are available for $2.49 each. 525 N. Lamar, 476-1206; 9607 Research #300, 345-5003.
Curious Confections These intrepid bakers make traditional cinnamon-sugar filled King Cakes ($10 small/$20 large) as well as cakes filled with a variety of taste-tempting fruit fillings, including lemon curd ($12 small/$24 large). www.curiousconfections.com