It’s officially Carnival season, which means it's also king cake season — even here in Austin. Different interpretations of the confectionery treat are common throughout the French and Spanish speaking world, from the French galette des rois to the Mexican rosca de los reyes. The round shape is said to represent the crowns of the Three Kings, as most are eaten to commemorate the Epiphany on January 6.
But we’re talking about the New Orleans version. This ring of cinnamon roll or Danish pastry dough is smothered in icing, and decorated with purple, green, and yellow glitter — the traditional Mardi Gras colors. Cinnamon is a common filling, but you’ll also find flavors like cream cheese, fruit, or pecans. The cake also contains a small plastic baby, (said to represent the Baby Jesus), and whoever finds it in their piece has to throw the next party or buy the next king cake.
And king cakes, the traditional Mardi Gras treat, can be found all over town until March 4, which is Fat Tuesday. We've rounded up the best places in Austin to satisfy your king cake craving.
Chef/owner Sarah McIntosh is getting back to her Louisiana roots this year and making king cakes. Her version, which has a cinnamon bread consistency, will serve two to three people. Of course each cake will include a baby, but McIntosh is sweetening the deal with one special cake that will contain a gold baby. The customer who finds it can bring it back to Épicerie in exchange for a $50 gift card.
If you find a plastic tiger in your piece of king cake instead of a baby, your cake must be from Easy Tiger. The bakery/beer garden's interpretation, made from more than two pounds of pain au lait dough and filled with cinnamon sugar and butter, is available again this year. Some will be ready March 1 through 4 for walk-in customers in their bake shop, but right now they’re only available for special order by e-mail (email@example.com) or phone (512-614-4972).
Upper Crust Bakery
This Burnet Road bakery started making king cakes again this week. About eight to nine inches in diameter, they’re made with a Danish pastry dough flavored with a bit of nutmeg and filled with cinnamon, pecans, apples and brown sugar. They’ll be available for walk-in customers, but call ahead to reserve yours if you want to guarantee that you’ll get one.
Gemma and Michael Matherne are earning quite a reputation for their delicious and creative candies and baked goods available at HOPE Farmers' Market every Sunday. This year, they're taking phone (512-465-2879) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) orders for two sizes of king cakes filled with either cinnamon sugar, lemon curd, cream cheese, apple, pecan praline or chocolate hazelnut. Curious Confections has also created "voodoo king cakes" in honor of the beloved Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club that traditionally parades on Fat Tuesday in New Orleans. These voodoo king cakes will be slathered in chocolate ganache and sprinkled with coconut.
All of the king cakes at the grocery store come with a plastic baby figurine to be inserted into the cake before serving, as well as some Mardi Gras beads and doubloons. The sweet cinnamon roll style dough is filled with cinnamon or other flavors like cream cheese, almond cream and strawberry cream cheese. The traditional cake is $9.99; you’ll pay $1 more for one of the special fillings.
Whole Foods Market
Even with the requisite brightly colored icing, the king cakes at Whole Foods still manage to meet the store’s quality standards, meaning they aren’t made using artificial colors, sweeteners or preservatives. This year the store also has a vegan king cake option. Some of the many flavors available include chocolate, cream cheese, berry chantilly or a pecan praline that is absolutely packed with plenty of crunchy nuts. Whole Foods also packs individual slices to go.