If you live in Louisiana, you know that Mardi Gras season feels incomplete without the sweet, flavor-filled king cake washing over every taste bud and satisfying those sugar cravings.
Yes, king cake is delicious, but it also has a symbolic significance for Mardi Gras. The cake represents the arrival of the three wise men, who came bearing gifts for the Christ child. The baby inside the cake represents the baby Jesus, and the Mardi Gras colors on the king cake represent justice (purple), faith (green) and power (gold).
Lafayette locals are familiar with eateries such as Twin’s Burgers and Sweets, Ricky Meche’s Donut King and Keller’s Bakery. The big three are known for their variety of king cakes that customers enjoy dabbling in to satisfy their hunger for sweets and tradition.
Eric Greer, a California native who was spotted at Meche’s purchasing king cake, said he rushes to get back to Louisiana each Mardi Gras just for the cake and the culture.
“I actually couldn’t wait to come back down here. I was looking forward to trying it (king cake) again,” said Greer. “My pastor and his wife introduced me to king cake. They always come down here to get it, and that’s how I got into it.“
According to a Meche’s employee, the bakery sells about 600 king cakes each day during the week of Mardi Gras and over 1,000 on the weekend before Mardi Gras. Meche’s sold over 19,000 king cakes during Mardi Gras season last year, she said.
Billy Guilbeaux, owner of Twin’s, sells the now-famous boudin king cake that was created by a University of Louisiana at Lafayette professor.
“There’s a professor at UL who has a few websites (The King Caker and Boudin Link). His name is Bob Carriker. At his house, he made one of these boudin king cakes and put it on one of his websites, and everybody seemed to like it,” said Guilbeaux. “He came to us to see if we would be able to make them, and we did. We made a sample, and people loved it and it went viral.
Guilbeaux said he would never consider altering the recipe of Carriker’s creation. He said people from all over, including New York and California, have ordered them.
“When you make something that 80 percent of people like, then you just stick with it because, if you change it trying to get the 20 percent of people to like it, you end up with 50 percent of people liking it and lose it all,” Guilbeaux said.
Keller’s employees said they sell about 500 cakes a day leading up to Mardi Gras.
King cake and Mardi Gras have a rich tradition in Louisiana culture, and it remains a dessert that brings everyone together while stimulating people’s taste buds after they have finished their bowls of gumbo enriched in seafood.
Kendrick Cooper contributed the visual elements to this story.