This year, Mardi Gras falls on Tuesday, March 4th, so stock up on great friends, colorful beads and amazing dishes! Celebrated on Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras originated in Europe and came to the America through New Orleans, bringing with it the tradition of eating rich and fatty foods that are prohibited during Lent. Typical foods eaten on Fat Tuesday are of Creole descent and include gumbo, étouffée or jambalaya. But the true pièce de résistance is the King Cake.
The King Cake is a sweet yeast bread, braided or rolled into a ring with cinnamon swirls or sometimes stuffed with cream cheese or fruit filling. A small plastic, porcelain or gold figurine of a baby–depicting newborn baby Jesus–is hidden inside the cake just waiting to be discovered. As the tradition goes, the lucky partygoer who finds the hidden tiny baby will have to either host the celebration or buy the King Cake next year. In the past, the token was a bean or coin, but the baby has become characteristic of the King Cake today. The cake is also iced and covered with sugar sprinkles in Mardi Gras colors – purple symbolizing “justice,” green representing “faith,” and gold symbolizing “order.”
The cake traditionally honors the Three Wise Men who visited the birth of Jesus, but it has also been influenced by the French galette des rois–another large cake eaten for Epiphany and filled with a rich almond paste. This cake also follows the tradition of hiding a figurine within the pastry.
If you can, stop by Bayou Bakery in Alexandria,which is rumored to have the best Mardis Gras foods in the DC area and is only a short walk from the Courthouse Metro stop. Baked and Wired on Thomas Jefferson Street is also an option, as they are celebrating Mardi Gras with a special spiced and tricolored cupcake of their own. They even have a deal happening right now: if you find the plastic baby in your cupcake, bring it in and you’ll receive a free cupcake in return.
So laissez les bon temps rouler, or let the good times roll!