After the official end of Christmas, known as Epiphany, most of the country starts to fall back into a routine. Down here in New Orleans though, the fun is just getting started. Epiphany kicks off Carnival, a season full of parades, parties, and of course, king cake.
To describe king cake plainly, it's a ring of sweet dough with cinnamon, topped with festive purple, green, and gold sprinkles. Some even have fillings, icings, and other toppings. Inside is a plastic baby Jesus, and if you get the lucky slice then it's up to you to host the next party and buy the next cake. If you buy from these New Orleans bakeries, you'll be sure not to disappoint. Here's where you can find the best king cakes in New Orleans.
Sucré is notorious for their palatable gelato and macarons throughout the year, but when Mardi Gras season rolls around their king cakes are not to be missed. They have the perfect ratio of soft, flaky layers to light, creamy icing, and the lustrous finish will have you ready to put on some metallic leggings and hit the parades.
Great Vietnamese food can be found all over New Orleans, so it isn't surprising that one of the best king cakes in the Big Easy can be found at this Vietnamese bakery. The scalloped outer edge gives Dong Phuong's King Cakes a unique flair, and the cakes are so outstanding that Pizza NOLA sought out a partnership to sell them as well.
Haydel's king cakes are smothered in cream cheese (unless you choose sugar only, of course) and are never dry. This bakery is one of the few to offer king cakes year round, with themed cakes for Christmas, Saints games, and other holidays. If you're not in New Orleans for Carnival season, fear not. They offer shippable Mardi Gras packages that include beads, Mardi Gras guides, and of course, their legendary king cake.
The apple and goat cheese king cake is this bakery's most famous creation, but they also offer traditional and miniature cakes. Colored icing replaces the usual sugar crystal overload, and because they use butter and shortening instead of just butter, their cakes are always moist. Also, to all the gluten-free king cake lovers, it's time to rejoice–they offer delectable, gluten-free king cake options as well.
5. Willa Jean
This Besh restaurant is known for its great brunch and dessert, so it makes sense that their king cake is some of the best in the game. If you're looking for a less traditional option, look no further than Willa Jean's indulgent Valrhona caramelized milk chocolate and espresso king cake. It's everything you could ever want in a dessert, wrapped up into one.
This Metairie bakery has been around since 1992, but the high demand for their king cakes led them to change their business model to an establishment dedicated solely to king cakes in 1995. Dubbed the "King Cake King" in 2012, their 50-year-old recipe is understood to reign supreme. Their icing is super sweet and especially decadent, setting them aside from any other king cake.
Gambino's has been making hand-baked, hand-stuffed king cakes since 1949. Shipped cakes come with icing and sprinkles on the side, allowing you to take the creative liberty of decorating it yourself. The cakes aren't doused in icing and sugar, so if you prefer the emphasis to be on the dough, Gambino's is your best bet.
While grocery store bakery sections don't always have the best reputation, Rouses' king cakes are a tried-and-true New Orleans favorite. They are widely available, easy to pick up on your next grocery run, and the perfect option when you're looking for a classic.
Keep your whole krewe well fed this Carnival season and make sure to grab a few king cakes. There's truly no better way to fuel up for the parades (or to chow down afterwards). And if you can't get enough king cake? Try one of these king cake-inspired New Orleans treats. Happy Carnival season and best of luck finding that baby.