New Orleans is known for many things—beignets, Drew Brees, pralines, and, above all, Mardi Gras. For those who aren't aware, Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, is the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent in the Catholic calendar.

Fat Tuesday sounds exactly like what it is, a day to eat until you cannot anymore, because Lent is a time of fasting. If you're going to fast, you have to go crazy the day before, right? This celebration is taken seriously, and one of the most important pieces of Fat Tuesday is the king cake. What is king cake, you ask? Keep reading to find out.

The History of King Cake

French culture runs deep in Louisiana, especially in New Orleans. The king cake tradition is thought to have been brought to America in 1870 by the French when the New World was developing. The texture of king cake is a mix between coffee cake and French pastries, similar to croissants.

The cake is decorated with purple, green, and gold sprinkles, which are royal colors signifying justice, faith, and power, and it's twisted into an oval to symbolize a crown. There's always something hidden in the cake, and nowadays it's typically a plastic baby. The person who gets the baby in their piece of cake has to buy the cake or host the party the next year.

How King Cake Is Made

Zoe Malin

There's some variation among king cakes across the world, but the cakes found in New Orleans are made with a braided sweet dough with cinnamon filling and a white glaze on top with the three different colors of sprinkles. The cinnamon and brown sugar filling is spread in between layers of dough and the white glaze is spread on top of the bread, making the colors pop and match the beads you should be wearing (they're a Mardi Gras must). The sprinkles should be alternating in color around the oval as well. 

Where to Find the Best King Cake

New Orleans is bursting with king cakes during Mardi Gras, and here are just a few of the places you can order them. 

Haydel's Bakery

As one of the very few places that offers king cakes year-round, Haydel's has mastered the art of the king cake and even makes Christmas and Saints-themed cakes.

Manny Randazzo King Cakes

Manny Randazzo king cakes use a recipe dating back 50 years, so you know it's good. It's basically your grandma's king cake – what could be better? If you don't live in New Orleans, no worries! They will ship your cake year-round anywhere in the country. 


For those who prefer more dough and less icing, Gambino's is the place for you. If you're the type of person who likes to take creative liberty, Gambino's can ship the cake with the sprinkles and icing on the side to satisfy all your decorating and creative desires. You'll get a poster and history of the king cake with your cake as well.

If you can't go to New Orleans and experience the joys of Mardi Gras for yourself, have one of these cakes shipped to you to get the full Fat Tuesday experience. When adding to your bucket list, Mardi Gras should be at the top. This celebration is one to experience, from the history to the cake to the colors that shape New Orleans today.