With 160-some-odd days remaining until Mardi Gras (according to a counter on its website) and football season well underway, Haydel's Bakery in Jefferson, Louisiana -- the official bakery of the New Orleans Saints, mind you -- baked a record-breaking King Cake that wound around the Louisiana Superdome. (Seriously. A Guinness rep was there to verify it.)
King Cake is very popular in the South -- especially for Mardi Gras. So it makes sense that it's associated with Louisiana in particular. But I used to live in Mississippi and it's certainly a big thing there, too.
When I moved to Mississippi at the tender age of 14, I had never heard of King Cake ... but the grocery store variety my family tried from Jitney Jungle (yes, the real name of a grocery store chain there ... although it's since been acquired by Winn-Dixie) did little to inspire me: It tasted a lot like bread with frosting. And there was a little plastic baby Jesus inside which, I was told, indebted the recipient to host the party the following year (assuming the cake was eaten at a Mardi Gras celebration ... and not just at your parents' house out of morbid curiosity).
As with many things, homemade cake is infinitely better than store-bought. And so even if you don't live in the Southeast, you can still make a King Cake of your own -- and you're under no obligation to break any records. (Whether you include the plastic baby inside is up to you, too.)
Keep in mind what I said about it being bread-like -- you're going to need yeast. And if you want green, yellow, and purple frosting (any King Cake worth its salt is decorated with green, yellow, and purple frosting), you're going to need plenty of food coloring and powdered sugar on hand. But -- look at it this way -- you still have plenty of time to plan before Mardi Gras next year!
This Southern Living recipe is a popular one, although the jellyroll-style is different than anything I've seen before.
I also recommend Emeril Lagasse's King Cake -- it has a more traditional shape.
Image via syvwlch/Flickr