Every year on January 6th, New Orleanians celebrate Epiphany –the day to commemorate the three kings coming to visit baby Jesus after his birth– and the official kick-off to Mardi Gras season aka king cake season. I love king cake, which I can best describe as a braided cinnamon roll with creamy frosting, purple, green and gold sprinkles and of course a mini plastic baby for good luck. King cakes like all things are hit and miss, but I have found some REALLY good ones and here are my favorites:
Manny Randazzo King Cakes
Starting with Randazzo’s which was my first king cake experience in New Orleans (I was clearly ushered in by Mardi Gras professionals), I love this traditional cinnamon-infused king cake, hand-braided and baked and covered with their famous white, creamy icing, topped with purple, green & gold sprinkles. Like all of my favorite desserts, this king cake is simple, no fuss, but is clearly made with quality ingredients and love. The great news is that you can purchase a traditional medium king cake that serves 20-24 people to ship for just under $70 (shipping included). Just head to their website to purchase. Thank me later.
Dong Phoung Bakery
Many people are unaware of the strong Vietnamese presence in New Orleans (we can discuss the history of this later) until you experience the banh mi’s aka Vietnamese Po’boys and the coveted Dong Phoung king cake. Located in East New Orleans, Don Phoung, a James Beard Award-winning bakery, is famous for their super sweet, king cake which is reminiscent of flakey french croissant. I always prefer a traditional king cake without the fruity or cream cheese fillings BUT in this case, I would recommend Dong Phoung’s traditional cinnamon and the coconut filled versions. You can order Dong Phoung king cakes during Mardi Gras season for about $75 from Gold Belly.
Gracious Bakery & Cafe
Featured as one of America’s Best Bakeries by Travel + Leisure Magazine, the Gracious Bakery’s king cake lives up to the hype. Their version is made with dough rolled with valrhona couverture and chocolate pieces and glazed with light white icing and covered in purple, green and gold sugar crystals. The added bonus is their Uptown location is located on the Historic St. Charles Streetcar line so it’s easy to access if you happen to be in town. You can also purchase a king cake kit online for your own Mardi Gras celebration at home. Side note: They also make the best almond croissants in New Orleans.
Antoine’s Custom Cakes and Bakery
Antoine’s is another one of my favorite king cakes in the city. Their traditional take on the 300 year tradition does not disappoint. The light, yet flavor- packed, cinnamon infused dough covered with creamy white and Mardi Gras colored frosting is absolutely delicious. I have even ordered custom shapes for events, which are definitely a crowd pleaser and just as delicious as the original version. You can order online and ship from Antoine’s website.
Pro tip: If you are in New Orleans, you can head to the King Cake Hub located at 1463 S. Broad to check out a wide assortment of king cake options since the hub serves a distribution point for many of the bakeries. They are open 8:30 am to 6 pm everyday through Lundi Gras (the Monday before Fat Tuesday). Go early, they sell out fast.
Enjoy and Laissez le bon temps rouler!
Katherine Bush Felton is a luxury tea connoisseur and design enthusiast who loves pastries, pink climbing roses, and black history. Katherine and her family live between New Orleans and Marshall, Texas where she serves as the First Lady of Wiley University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).1