It's all about Mardi Gras now. My dining room table is littered with masks in process, the marching bands pass in front of my house for daily practice, filling the air with a palpable electricity. The bleachers have cropped up downtown along St. Charles Avenue, the houses are decorated with all sorts of banners and flags and Mardi Gras lights, and of course there are king cakes piled to the sky in every market and bakery across town. Mardi Gras is impossible to ignore here, and I dare even the most jaded not to succumb to the excitement.
But the one tradition that I've always half-heartedly embraced is the king cake. I partake in one or two of them during the season, simply as a nod to tradition, but I'm definitely not passionate about them. There are the cakes that are too dry, overstuffed with creams and fillings to salvage the dry dough. There are the ones that are more sugar and icing than cake, giving me a quick headache. Some are too dense and doughy, better than dry, but simply too much.
There's a change in the air, though. Over the last couple of years, new king cakes are emerging, with only a nod to tradition and a focus on quality. There's the king cake from Domenica, created by Chef Lisa White, a decadent concoction filled with bananas, mascarpone cheese and pecans, then gilded with salted caramel and edible gold flakes. It's over-the-top, insanely delicious. We had two of them last year and they were demolished within minutes. I was lucky to get a forkful. Alas, the king cake from Domenica is only available to locals.
My other favorite hews closer to the traditional king cake, but less toothachingly sweet, moist, light and wonderful. It's the kind of king cake you can eat for breakfast and not feel guilty (or sick) over. This king cake, created by Sucre, is really the only king cake I want to eat (when I'm not in the mood for absolute decadence). The good news - they ship around the country. Which means, in the words of Dirty Coast, my favorite local T-shirt retailer, you can "be a New Orleanian. Wherever you are."
Order your king cake through the end of the month, right here.