Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Apparently Paczkis aren't the only pre-Lenten treat...

Today is Mardi Gras, and I've learned about something interesting this week: king cakes.

I'd never heard of a king cake before last Thursday, when I was out with two of my friends (one of whom is from New Orleans, and the other's apparently well-versed in eating and baking them and never bothered to tell me about them or bring me a slice. THANKS, Honey.) and they started talking about them. For everyone like me that has no idea what a king cake is, I was told it's like a giant cinnamon roll cake, and it has yellow, green, and purple icing on it. The best part is that there's a tiny gold plastic baby Jesus baked into it. And depending on the source of information, whoever eats the baby either is king or has to bake next year's cake.

And to those who have had king cake, telling someone all of this is very normal.

I did a little research (read: I went on Wikipedia) and found out that the cake is named to represent the Three Wise Men, and the disco baby Jesus is... well, Jesus. The king cake season stretches from the Twelfth Night (January 5th) until Mardi Gras. And apparently in New Orleans, one can show up in your office every day.

Needless to say, I'm a little distressed to find out there's a holiday season involving cake and gold-painted plastic babies that I didn't know about. Almost as distressed as I am to find out I'm surrounded by king cakes and never noticed. I was at the bakery around the corner this weekend and they have a big sign for king cake orders, and then I got an e-mail today saying that there's a king cake in my office right now.

But what's really aggravating is that I still haven't seen one in real life. They didn't have any on display at the bakery, and I'm working from home today. Every picture I've seen of them has been... well, let's say any one of them could belong on Cake Wrecks. I don't know if being all wreck-y is part of its charm (I mean, we are talking about a cake with a gold plastic baby Jesus baked into it for a holiday where beaded necklaces are thrown at you if you lift your shirt) but I really want to see what one looks like (read: I want to take a glance at it before I shove it in my face).

I've thought about making one, but then I remembered that, not only would I have to go through the effort of baking it, Lent starts tomorrow, and having something tempting in the house probably is not a good idea right now. So then I thought that I'd make one for Alice (please let me assert for the nine-millionth time, I'm not a crazy dog mom).

Would you believe that there are no dog king cake recipes out there? Maybe it's because dogs can eat everything that's in a king cake, I don't know. But after learning that some of Alice's favorite human foods aren't canine-compatible, I've been a little concerned with giving Alice people food. I'd just prefer a dog-approved version.

The best I could come up with is that there's a place in Huntley, Illinois called The Royal Dog Store that sells dog versions. I'm glad to see that there are some out there, though I do find it interesting that the only place I can find online that sells canine king cakes are in the heart of Paczki Country, and that they don't make those.

Happy Mardi Gras and Paczki Day to everyone!

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