All up and down the Gulf Coast this time of year, you hear the question. “Who got the baby?”
No, it’s not that there have been a spate of divorces with contested custody. Nor that a kidnapping crime wave has resulted in a glut of missing infants. This is, nevertheless, a deadly serious question. You see, it is Mardi Gras season on the Gulf Coast, and the natives are restless, waiting for their King Cake.
King Cake is a traditional sweet served at Mardi Gras parties. It’s something like a cinnamon roll you Yankees might have for breakfast, but we jazz ours up by sprinkling the top with sugar in the three official colors of Mardi Gras: Purple (for Justice), Green (for Faith) and Gold (for Power). And before we bake this festive treat, we tuck a baby doll, representing the Baby Jesus, in as a surprise for one lucky party-goer. See, when you get the slice that has the baby, you get the privilege of hosting the next party! Whee! See how much fun that is?
Seriously, since most King Cakes are consumed at office coffee breaks and neighborhood get-togethers, the requirement of being the next host mostly means you have to stop at the bakery and bring a cake the following day.
Nowadays, of course, given our litigious society, bakers are afraid some stupid person will break a tooth or choke on the baby and sue for several million dollars. So they usually put the baby on top of the cake. Before serving, you have to reach up under and smoosh the baby up into the cake. Then you should rotate it several times so even you don’t know exactly where the baby is. The surprise is part of the fun.
Here in Pensacola, you can get a pretty good King Cake at Publix or any other chain grocery store. The best however, come from Jay’s Pastry Shop on 12th Avenue in East Hill. But if you really want to go all out and have the very best, you need to order from Gambino’s in New Orleans.