If we can’t have parades, we will still have the calories, gosh dammit.
“Let them eat cake!” – Mayor LaToya Cantrell
OK, so Marie-Antoinette owns that famous, originally haughty, quote.
But in a year when New Orleanians have been denied parades, denied Christmas gatherings and dealt with a whopping eight major storms during Hurricane season, it’s nice to know that one part of Mardi Gras is safe and secure from Mother Nature or airborne viruses.
We speak of King Cakes, a brioche dipped in tradition in the Big Easy, commonly ribboned with cinnamon and festooned with icing in green, purple and gold.
It’s thought to have arrived in 1870 from Europe, always consumed first on Twelfth Night in honor of The Epiphany.
That’s January 6th, for those uninitiated, and the ritual of sugar and cinnamon rolls through Mardi Gras day.
This year, everyone is holding fast to the revelries that are still safe to host, including one sainted establishment creating their first-ever King Cake in 75 years.
Take our insider’s tips to get your hands on a coveted king cake flavor asap from the Punch List of 5 favorites.
It took Brennan’s 75 years to create a King Cake, but good things certainly come to all of us who’ve been waiting. Typical to form, they did not one, but three.
Executive Corporate Pastry Chef Brett Gauthier debuted a traditional, with delicate brioche, aromatic cinnamon and frosted icing in the trifecta Carnival colors, as well as a Chocolate Black and Gold with ganache.
However, it’s the third option making headlines, mirroring the famous exterior paint of the restaurant.
Their Pink Parade began with 50 flats of fruit from the strawberry fields of Johnsdale Farm in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, delivered to the team, who created a brilliant strawberry jam. Whipped cream cheese was folded into the cake, and the jam also tints the sugar icing that coats the cake beneath a light dusting of pink cocoa powder. The top is decorated in a zig-zag of white icing and sugar pearls.
“To pair with Pink Parade King Cake, I would recommend pink Champagne,” laughs Beverage Director Braithe Tidwell. “My favorite is Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé NV. It is smooth and creamy, which goes great with that decadent strawberry filling.
For a cocktail, I would do a Kir Royale. I think the raspberry liqueur with some crisp bubbles is a delightful accompaniment.”
Brennan’s, The French Quarter
To order: brennansneworleans.com
- Cochon Butcher & La Boulangerie
These local, culinary powerhouses have teamed up this year to present The Elvis—a soft brioche filled with peanut butter and roasted bananas, topped with house-cured bacon, toasted marshmallow and colorful Mardi Gras sprinkles.
It’s available both at La Boucherie on Magazine Street and at Cochon in the Warehouse District, and instead of the iconic plastic baby, Executive Pastry Chef Maggie Scales tucked a little pink pig inside. Scales is also doing Cinnamon, Strawberry Almond, and Double Chocolate options in two sizes: 6-inch individual (exclusively at Cochon Butcher) and a 9-inch large, which serves up to 12, at both locations.
The Elvis is sold at Cochon Butcher daily by the slice or as a full-size special order cake ($45) with required 48-hour notice.
Cochon Butcher, The Warehouse District
La Boulangerie, Lower Garden District
To order: Laboulangerienola.com
- Willa Jean
Chef and owner Kelly Fields took home an Outstanding Pastry Chef award from the James Beard Foundation in 2019, and her love of pushing the envelope in terms of baking has us hooked on a famous biscuit that plays at the edges of being a croissant—and her new King Cake this year called the Caramel Crunch. It’s a traditional brioche and cinnamon swirl cake, glazed with caramel crack, cream cheese frosting and Valhrona chocolate pearls. You can grab a single slice for $7 at the Willa Jean counter (seriously, get that biscuit, too) or opt for a full cake for $36. Please note: You need to pre-order the whole shebang, and can do so up to 48 hours in advance.
Willa Jean, Central Business District
To order: Willajean.com
- Dong Phuong Bake Shop
To find this writer’s top pick, you’re gonna need to travel outside of the tourist areas to New Orleans East, about 20 minutes from downtown. Thirty-five years ago, a couple immigrated from Vietnam and set up shop, serving what today is the best Vietnamese food in the city. Marrying their homeland’s bakery traditions with this city’s own, they began selling King Cakes in 2008. Now, they sell thousands each season, managing long lines of die-hard fans with shocking speed and applaudable hospitality.
Make sure to pre-reserve (years past, they’ve sold out of shipping options in 2 weeks) and definitely get a traditional Cinnamon, plus another option. Maybe you want Pecan or Coconut, Cream Cheese or the lauded Almond Créme? We can’t say. Oh. Wait. Yes, we can. Get them all. You’ll make a million friends in New Orleans the minute you mention Dong Phuong in January.
Dong Phuong Bake Shop, New Orleans East
To order: Dpbakeshop.com