The Carnival season king cake tradition is more than just alive and well. It's surging, with bakeries and restaurants across the spectrum giving the cakes their own spins and new interpretations.
Cochon Butcher (930 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-588-7675; www.cochonbutcher.com) has been making specialty king cakes for the past few seasons. Rhonda Ruckman, pastry chef for the Link Restaurant Group, prepares both single-serving and family-size cakes in flavors that are traditional, like cinnamon, or decidedly not, like the "Elvis," with peanut butter, banana, bacon and marshmallow. Domenica (123 Baronne St., 504-648-6020; www.domenicarestaurant.com) prepares an elaborate version with salted caramel, sliced bananas, pecans and mascarpone and iced with praline glaze sprinkled with gold leaf. Customers can order these a day in advance for pick-up at the restaurant, or place a day-of rush order for an extra fee.
Cake Cafe & Bakery (2440 Chartres St., 504-943-0010; www.nolacakes.com) broke the mold a few years ago with its goat cheese and apple-filled king cake, and in Gretna the Hi-Do Bakery (441 Terry Pkwy., Gretna, 504-366-6555) makes traditional-tasting king cakes in nontraditional shapes, including crab designs and large fleurs-de-lis.
These are not your parents' king cakes, but kids might have more creative ideas when it's their turn to carry on the tradition. On Saturday, the Southern Food & Beverage Museum (Riverwalk Marketplace, 504-569-0405; www.southernfood.org) hosts a children's workshop to introduce the next generation to king cakes. Youngsters will make icing to decorate their own mini king cakes as they learn about the tradition. The event is from 11 a.m. to noon at the museum. It costs $5 (free for museum members) and you can register online at www.southernfood.org.