CREATIVE COMMONS/PHIL DENTON
If it doesn't have a baby in it, it's not worth eating.
Tomorrow — Epiphany — is the official start of king cake season (though plenty of grocery stores have already started stocking the treats), and people can begin arguing anew over filled vs. not filled, cream cheese vs. dry, and which local bakery makes the best version. But one thing on which we all can agree (I hope) is that a king cake needs a baby, a bean, a charm, or some other surprise tucked in its layers.
This morning's Wall Street Journal
introduces us to Maison Kayser
, kings of the king cake killjoys
That is the case at Maison Kayser, a French bakery group that bakes the trinket into its galettes in most of the dozen or so countries it operates in—but not in the U.S. and Japan.
“The tradition isn’t well known at all here,” said Julia Feydel, Maison Kayser’s U.S. manager. She said that shortly after Kayser set up shop in the U.S. in 2012, the bakery chain ran a few trials, offering galettes des rois with a favor inside to some customers. “People were like, ‘What is this thing doing in my cake?’ ”
Those people should, of course, be ignored rather than humored. Local food legend Poppy Tooker, interviewed in the story, puts her finger on exactly why bakeries are dispensing with tradition:
“There’s a very simple reason you don’t find favors in king cakes anymore: We have too many lawyers in America,” said Poppy Tooker, host of “Louisiana Eats,” a radio program heard on some NPR affiliates in the South.
The story also includes a quote from Liz Williams, president of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, who says it was about 20 years ago that Louisiana bakeries began putting their king cake babies on the side so customers could insert them in a place of their choosing.
even goes to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to get a ruling; the FDA says it “has not taken any enforcement action or issued any regulatory requirements specific to king cakes.”
By the end of the story, children are crying because they don't get a surprise in their king cakes. Well done, Maison Kayser. Well done. Your child-dream-destroying, spiritually empty king cakes will never cross my table.
For more on the topic, read Megan Braden-Perry's 2012 interview with the king cake baby
, who has his own opinion on the matter:
How do you feel about bakeries that leave you rattling around in the box, and not inside of the cake?
It’s not a king cake without a baby inside. Without a choking hazard, you may as well just be eating a Cinnabon.