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PRODUCT: Mardi Gras King Cake Kit

King Cake

King Cake

Here’s what you can make from the King Cake Kit. You can use the icing and sparkling sugars to create your own special design. Photos courtesy King Arthur Flour.


Egad: It’s a perfect storm of food holidays! The Super Bowl is February 7th, Lunar New Year begins February 8th, Mardi Gras follows on February 9th, and Valentine’s Day is February 14th.

We’re tackling them one by one. Here, an easy and most delicious King Cake kit from King Arthur Flour lets you celebrate in style. It has everything you need to make a fine King Cake. You can even host a King Cake party, as many do in Louisiana.

Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are eaten in Louisiana during the Carnival season: at home, in offices and at King Cake parties.

While people in other parts of the country may order a King Cake from a baking company in Louisiana, making your own with a King Arthur product is likely to be tastier, not to mention less expensive and more fun.

What’s included:

  • 1-pound box of premium cake mix (an egg- and butter-rich yeasted sweet dough)
  • Almond paste for the filling
  • White icing mix
  • 2-ounce bag of each decorating sugar in the Mardi Gras colors of yellow, green and purple
    The traditional plastic baby is not included, but you can get one at the nearest party store (in the Baby Shower section).

    The kit is $19.95 at

    *The colors were selected in 1872 to honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Alexis Alexandrovich Romanoff, whose house colors were purple, green and gold. Purple signifies justice, green represents faith and gold is for power.



    The King Cake is an adaptation of the French Epiphany Cake. While an Epiphany Cake is subdued—a round of crisp brown pastry—the celebration cakes in New Orleans are decorated in the three official colors of Mardi Gras: purple, green and gold*.

    The cake itself is named for the three Wise Men, also called Magi or Kings. In France the Epiphany Cake is called galette des rois, king cake.

    The King Cake tradition is believed to have arrived in New Orleans around 1870. In France, puff pastry (pâte à choux) is filled with almond cream (frangipane). But in New Orleans, the concept took another direction.

    The first King Cakes for Mardi Gras were simple rings of yeast dough, some braided, with a small amount of decoration.

    The cakes became more festive over time, incorporating the Mardi Gras colors.

    In more recent years, the fillings have followed modern tastes. You can find them in chocolate, numerous fruit flavors, even cream cheese. Royal icing with the three official colors of sparkling sugar decorate the tops.

    Shapes have evolved, too: round, oval, square, and at fine restaurants, deconstructed. There are also cookie and macarons in purple, green and gold.

    The ubiquitous cakes range from garish supermarket options to elegant pastry from the best bakers.
    What About The Baby?

    The cake traditionally includes a small plastic baby representing Baby Jesus. The person who gets the piece of cake with the baby is said to have good luck for the next year.

    Note, however, that the lucky trinket has various privileges and obligations, which can include hosing next year’s party—or at least, bringing the cake.

    After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the “baby” is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar toppings in the Mardi Gras colors.

    Today, a tiny plastic baby is the common prize. At a party, the King Cake is sliced and served. Each person looks to see if their piece contains the “baby.” If so, then that person is named “King” for a day and bound by custom to host the next party and provide the King Cake.
    In earlier days, the baby might be made of porcelain, or even gold in wealthy homes.

    These days, since no one should bake plastic inside a cake, the trinket is typically inserted through the underside of the baked cake.

    In the past, as in France, other trinkets such as coins and charms could be baked into the cake. In humbler homes, a pecan, pea or bean could be baked in.

    Trinket or not, we look forward to a big slice of our King Arthur King Cake.


    King Cake

    Glamorous King Cake

    Deconstructed King Cake

    Baby Figurines

    Top: A nicely decorated King Cake from Hudson Valley Chocolates. Second: A glamorous King Cake from New Orleans confectioner Sucre. Third: Chef Ric Tramonto’s deconstructed King Cake at Restaurant R’evolution. Bottom: A baby figurine is inserted into the cake. These are from Wilton, but any party store should have them.



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    TIP OF THE DAY: Mardi Gras Party


    Shrimp and Grits, a popular Mardi Gras dish.
    Here’s a video recipe. Photo courtesy


    Mardi Gras is a week away: Tuesday, February 17th.

    Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday” and called Shrove Tuesday in English, is part of the Catholic Carnival celebration beginning on Epiphany and ending the day before Ash Wednesday.

    The “fat” refers to the last night that one can eat richer, fatty foods (meat, dairy, fats and sugar) before giving them up for the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which starts the following day. “Shrove” is the past participle of the verb “to shrive,” meaning “to obtain absolution for one’s sins through confession and doing penance.”

    Mardi Gras parades, festivals and masquerades in colorful costumes mark the transition from traditional daily life to Lent. No parties or celebrations are held during Lent, the six week period prior to Easter that represents the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness.

    You don’t have to head to New Orleans to celebrate: Bring the party to your place. If you want to decorate, streamers or balloons in the traditional Mardi Gras colors (purple, green and gold) will do nicely. For music, check out these New Orleans playlists.


    You can entertain easily, with muffaletta sandwiches or a hearty pot of jambalaya.

    If you want to do some more elaborate cooking, here are some ideas from Chef Mike Valentine of Ford’s Oyster House, a New Orleans themed restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina.

  • Crawfish spread with crackers
  • Andouille dip (andouille sausage and red beans—recipe below)
  • Grilled chicken with Cajun spices
  • Shrimp and grits
  • Fried okra gumbo
  • Crab cakes with remoulade sauce


    Here are three classic cocktail ideas:

  • Sazerac Cocktail recipe, the rye- or Cognac-based official cocktail of New Orleans (recipe below).
  • Hurricane Cocktail, invented in New Orleans in the early 1940s by a tavern owner who had too much rum on hand (recipe).
  • Cocktails in Mardi Gras colors (recipes).


    The Sazerac is a New Orleans variation of a whiskey cocktail, named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils brand of Cognac that was later replaced by rye in most recipes. Some people date its origins to before the Civil War.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 3 ounces rye
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • Peychaud* bitters to taste
  • Absinthe†
  • Ice
  • Garnish: lemon twist for garnish
    *You can use other bitters, but Peychaud is the official brand for the Sazerac.

    †Absinthe has a strong licorice flavor. Absinthe is so strong that no one ever drinks it straight. In this recipe, it is used to “rinse the glass,” to add a hint of flavor. You can substitute the milder Patsis.



    A bread bowl filled with spicy andouille sausage dip. Photo courtesy King’s Hawaiian.



    1. CHILL an Old Fashioned glass by filling it with ice and letting it sit until ready to use.

    2. MUDDLE the simple syrup and Peychaud bitters in a mixing glass. Add the rye and stir with ice.

    3. DISCARD the ice in the Old Fashioned glass and rinse it with absinthe (pour a small amount into the glass, swirl it around and discarding the liquid). Strain the mixture from the mixing glass into the Old Fashioned glass.

    4. SQUEEZE a lemon twist over the drink. Traditionalists then discard the twist, but you can add it to the drink for flavor.

    This dip recipe comes from King’s Hawaiian, whose delicious sweet breads are a favorite at THE NIBBLE (here’s our review). If you don’t want to serve the dip in a bread bowl, you can serve it in a conventional bowl or keep it warm in a hot pot, on a brazier with a warming candle, etc.

    If you don’t want to dip cubes of bread, you can slice the bread and provide knives for spreading the dip.


  • 8 ounces Velveeta, cubed
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1 Cajun-style andouille smoked pork sausage (12 ounces), cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • Raw vegetables (celery sticks, carrots, bell pepper strips), bread and crackers for dipping/spreading
    For The Bread Bowl

  • 2 loaves round bread, such as King’s Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Round Bread, or 1 round loaf and one other loaf for cubing

    1. CREATE a bread bowl: Carve out the center core of the round bread within two inches of the bottom and sides, keeping the shell intact. Cut the bread you’ve removed, and other loaf, into 1-inch cubes for dipping.

    2. PLACE the andouille sausage pieces into large frying pan and sauté until cooked thoroughly. Add the Velveeta and cream cheese and stir until melted. Add the Cajun seasoning; adjust to taste.

    3. POUR the dip into the bread bowl. Serve with the raw vegetables, bread cubes and toothpicks for dipping; or bread slices and a knife for spreading.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Beignets For Mardi Gras

    Celebrating the Carnival season, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) has been a state holiday in Louisiana since the 19th century. So evoke Mardi Gras and New Orleans with a batch of homemade beignets.


    The Carnival season begins on or after the Epiphany or Kings Day (January 6th) and culminates on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday refers to the practice of eating richer, fatty foods the last night before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday.

    Mardi Gras is sometimes referred to as Shrove Tuesday, from the word shrive, meaning “confess.” But the idea of rich foods is far more appealing.

    Why “Carnival?” Centuries of years ago, Catholics in Italy started the tradition of holding a wild costume festival right before the first day of Lent. It stuck, engendering huge Carnival events elsewhere, including New Orleans and Rio de Janiero.



    Beignets should be enjoyed warm, with a cup of strong coffee. Photo courtesy Orsay | New York City.


    A beignet (pronounced bayn-YAY, the french word for bump) is deep-fried choux pastry dough.

    It’s a fritter similar to the German Spritzkuchen, the Italian zeppole and the Spanish churro. It can take on different shapes and flavorings depending on local preferences.

  • In New Orleans, beignets are like doughnut holes, typically sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar. They’ve caught on at stylish restaurants nationwide, which serve them as dessert with a dipping sauce.
  • In France, the term refers to a variety of fried-dough pastry shapes with fruit fillings.
  • Beignets made with yeast pastry are called Berliners Pfannkuchen in Germany (the equivalent of an American jelly doughnut) and boules de Berlin in French.
    Beignets were brought to Louisiana by the Acadians, immigrants from Canada,* whose fritters were sometimes filled with fruit. Today’s beignets are a square or round piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar. The fruit (in the form of jam) is now served, optionally, on the side.

    The beignets at Café du Monde in New Orleans are worth going out of your way for (they taste best at the main location). After buying their mix and making them at home, we were unable to match the glory of the original, although we admit, we did not use cottonseed oil as they do.

    In New Orleans, the beignet is also known as the French Market doughnut, and it is the Louisiana State doughnut. (How many states have an official state doughnut?)

    At Café du Monde, beignets are served in orders of three. The cafe is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except for Christmas Day.

    In New Orleans, beignets are served with the local favorite, chicory-laced coffee.

    You can enjoy them plain, with fruit curd or jam or with chocolate sauce.
    *The Acadians are the descendants of the 17th-century French colonists who settled in Acadia. That colony was located in what is now Eastern Canada’s Maritime provinces—New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island—as well as part of Quebec and present-day Maine to the Kennebec River. Acadia was a distinctly separate colony of New France (which became Canada); the Acadians and Québécois developed two distinct histories and cultures. (Source: Wikipedia)



    Without the confectioners’ sugar. Photo
    courtesy Duplex On Third | Los Angeles.


    The recipe below is from Nielsen-Massey, manufacturer of some of the finest extracts in the world, including the vanilla extract used in the recipe.


    Ingredients For 6 Dozen Beignets

  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom

    1. COMBINE warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar n a small bowl; set aside to activate yeast. In a medium bowl, add butter, half-and-half and vanilla extract; stir and set aside. In a small bowl whisk eggs; set aside.

    2. COMBINE flour, sugar, salt and cardamom in a bowl of a free standing electric mixer. Place bowl on mixer stand which has been fitted with a dough hook. Turn mixer on low speed and combine dry ingredients. Turn mixer to medium speed then add activated yeast mixture. Add half-and-half mixture, then add the whisked eggs. Mix until well combined, scraping the sides of the bowl when necessary. Dough will be slightly sticky.

    3. PLACE dough on a lightly floured surface and knead, about 2-3 minutes; add additional flour if needed. Lightly coat a large bowl with cooking spray and place dough into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and keep warm until dough has doubled in size, about 2 hours. After dough has risen, place on a lightly floured surface and gently knead. Roll dough into a rectangle, about ¼-inch thick. With a pizza cutter, cut dough into small rectangles, about 1 x ½-inch pieces.

    4. HEAT oil to 375°F. Carefully place dough in hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 45-60 seconds. Turn beignets so that both sides are golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Dust with Vanilla Powdered Sugar (recipe below) while bites are still warm. Serve with plain, with chocolate sauce, lemon curd or raspberry jam.

    Ingredients For 1/2 Cup

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla powder

    1. COMBINE ingredients in a small bowl.


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    RECIPE: Easy Gumbo For Mardi Gras

    Mardi Gras begins tomorrow. If you’d like to celebrate with the taste of New Orleans, whip up a gumbo.

    This recipe is from Chef David Venable of QVC, who calls it “an easy-to-tackle version, filled with great Louisiana flavor and spice.” Gumbos have a lot of ingredients, but the cooking technique isn’t demanding.

    Says David, “When preparing, be sure to chop your veggies in similar sizes to ensure that they cook at the same rate.” In this recipe, okra is used as a thickener, and also gives personality to the gumbo.


  • 1/2 tablespoon + 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs,
  • 1/2 tablespoon Creole seasoning
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, chopped
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 9 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup uncooked long grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 package (1 lb, 4 oz) frozen sliced okra


    An easy gumbo, with chicken, okra and sausage. Photo courtesy QVC.



  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • Cooked rice for serving


    Most people are familiar with okra that’s
    been sliced crosswise. Here’s what it looks
    like right off the plant. Photo by
    DallasEventsInc. | Dreamstime.



    1. SEASON the chicken thighs with creole seasoning. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a 6-quart or larger stockpot over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage and set aside.

    2. ADD the chicken to the pot with the sausage drippings and cook over medium-high heat until brown on both sides. Remove the chicken and set aside.

    3. ADD the remaining 1/2 cup of oil and the flour, over medium heat. Cook the mixture, stirring slowly and constantly, for 10-15 minutes, or until dark brown. Be careful not to burn or scorch.

    4. ADD the onions, garlic, celery and bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Slowly add the broth and stir until there are no lumps. Add the tomatoes, rice, salt, cayenne, bay leaves, thyme, and okra. Stir and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 10 minutes.

    5. ADD the chicken and cooked sausage to the gumbo. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, plate, garnish with a sprinkle of parsley and serve with a side of rice.



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    MARDI GRAS: Gumbalaya Recipe


    If you can’t decide between gumbo or jambalaya for Mardi Gras (this year on March 4th), go for gumbalaya, a combination of both.

  • Gumbo is a Cajun stew that typically consists of a strongly meat or shellfish stock, the Cajun “trinity” (bell peppers and onions), and a variety of proteins such as andouille sausage, chicken and shrimp, served with rice. Okra is often used as a thickener. The name is believed to derive from the Bantu word for okra, ki ngombo.
  • Jambalaya, a rice dish related to paella, is Cajun by way of the Caribbean Islands. The Spanish residents mixed native ingredients with stock and rice. The Atakapa tribe of the Southeastern U.S. contributed the name: The phrase “Sham, pal ha! Ya!” means “Be full, not skinny! Eat Up!,” the equivalent of “Bon appétit!” Here’s a recipe.
    And gumbalaya?

    After the widespread popularity of the cronut, Chef Mike Valentine of Ford’s Oyster House in Greenville, South Carolina thought it would be fun to create a mash-up of the two Cajun classics.



    A classic Louisiana gumbo. Photo courtesy



    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup green peppers, diced
  • 1/3 cup celery, diced
  • 1/3 cup onion, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce (Chef Mike uses Crystal brand)
  • 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning*
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound chicken boneless skinless breasts
  • 1 pound andouille† sausage

  • 2 baguettes, cut into long slices and toasted (see photo below)
    *You can buy or make your own Creole seasoning. Here’s Emeril Lagasse’s version, which makes about 2/3 cup: Thoroughly blend 2-1/2 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 tablespoon cayenne, 1 tablespoon dried oregano and 1 tablespoon dried thyme. Store in an airtight container away from light. Use within three months.



    Chef Mike Valentine’s new classic,
    gumbalaya. Photo courtesy Ford’s Oyster



    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Place chicken in a roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Let it stand for five minutes after taking it out of the oven, then cut into half inch pieces.

    2. COOK andouille sausage in the oven for 8 minutes at 350°F. Let it stand for 5 minutes.

    3. PLACE butter and flour in large saucepan. Turn on medium heat and cook while stirring constantly, until it becomes a light chocolate color. ADD green peppers, celery, onion, chicken, andouille sausage and bay leaves.

    4. ADD chicken stock, stirring constantly so the roux fully incorporates with the stock.

    5. ADD black pepper, cayenne pepper, Creole seasoning, hot sauce, oregano and thyme. Let the gumbo cook for 15 minutes. Add salt as needed.
    †FOOD TRIVIA: Andouille, pronounced on-DWEE, is a spicy smoked sausage made with pork and garlic. The word is French, from the Old French andoille. Andoille dervies from the Medieval Latin inductilia, things to be introduced, from the Latin inductus, past participle of indUcere, “to introduce into a casing.” Whew!




  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup celery, diced
  • ¼ cup onion, diced
  • ¼ cup bell pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 3 cups basic marinara sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups cooked white rice

    1. PLACE olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add celery, onion and bell pepper and cook for 5-6 minutes.

    2. ADD garlic, fresh thyme, oregano, cayenne, Creole seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes and hot sauce. Lastly, add the marinara sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Salt to taste.

    3. ADD cooked rice to jambalaya sauce; combine thoroughly. SERVE Serve gumbo in bowl with a heaping scoop of jambalaya/rice mixture and a side of toasted French bread. Option: Garnish with a sprinkle of cayenne and thyme (see photo).


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