Sunday, February 27, 2011

Looking Back at the King Cakes of 2011

Last year, I posted the results of a king cake roundup in New Orleans and Jackson. Since there are always new and interesting and old and delicious king cakes to find, I decided to do the same this year. It all started a few weeks ago when Jackson and much of the southeast was still in the grips of an icy cold front, I decided that I needed to make a trip to New Orleans for a few king cakes. Sure Mardi Gras falls on March 8th this year and I may have been more than a month premature, but when the craving for brioche and colored sugar hits, it’s hard to say no. In retrospect, I could not have picked a worse day to traverse the roads of south Mississippi and northern Louisiana. The first sign came in the form of flurries. Even before I had backed out of the driveway, snow began to fall in Madison, Mississippi. Normally this would cause your average Mississippian to abandon all plans for the day, run to the grocery store and buy as much bread, water, and milk as possible, but having delayed king cake run once before, I was determined that, outside of a blizzard, no amount of snow would stop me.

As I began the 180 mile journey down I-55, I couldn’t stop looking at the thermometer in my rear view mirror. It was solidly in the teens when I left Madison and by the time I made it to McComb, it had barely crept to the mid 20’s. Taking a few precautions, I began to slow down and steer straight ahead for each bridge that I crossed. Of course my real problem was a frozen windshield. With the constant onslaught of freezing rain, my forward vision was being reduced by the minute. Each pass of the windshield wipers brought more sounds of rubber on ice. When I finally pulled off for gas at Kentwood, I was able to break the ¼ inch thick layer of ice on my windshield.

Eventually I made it to New Orleans where I enjoyed a stirring lunch at Boucherie, an early dinner at Tracey’s, and a number of stops for king cakes along the way. Unfortunately the worst part of the trip was on the ride home. I’ll spare you the details but it includes icy bridges, closed interstates, US highways, and the eventual two hour late arrival to Madison.

Back at home and with the car unloaded it was finally time to look at the bounty of my treacherous journey:
The first stop on my trip had been at Maurice’s Bakery in Metairie. There I had picked up both a cream cheese king cake and a traditional galette du roi or French style king cake.
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There’s nothing wrong with a cream cheese king cake.
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Maurice’s king cake was a nice mix of icing and colored sugars.
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As much as I enjoyed the regular king cake from Maurice’s, it was the galette du roi that really stole the show.
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Stuffed with frangipane, topped with a fleur-de-lis, and accompanied by a glass figurine of a cow, this was an almond tinged piece of puff pastry heaven. Interesting side note about the figurine, according to the cashier at Maurice’s, the cow’s breath kept the baby Jesus warm during the nativity.

My next stop was at Gambino’s in Metairie
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It’s a classic Gambino’s king cake,
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This wasn’t my favorite but it was still quite good.

Manny Randazzo’s was the third stop on the trip.
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I know there are some people who will vehemently defend the honor of Manny Randazzo’s
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but I think icing with some sprinkles is pretty boring.

After lunch, I made my first stop for king cakes inside the city. That stop came at Laurel Street Bakery.
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Last year I got one of their black and gold Saints king cakes, but they were sold out of them this year.
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When it comes to a regular king cake, this was far and away my favorite.
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This just has the right combination of tender cake, glaze, and sugar.

Looking for something different, I had heard about a new take on the king cake. Called endimiyum cupcakes, they were the product of Bee Sweet Cupcakes. After Laurel Street, I made a beeline for Magazine to find them.
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Individual king cakes, this is just what my life needed.
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This really is just an excellent king cake miniaturized.
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With this cupcake, everyone gets a baby.

Next on my list was La Boulangerie, a bakery that I had driven past hundreds of times but never stopped in to take a look. What better time to remedy this situation than during a king cake hunt?
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As you’d expect La Boulangerie sells both a French king cake and a regular king cake. I decided to opt for the French king cake this time.
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The eggwash accentuated swirl was stunning.
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With layer after layer of puff pastry and sweetness from the frangipane, this French king cake is right on par with Maurice’s. I don’t think I could ever decide between the two of them.

Since I was on Magazine Street, stopping at Sucré was a foregone conclusion.
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I was blown away by the presentation and flavor of their king cake last year and this year was no exception.

That should have been enough king cakes to feed an army, but I had one last stop to make at Cochon Butcher. Actually, I had to call ahead the night before to reserve my share of mini king cakes.
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Served in a choice of cinnamon, chocolate, strawberries and cream cheese, or praline, these were more a novelty than anything.
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The strawberries and cream cheese was by far my favorite with the chocolate a second, the rest never really delivered on their promised flavors.
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The tiny rubber pigs were a fantastic touch.

With those little piglets, that wraps up this year’s installment of the King Cake roundup. Much like last year, I left out many big names and a number old favorites, but that’s one the nice problems with New Orleans king cakes. There are so many places to try that I could never visit them all in one day. Of course, I’m leaving out all the places in the rest of New Orleans, Louisiana, and even Mississippi, but I have to save something for next year.

6 comments:

Jody said...

Did you have help eating all those king cakes?

Cynical Cook said...

>Jody

-I had plenty of help from friends, family, and coworkers. There was no way I could eat all the cakes by myself.

Lisa Blair said...

Well let me know if you ever need MORE help with eating king cakes. I'll be happy to help! Where is a good place to get one in Jackson?

Cynical Cook said...

>Lisa

-The next time I get a king cake, you'll be the first one I call. As far as Jackson cakes, I know that Broad Street makes their own cakes and I've heard that Campbell's Bakery makes a cake as well.

Outside of that, Paul Anthony's Market gets his cakes from Ambrosia in Baton Rouge and they are a pretty good king cake.

I'm sure there are more but that's all I'm aware of.

gidgeteats said...

I'm with Lisa and would love to swing an invitation to your next King Cake eating party! This is an impressive list and now I regret not buying one from Sucre even more.

Baron said...

Next year, head over to Tastee Donuts and pick up one of their king cakes. They the McKenzies version (as well as a few other McKenzies treats). Quite good and the best priced of the bunch.