King of Cakes
by Erin Z. Bass
Louisiana’s capital city of Baton Rouge held its first-annual King Cake Tasteoff last night at Hollywood Casino. It all started on Twelfth Night, when Visit Baton Rouge asked its Facebook fans to share their favorite place for King Cake in the city. The heated conversation then moved to Twitter, where follower @lynseydesign put together a map of King Cake locations. From there, a competition began to take shape, culminating in last night’s event with 17 local businesses participating, and local blog Bite and Booze helping present as part of its “Bite Club.” With claims to fame on Mardi Gras often going to New Orleans, President and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge Paul Arrigo explained Baton Rouge’s role this way: “Mardi Gras does not belong to one city in the state,” he said. “As a state capital, we get to share Mardi Gras too!”
Categories were split into traditional King Cake (must have cake, icing and possibly a filling) and non-traditional King Cake-flavored items, which ranged from coffee to cake balls and even soap. As a judge, my job was to taste them all and rate each one on taste, texture and presentation. Going in, I knew I preferred traditional, no-frills King Cake, but wasn’t sure if I’d be swayed by some of the fancier entries. As it turns out, I wasn’t. It was Ambrosia Bakery’s simple, cinnamon swirl (pictured on the left) that came close to perfection for me, and I was glad to see it take second place at the end of the night. (All of the winners are listed at the bottom of the this post.) The non-traditional items were also lots of fun, and I found out I love King Cake Balls as well as King Cake-flavored coffee.
I had a chance to talk to fellow judge Jeremy Wells, who hails from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and is in graduate school at LSU, about his thoughts on the event. (He writes the blog Faire les Courses about makin’ groceries in Baton Rouge.) During his first year of grad school, when King Cakes started showing up in his department during Mardi Gras season, Jeremy says he had no idea what they were. Now, after four years in South Louisiana, he’s tasted King Cake from Lafayette to New Orleans and says, “I’ve not had a bad King Cake, but the more I’ve had, the more I realize just the traditional cinnamon with a bit of frosting is where it’s at.”
Well said Jeremy. What’s up next for Baton Rouge’s Bite Club? Crawfish!
To see more photos, check out our Flickr set.
King Cake Tasteoff Winners
First Place: Calandro’s Supermarket for its Mississippi Mud King Cake
The supermarket offers more than 25 flavors of King Cake, available at store locations on Government Street and Perkins Road.
Second Place: Ambrosia Bakery for Traditional King Cake
Ambrosia will ship its winning King Cake, plus pecan praline, fruit-filled and chocolate-coconut cream cheese flavors.
First Place: A Coffee Truck Raspberry King Cake Latte
Follow @acoffeetruck on Twitter to find out where they’re brewing in the capital city.
Second Place: King Cake Soap by Handmade at Homestead (pictured on the right)
Handmade at Homestead has its King Cake Soap available whole and by the slice on its website.
I’d like to thank Visit Baton Rouge and Theresa Overby, Jay Ducote of Bite and Booze and Hollywood Casino for inviting us to participate in this wonderful event. King Cake is such a part of life in South Louisiana during Mardi Gras season and we’re thrilled to see it celebrated and appreciated!