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The Sweetest Part of Mardi Gras
King cake is Mardi Gras’ most delicious tradition. This popular dessert, which has a consistency and flavor somewhere between a cinnamon roll and a coffee cake, became a part of the Mardi Gras carnival season in the late 19th century. King cakes are usually covered in Mardi Gras-colored frosting or sprinkles and baked in a round shape between one and two feet in diameter, making them perfect for sharing in groups.
This famous cake comes in a variety of both textures and filling styles – while the classic or traditional king cake is “plain” flavored, many king cakes flavor their frosting and/or cream cheese filling with yummy ingredients like strawberry, cinnamon, and praline. Most locals are very serious about only eating king cake between Twelfth Night and Mardi Gras Day, and also have a very strong opinion about where to get the best New Orleans king cakes – here’s a quick introduction to some of the most popular standbys.
Manny Randazzo’s King Cakes
While it is impossible to reach a city-wide consensus about the best New Orleans king cake, Manny Randazzo’s King Cakes in Metairie is one of the most ubiquitous and popular choices. This local favorite offers a variety of flavors, but their traditional style king cake is held up as a gold standard. Whether it be for special occasions or Mardi Gras season, everyone will agree that if you haven’t tried one from Manny Randazzo’s, then your search continues.
Dong Phuong Bake Shop
Dong Phuong’s modest storefront in New Orleans East has been featured on television and in magazines all over the country. This James Beard award-winning Vietnamese bakery makes king cakes that are so popular that there is a waitlist for out-of-town orders. While acquiring one of these prized king cakes requires a little bit of strategy and forethought, those who do what it takes will be rewarded by the legendary bakery’s unique take on flavors like pecan, coconut, strawberry, and almond creme.
Loretta’s Authentic Pralines
Loretta Harrison made history as the first African American woman to open her own praline company in New Orleans, and she quickly became a popular personality in the local culinary world. As you might have guessed, Loretta’s Authentic Pralines specializes in king cakes filled with praline cream cheese. While Loretta passed away in 2022, her family is dedicated to keeping her legacy alive through delicious treats and sweet stories of success.
The Brennan family is one of the greatest fine dining dynasties in New Orleans history. Brennan’s, their flagship restaurant in the French Quarter, offers a unique king cake experience by issuing the festive desert in a three-cake sequence: first traditional, then the strawberry-flavored Pink Parade king cake, and finally a Bananas Foster king cake crafted in the spirit of the family’s famous signature dessert.
Seeking out the best New Orleans king cakes will take you all over the city and its surrounding suburbs. Once you’ve enjoyed your sweet rewards, you might be interested in taking in more of the beautiful natural environment that provides the backdrop for New Orleans’ incredible cuisine.
Luckily, a Louisiana swamp tour will introduce you to the region’s signature flora and fauna, including alligators, herons, and cypress trees. While a king cake tour will take you on a journey through New Orleans’ culinary ecosystem, an alligator tour will teach you about a different local food chain from the safety of an exciting swamp boat. So come experience nature up-close and book your New Orleans swamp tour today!