It’s around this time of year that we start to see Mardi Gras paraphernalia popping up in stores: shimmering noisemakers, bountiful bunches of beads, decorations and party hats. But if you’re like me, you bypass the trinkets and inevitable sales on candy-flavored booze and head straight for that beautiful cinnamon pastry, dusted with sugars of green, gold and purple. I am, of course, speaking about the king cake.
Under various titles and traditions, king cake is eaten far and wide, from France, Quebec, Spain and Latin America to South America and the United Kingdom. While in many cultures and countries, king cake season extends throughout the Christmas season, we in America usually only see them near Mardi Gras, the “fat Tuesday” just before the start of Lent.
The bready cinnamon confection was brought to the southern United States in the early 1700s by Basque settlers, originally eaten to celebrate Epiphany — or the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ — in early January. Some bakeries sell it with different fillings like strawberry, pecans or cream cheese, but most follow a similar formula of yeast dough, baked in a ring and topped with icing and colorful sprinkles.
And though the cake itself is tasty, perhaps even more exciting is the hiding of a trinket — usually a plastic baby Jesus — within the cake. Whoever receives the slice with the baby is said to receive either prosperous luck for the next year, or the responsibility of hosting next year’s Mardi Gras party. I am, in fact, a former Mardi Gras queen — my reign over my preschool class was benevolent.
Whether you bake your own king cake, pick it up at your local grocer or buy it from a bakery, I encourage you to partake in this delicious winter tradition. And if you want to celebrate Mardi Gras a little more boisterously, St. Louis has some fun events to check out.
St. Louis City
The annual Mardi Gras parade kicks off at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22, beginning at Busch Stadium and continuing on Broadway to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. The Bud Light Party Tent is also open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Bud Light Party Centre in Soulard Market Park, featuring a performance by St. Louis rapper Chingy, an open bar and a lunch buffet.
For a front-row view of the parade, the Blues Alumni Experience party tent will be open at 7th Street and Ann Avenue from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an open bar, lunch buffet and a chance to rub elbows with former Blues players. For tickets and more information, visit stlmardigras.org.
The Mardi Gras Bowling Bash will be held Tuesday, Feb. 25, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Tropicana Bowling Lanes, 7960 Clayton Road. Register as an individual or as a team of five. Open to all skill levels. Appetizers and cash bar available. Register online at claytoncommerce.com or call 314-726-3033 for more information.
Central West End
Let the good times roll at the second annual Central West End Fat Tuesday Celebration on Tuesday, Feb. 25. Enjoy sounds of New Orleans and join in the Central West End Second Line Parade, led by Saint Boogie Brass Band and Annie and the Fur Trappers. Meet at the intersection of Euclid and Washington at 5:30 p.m. After the parade, festivities continue at Central West End restaurants and bars. Prizes will be awarded for “Best Dressed” during the event.