The search to crown a King Cake King heads to Haydel's Bakery

Judy Walker, | The Times-Picayune By Judy Walker, | The Times-Picayune
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on January 26, 2012 at 11:07 AM, updated January 26, 2012 at 12:26 PM

After tasting Manny Randazzo's early in the day, we went to Haydel’s Bakery, where a tent had been erected in the parking lot and the bakery started giving away Lucky Dogs and jambalaya at noon. Dave Haydel Jr. estimated later that 700 people showed up in the three hours they celebrated the tasting.

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The Joe Simon Trio played inside, where the judges and customers jammed into the space.

Keith Wilson, who lives in Gretna, came to Haydel’s for the first time during the tasting. He moved here from the Mississippi Gulf Coast and was surprised at the plethora of king cakes.

“Here, there are so many different choices,” he said. “I’ve been trying lots of different bakeries.”

A waiter in a tuxedo served us judges a Haydel’s traditional cake, a cream-cheese-filled king cake, and the newest flavor, the chocolate-chip-brownie filled king cake. It has a strip of brownie dough baked onto the top.

Haydel’s always has something going on. It wrapped the Superdome in 2010 in more than a mile of king cake to take the Guinness record for “World’s Largest King Cake.” More recently, for private parties at the Superdome for each of the BCS teams, the bakers created king cakes in team colors that served more than 500 people.

Last summer, the staff filmed eight episodes of a reality TV show that aired on local television, and a production company is in the process of trying to sell it.

“It gave people insight,” Haydel said. “The people who only shop here and buy king cake didn’t know we do all these wedding cakes.”

Mardi Gras king cake judges try out Haydel's bakery in Jefferson After readers picked six favorite king cake bakeries, the Mardi Gras 2012 King Cake King contest judging began. On January 24, the King Cake King judging panel traveled to 4037 Jefferson Highway, Jefferson, near New Orleans to taste and rate the offerings at Haydelas bakery. The king cake tasting panel consisted of Brett Patron, founder of the 610 Stompers; JoAnn Clevenger, owner of the Upperline restaurant; Times-Picayune news reporter Danny Monteverde and Times-Picayune food editor Judy Walker. Video by Doug MacCash. Search for other king cake tastings at aMardi Gras king cake judges try out Nonna Randazzo's Bakery,a aMardi Gras king cake judges try out Sucre in Metairiea and aMardi Gras king cake judges try out Manny Randazzo bakery in Jeffersona on

In fact, king cake wedding cakes, tiered in different sizes, are particularly popular this time of year, he added. Some couples order them as a groom’s cake, and some have put a bride and groom on top and served it as the actual wedding cake.

“Our big thing is that we make everything here in house, from the cinnamon sugar to the dough to the fillings to the icing,” he said.

His staffers even color the sugar that decorates the tops of the king cakes.

His father, Dave Haydel, Sr., is the one who tweaked the family’s king-cake recipe, a danish dough, to the current version.

Haydel’s is a third-generation business; it began as a fruit stand, then a doughnut shop. It converted to a full-line bakery right after Hurricane Betsy in 1965.

“My grandfather, at the time, hired all the old local bakers he could find,” Haydel said.

Staff writers Karen Taylor Gist and Ann Maloney contributed to this story.