Why we eat king cake
Catholics around the world have celebrated Kings Day and Carnival with special cakes for centuries. The exact origins of king cake – and many other centuries-old food traditions -- are a bit hazy.
The ring-style cakes, often made of brioche, as well as the "galette de rois," which is a round cake of puff pastry with frangipani filling, originated in France, according to Liz Williams, founder and director of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum.
The French brought that tradition to New Orleans.
Hiding a bean or plastic doll in the cakes has been a tradition for more than a century in New Orleans as well. In 1871, the Twelfth Night Revelers, who mark the start of the Carnival season on the day the three kings arrived at the Christ child, placed a golden bean inside the cake. Then, whichever woman found the bean was named the queen.
Bakers got serious about innovating those traditional cakes in the 1980s when filled cakes became popular. Now, the cakes come in so many flavors and styles and are made in and shipped to so many cities, it is difficult to keep up.
Read more about the cake’s history in New Orleans here and here.