The most popular food associated with the Mardi Gras season, more notably in New Orleans, is king cake. The season of the king cake runs from the Twelfth Night (January 6) until Ash Wednesday.
The history of king cake dates back to the 18th century, brought to the United States by Spanish and French colonists. King cake derives its name from the biblical three kings, which tells the tale of the three kings who journeyed to Bethlehem bearing gifts at the arrival of the newborn baby Jesus.
In the European tradition, a small bean or pea was hidden inside the king cake, and whoever found the bean was declared the "king of the feast." Since the 1950s, however, the trinket has replaced the bean in the United States. While the baby trinket is the most common, there are also various plastic trinket kings wearing colorful crowns. Many perceive this tradition to be a choking hazard, which is why some bakeries will offer up an option to have the trinket removed from the cake.
In 1871, they used the finding of the trinket or bean as the selection process in naming the queen of the Mardi Gras. In Mexico, the person who finds the trinket inside the cake is supposed to cook the tamales for the "Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary," while the most recent Carnival tradition calls for the finder of the trinket to simply buy the next king cake.
More From Kitchen Daily:
Simple king cake recipe and helpful preparation tips.