Will King Cake Revive NOLA's Restaurants?

We're coming into carnival season in New Orleans—Mardi Gras is just three short weeks away—and that means lots of king cake. If late winter for you means nothing more than lots of slush and maybe one happy day of waiting in line for paczki, let me explain: king cake is a very sweet ring-shaped pastry, frosted in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. There is also a little plastic baby baked inside, and the person who gets the slice with the baby chokes gets a year of good luck and also the awesome responsibility of buying next year's king cake or hosting the next Mardi Gras party.


Carnival this year (say it with me) will be very different. There will be no parties, no parades, no insane drunken revelry in the streets, because those are all super-spreader events. Instead, people will be doing their drunken revelry at home (and, okay, probably at underground parties, too, but those are unofficial and illegal). One of the few Mardi Gras pleasures left is king cake, and restaurants are going to take advantage.

In previous years, when there were tourists and drunk idiots to feed, New Orleans restaurants did not have time to concentrate on king cake. But now, well, now is the time! Brennan's Restaurant, one of the city's classics, is getting into the king cake business wholeheartedly, reports NOLA.com. It is producing 1,600 cakes a week in not one but three flavors, and it's an all-hands-on-deck situation.


"We've pulled servers, cooks, dishwashers, everyone, they're getting hours they wouldn't have had," Patrick Brennan, sous chef and bakery manager for the family's restaurant group, told NOLA.com. "We're lucky that we had the facility and the equipment we needed ready to go so we could keep doing this."

Brennan's, however, faces quite a bit of competition. Galatoire's, another of the city's classic restaurants, is also selling king cake this year for the very first time, as is upstart GW Fins, whose king cake looks like a pretzel, and Dong Phuong, a Vietnamese bakery that is selling its king cake in stores and restaurants all over town.

Of all these places, Brennan's is the only one that ships nationwide (Dong Phuong, alas, is sold out for this year), though Eater New Orleans has a comprehensive list of other king cake purveyors with a longer track record so wherever you are, you can laissez les bon temps rouler.