If you live in the South, particularly Louisiana, then you know that January 6th starts what we call Mardi Gras season or Carnival season, whichever you prefer. And no Mardi Gras season is complete without kicking it off with King Cake! Most locals will head to their favorite bakery or grocery store and pick themselves up a king cake. If you're a baking enthusiast, you might whip you up one; but if you're crunched for time and you want to make one up at home, we've got the perfect easy and simple recipe to make some at home, as long as you have 30 minutes to spare!
Forewarned.....is not the same as eating a real king cake, but they're just as tasty! We could've easily whipped up some fresh dough here at Southern Celebrations kitchen, but we wanted to create an easy treat that even your little ones could help with, so we cheated and used store bought refrigerated cinnamon roll dough. It's definitely easier if you buy the ones that are actually rolled out, but if you happen to already have the biscuit-like ones in your fridge already no biggie, you just have to complete an extra step, by carefully cutting the biscuit in a swirl motion that will allow you to "unroll" the dough. I used both kinds just as a tester, and the mini king cakes still came out fine! (Also be sure to not throw away the icing that comes with the cinnamon rolls, we'll be using them later!)
You will need to separate your dough into "strips". Place two strips next to each other and braid the two together, press both ends together. Once braided, form a circle and pinch together the two ends to keep the circle held together.
Place mini king cakes onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and pop in a preheated oven (375 degrees) for approximately 11 minutes (times will vary depending on your oven).
When they are done, place the cakes on a cooling rack.
While cooling, we'll mix the icing! Scrape out the contents of icing from the cinnamon rolls into a small mixing bowl. Combine with the powdered sugar, milk, and cream cheese. Stir until mixed and make sure there are no lumps, because no one likes lumpy icing!
Spoon your icing mixture onto the mini king cakes, make sure they are cooled, because otherwise your icing will melt off.
As soon as you spoon the icing, sprinkle with all 3 colored sugars.
Mini King Cake Recipe
For History Buffs: A Brief History About Mardi Gras
ORIGINS OF MARDI GRAS
According to historians, Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility, including the raucous Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether.As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.Along withChristianity, Mardi Gras spread from Rome to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and England.
Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the meat, eggs, milk and cheese that remained in their homes, preparing for several weeks ofeating only fish and fasting. In France, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.” The word “carnival,” another common name for the pre-Lenten festivities, may also derive from this vegetarian-unfriendly custom: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means to take away or remove meat.
MARDI GRAS IN THE UNITED STATES
Many historians believe that the first American Mardi Gras took place on March 3, 1699, when the French explorers Iberville and Bienville landed in what is now Louisiana, just south of the holiday’s future epicenter: New Orleans. They held a small celebration and dubbed the spot Point du Mardi Gras. In the decades that followed, New Orleans and other French settlements began marking the holiday with street parties, masked balls and lavish dinners. When the Spanish took control of New Orleans, however, they abolished these rowdy rituals, and the bans remained in force until Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812.
On Mardi Gras in 1827, a group of students donned colorful costumes and danced through the streets of New Orleans, emulating the revelry they’d observed while visiting Paris. Ten years later, the first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place, a tradition that continues to this day. In 1857, a secret society of New Orleans businessmen called the Mistick Krewe of Comus organized a torch-lit Mardi Gras procession with marching bands and rolling floats, setting the tone for future public celebrations in the city. Since then, krewes have remained a fixture of the Carnival scene throughout Louisiana. Other lasting customs include throwing beads and other trinkets, wearing masks, decorating floats and eating King Cake.
Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday. However, elaborate carnival festivities draw crowds in other parts of the United States during the Mardi Gras season as well, including Alabama and Mississippi. Each region has its own events and traditions.
What do the colors mean?
Purple represents justice.
Green is faith.
Gold/Yellow represents power.
Why does Mardi Gras season start on Jan. 6?
(as told By Doug MacCash, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune )
In the Catholic world, Jan. 6 is called Epiphany or Twelfth Night (since it's twelve days after Christmas) or Kings Day (hence the King Cake tie-in, right?). It marks the moment in the Bible that the three kings, having traveled over field and fountain, moor and mountain, arrived in Bethlehem to behold the baby Jesus. Traditionally, Epiphany is considered the last day of the Christmas holidays.
Traditionally Kings Day, aka Epiphany, aka Twelfth Night, is a time of feasting. So, back in 1870, one of the very first Mardi Gras clubs decided to have a parade and party on that night. They called themselves the Twelfth Night Revelers.
According to a 2009 NOLA.com story titled "A History of Mardi Gras" by Becky Retz, The Revelers employed jesters to serve king cake to young ladies at the party. Back then, king cakes had a gilded bean hidden inside (because pink plastic babies were very, very scarce in those days). Whichever young lady got the lucky bean would be crowned queen of the Revelers. But, according to Retz, the Revelers' jesters went off the rails.
"It seems the fools were drunk," Retz wrote, and instead of presenting the cake, they either dropped it on or threw it at the women."
Oh you guys!
And there you have it. Since the Twelfth Night Revelers' fateful drunken king cake party, New Orleans has apparently begun the Mardi Gras season on Jan. 6. At least that seems to be the answer.
Your Jan. 6 rights and privileges
Starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday, you are free to say "happy Mardi Gras" to the bus driver, in the same way you might start saying "Merry Christmas" on the first day after Thanksgiving.
Starting Jan. 6, you are also free to wear purple green and gold, the ghastly colors of Mardi Gras. But start out slow. In the workplace, your fellow employees should not be asked to endure your purple, green and gold bowtie or scarf until, say, Endymion Saturday (Feb. 25).
Starting Jan. 6, you are free -- obliged, even -- to eat king cake (round pastries with ghastly purple, green, and gold sprinkles) whenever you encounter it.
Truth is, these days you'll see king cakes for sale pretty much all year round. However, purists view purchasing king cakes before Jan. 6 as a demonstration of gauche impatience. Sort of like shooting off fireworks on July 3. Or opening the Christmas presents a day early.
It's no big deal. A cultural misdemeanor.