What comes to mind when you think of Mardi Gras? Parades, beads, bright colors, and parties? That’s a pretty common portrayal of Mardi Gras, but it barely scratches the surface of the holiday. Mardi Gras celebrations are ancient- traditionally traced back to medieval times, but their roots go back even further to pagan celebrations. Celebrations have changed throughout history and are different around the world, but one thing is the same- this period is about decadence and celebration.

If you celebrate Mardi Gras, you have most likely heard of king cakes and know the rules- if you get the baby, you buy the next cake. The cake is made from a sweet yeast dough that is covered in icing and powdered sugar. The king cake tradition actually dates back to the middle ages. In honor of the Three Kings taking gifts to Jesus on Twelfth Night, a custom arose to give gifts to children at that time. A special cake naturally developed to help celebrate, which eventually became what we know as the king cake. While the baby in the king cake represents Jesus, historically a bean was inserted in the cake instead of the baby.

The recipe I picked to try for the king cake is by Emeril Lagasse, who opened his first restaurant in New Orleans. If anyone knows how to make a king cake, it should be Emeril. Here’s the recipe: http://emerils.com/122933/king-cake.

With the help of a stand mixer, it’s not a hard recipe to make. You just mix up the dough….

Let it rise, fill it with cream cheese, and form it into a ring to rise again…

According to Emeril, it’s okay to use a pecan half instead of a baby. I get that it’s tradition, but I feel a little weird baking a plastic baby into a cake, so I opted for a pecan half.

Then bake it until it’s nice and golden.

I put a ramekin in the center to help the cake hold its shape. You can also use a metal coffee can or other oven-safe round object.

Once it cools, cover it in icing and sprinkles.

This cake is so good it should be eaten year-round. The dough is soft and pillowy, so it’s not too dense, especially with the cream cheese filling, which sends me through the roof. It’s sweet and creamy and oh, so delicious! Happy Mardi Gras, everyone!

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