King cakes in New Orleans are a serious and deeply personal business. You ask any person that’s truly lived through a king cake season to describe a king cake and they’re going to give you the exact details and specifications of their favorite king cake. If you run into someone who spent their formative years in New Orleans, then you’re possibly going to get a mouth watering description of a king cake that hasn’t been available in decades. During my school days, the king cake camps formed around the questions of “icing or no icing?” and “filled or plain?” But in recent years things have gotten deliciously more complex as more and more places have started using their imaginations and experimenting with what a king cake could be. Be prepared to answer such questions as “glittery or unglittery?” and “Baby or pig?” Without further ado, here are just a few of the king cake 2.0 offerings in New Orleans.
1. Cochon – Cochon has a collection of king cakes available, including cinnamon, lemon doberge, and apple and cream cheese, but the craziest king cake they have is The Elvis. Truly the King’s cake, the Elvis has bananas, marshmallows and cured bacon. As an added bonus, Cochon replaces the traditional king cake baby with a cute little pig!
2. Buttermilk Drop Bakery and Cafe – The Buttermilk drop does have traditional cakes, but this year they’ve branched out with something truly special: the Dutch Apple King Cake. Mr. Henry re-imagined the more traditional king cake by adding a combination of brown sugar and butter crumb topping (just like you’d find on a Dutch apple pie) to the regular icing and colored sugar. Now Mr. Henry couldn’t stray too far from tradition on all things, so Buttermilk Drop still hides the baby inside the cake.
3. Sucre – Sucre’s king cake has been described as “the most beautiful king cake I’ve ever seen,” as the shimmering icing is like none other on the market. These mini works of art were recently named the best king cakes in New Orleans by a major newspaper and featured in many national magazines. Sucre’s king cakes are more danish than cake and filled with creole cream cheese.
4. Maurice’s French Pastries – Maurice’s has turned tradition on its head by going even more traditional than ever. Maurice’s traditional French king cake is a round puff pastry filled with frangipane (an almond flavored filling) and sporting a proper fleur-de-lis baked into the crust. Not a bit of green, gold or purple to be found around this delicious king cake.
5. Gracious Bakery – Gracious is the relatively new bakery from Megan Forman, who had previously worked at Sucre. So it should come as no surprise that her king cakes give Sucre’s a run for their money in the looks department. Gracious’ chocolate and cinnamon filled king cake forgoes the traditional colored sugar for elegant sugar pearls. You’ll find yourself having a hard time cutting into this cake, but once you get in, you’ll be glad you did.
6. PJ’s Coffee – Yes PJ’s has king cake, but it is pretty traditional by most standards. They land on this list for managing to liquefy the glorious king cake into a tasty coffee. The king cake coffee has strong notes of vanilla and cinnamon and is available as hot, iced or in PJ’s signature Velvet Ice.