EDITORIAL: To eat or not to eat? King Cake

Macie Batson and Jackie Galli

Editor’s Note: The editorial board could not come to a consensus on the subject. Therefore, two editorials are running representing the split opinions of the staff.

It’s the tradition that matters

Macie Batson

New Orleans is full of traditions: red beans and rice on Mondays, second line parades and funerals, or turning funerals into parades (I know), snowballs, and, of course, Mardi Gras.

Now, if you aren’t from here, if you aren’t a true New Orleanian, it can be challenging to understand why the hell we do what we do. But, if you are from here, it’s easy to feel like the things we do are normal and most other cities also do them. But they don’t. I’ll admit, if you think about it from an outside perspective, things like King Cake, a delicious purple, green, and gold circular pastry (Or is it cake? Or bread?) with a naked plastic baby inside of it, so readily available to choke and die on, may seem a bit weird. 

But King Cake, especially around Carnival season and leading up to Mardi Gras, is pretty much inescapable if you’re in the South. You might not understand the hype behind it, but from a local’s perspective, King Cake is not only a crucial part of Carnival season, but it also may be the last sweet treat you taste on Fat Tuesday before giving up sweets on Ash Wednesday for Lent. 

Whether it be plain cinnamon, filled with Bavarian cream, cream cheese, fruit, or pecan praline, it’ll probably be handed to you left and right on every occasion. And if you get the baby in your slice, you’re responsible for bringing the King Cake to the next get-together. But that’s the fun of it. 

While you won’t find anything as amazing as New Orleans dishes, to me, it never really was about the food, as delicious as it is. It’s more about keeping the traditions alive and bringing everyone together. It’s not about whether King Cake is just a glorified cinnamon roll or not (it’s not); it’s about gathering around to get the first slice and waiting to see who gets the baby, and then planning the next event to bring a King Cake to. 

We are a city founded on hospitality, family, and togetherness, and I think our food provides all of the above. From hurricane parties to neighborhood crawfish boils, food is usually the main ingredient in binding the community. 

As weird as it may be for non-locals, is it so hard to just try and give in to the hype? In what other city can you go down the streets and see so many people having a great time, drinks in hand, sharing a multicolored dessert? It’s not so much about the dessert as it is about the power it, along with other New Orleans customs, has to unite people. So why not embrace it?

So, grab a piece of King Cake and enjoy it, not just for the flavor, but also for indulging in New Orleans’ rich culture and customs.


King cake isn’t worth the hype

Jackie Galli

The name of King Cake is almost as misleading as its reputation. It’s not a cake, and it’s definitely not fit for a king. 

Now before I go into how King Cake is not all it’s cracked up to be, I want to preface by saying I understand the feelings locals may have to hear their Mardi Gras dessert classic get dragged through the mud.

In my home state of New Jersey (and no, I don’t have THE accent), we love ourselves some pork roll. It’s extra salty pork that comes in a casing perfectly ready to be sliced up and cooked in a pan, then slapped between two halves of an everything bagel along with some egg and cheese. The first thing I wanna eat when I visit home, aside from my dad’s home-cooked anything, is a pork roll, egg, and cheese bagel. It’s divine. 

When I was around 10 years old, my cousins from Arizona came to visit. I wanted to make certain the first breakfast on their trip was the New Jersey classic. After having her first bite of a crispy slice of my native delicacy, one of my cousins turned to me, then shrugged and said, “it just tastes like ham.”


And to be clear, SPAM would be a more accurate line of comparison. While my cousin was a couple years older than me, even at my young age I knew her palate must still be unrefined in a way that inhibited her to truly savor the unique flavor profile of this salted pork shoved in a casing tube.

I fully empathize with the feelings of irritation and upset that may result for some native New Orleanians when I say what I am about to: King Cake is just a cinnamon roll with icing, except bad. 

I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. 

And I have tried them from dozens of places in dozens of flavors. Nowhere that I have gone to has done King Cake in a way that isn’t meh or bleh. 

It’s often so dry the heaps of sickly sweet icing on top can’t help it recover. When gooey fruit jam is added, it tastes artificial and over-sugared. From fancy bakeries to the Rouses grocery store, I encounter these same issues.

When people say they love it, it’s hard to believe them. The tap water here must’ve done a little too much damage. 

However, while I hate the stuff, I can respect local traditions. Every Mardi Gras, I will grab a slice, play along like I love it, and smile. 

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in New Orleans, do as the New Orleanians do. If it’s Mardi Gras, you better be grabbing a slice of King Cake. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.