Growing up in what many believe is the shadow of New Orleans’ more well known Mardi Gras celebration, I took–and still take–pride in the unique carnival atmosphere that would overtake my hometown of Mobile, Ala., for a couple of weeks out of the year.
Already well underway this year, mystic society members aboard festive, themed floats have been tossing moon pies, doubloons, beads and other random assorted throws (large toothbrushes, stuffed animals, candy, peanuts and panties) into the crowds of revelers that pack the downtown streets.
Though Mobile is gaining some of its rightful notoriety as the birthplace of Mardi Gras, many still place its origins in the Big Easy. Most food and cooking magazines do.
A Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade magazine issue from my archives would be among those. Its January/February 2011 issue featured a New Orleans-inspired menu of Mini Muffulettas, Chicken Gumbo, Chicken Creole, Hurricanes and Big Easy King Cake.
So being 500 miles away from home, Mardi Gras and a “real” king cake, I opted to do the next best (and easiest) thing. I made that Big Easy King Cake from Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade, and it is both big and easy.
More bread-like but sweetened with cinnamon and sometimes cream cheese, king cake is one of the staples of Mardi Gras, and Sandra’s is one of the easiest recipes I’ve seen–or made. Simply arrange canned cinnamon rolls on a pan and bake. Top with the icing that’s included, then sprinkle with sugars in the season’s traditional colors of purple, green and gold. Or you can tint the icing instead.
The colors are said to represent the three gifts the wise men bestowed upon the baby Jesus, who some say is represented by the small plastic baby that is inserted in the cake after baking. Tradition also has it that the person who finds it is declared “king” for the day. Others say that lucky person must provide the king cake at the next party or even host a Mardi Gras gathering.
Fat Tuesday, which this year is February 12, will mark the end of the king cake’s season–at least if you’re looking to find it at a local bakery. But if you’re looking to let the good times roll–or as we say in Mobile, “laissez les bons temps rouler”–you can make this easy treat for a taste of carnival wherever you are.