It’s carnival season here in New Orleans and you know what that means?! We get to enjoy the local tradition of Mardi Gras King Cakes! King Cakes make their annual debut on Twelfth Night, or January 6th, and are baked up fresh all the way until Fat Tuesday. Twelfth Night is the official start to the Mardi Gras season and for the next several weeks we delight in merriment, parades, parties, great music, and delicious, gluttonous treats such as King Cake.
Along with the King Cake tradition is the King Cake baby, who is hidden inside each cake. The baby is a 1-inch tall, plastic figurine. When I was growing up, we would have King Cake parties every Friday at school, and whoever got the baby in their piece of cake had to bring the King Cake the next week. It is the gift that keeps on giving—just like real babies! And so each week around these parts classrooms, office staff, churches, after-school programs, community centers, and families perpetuate the eating of these sugary cakes because the baby keeps popping up.
It’s not uncommon to find King Cake babies stashed away in people’s junk drawers or in little girls’ playrooms. Who wants to throw away a little plastic baby who, for some, represents baby Jesus? And so, naturally, we, too, have a few King Cake babies stowed away for a rainy day.
Well, our King Cake baby’s “rainy day” came this summer. I discovered that I was pregnant while husBen was leading a delegation of 40 middle schoolers across Australia. He knew there was a possibility of conception, and so we agreed before he left that I would not share the news with him until he made it home from his travels. I was bursting with excitement, and had almost two weeks to devise the plan on how to break this life changing news to him.
First, I made him a super cute Save-the-Date card, as well as cupcakes, using the recipe of my favorite New York City bakery, where husBen and I would later travel that same summer. I hoped and prayed he wouldn’t ask me anything body/baby related on the car ride home, which he didn’t, so my plan unfolded nicely.
I placed two cupcakes out on the coffee table before leaving and had the Save-the-Date hidden nearby. After we got the car unloaded and he had a chance to eyeball the cupcakes sitting out, I told him I made him a “welcome home” treat to celebrate his return. Granted it was about 10:30 p.m. at this point and he was jetlagging big time. But, he humored me and sat down in front of the baked goods without hesitation. What he didn’t know was that I had placed a KING CAKE BABY in our cupcakes!
We each took our first bite, but no baby. Then on his second bite, the baby was in his mouth. He tried chowing down on what he thought was a piece of candy, and then popped the baby on to his plate. After a “pregnant pause,” as we both glanced down at the plate, I exclaimed, “I’m pregnant!” HusBen’s first words were, “Really?” Me: “Uh-huh.” Him: “Really?” Me: “Yep!” HusBen: “Yay!”
We hugged, and then I gave him his Save-the-Date card, which had a three-seater bicycle on it and the words “Coming Lent 2013” on it. (Lent is the Christian season that begins on Ash Wednesday, the day after “Fat Tuesday,” or Mardi Gras, which is February 12, 2013 this year, and ends on Easter. Our due date is February 28, 2013—thus our baby will be born during Lent!) HusBen had been away from home for three weeks and awake for 39 hours straight at this point. His excitement quickly grew from our King Cake Baby-inspired, “Yay!”
As we approach Mardi Gras this year, I am moving a little slower, dancing to the rhythm of the marching bands with a little less flair, and yelling “Throw me Somethin’ Mister!” during parades from the comfort of my camp chair instead standing on the curb. I’m reveling in the knowledge that sometime during the season that prepares us for the Easter celebration, we will welcome our own little King or Queen baby into our lives. I look forward to sharing the traditions of my hometown with our little one. Who knows? Maybe our baby’s first birthday cake will be a King Cake!
Laissez les bons temps rouler!