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What's a Wreck?

A Cake Wreck is any cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy, inappropriate - you name it. A Wreck is not necessarily a poorly-made cake; it's simply one I find funny, for any of a number of reasons. Anyone who has ever smeared frosting on a baked good has made a Wreck at one time or another, so I'm not here to vilify decorators: Cake Wrecks is just about finding the funny in unexpected, sugar-filled places.

Now, don't you have a photo you want to send me? ;)

- Jen
Monday
Mar072011

King Me

So there's this traditional Mardi Gras dessert called the King Cake, and it's, well...

Yeah. Like that.

Now, the fun part of the King Cake is that there's a baby in it.

Not a REAL baby, of course; that would be edible.



No, this is a tiny, plastic, inedible baby (a la carrot jockey) hidden inside the doughy goodness. The person who cracks a molar on said non-edible baby is King or Queen for the day, and traditionally is required to make next year's deep-fried baby fritter.

If that's you, then here's what you need to make a proper King Cake:

- (1) giant donut
- Melted white icing
- (1) ton each of gold, green, and purple sprinkles
- (1) baby, non-edible

As I'm sure you can imagine with an ingredient list like that, it's pretty much impossible to mess this up.

"Mardi Gras": French for "nutritional elegance."

Traditionally speaking, the King Cake is not the most pleasing thing to look at. In fact, if your King Cake is a hideous blob of slime and sprinkles, then, congratulations! You nailed it!

Of course, some bakers do try to hide the hideousness with beads, coins, and any other shiny objects they have lying around:

Cake? What cake? Ooooh, look! Shiiiiiiiny.

Others change the tradition all together:

"I dunno...if it isn't a giant, sugar-coated, deep-fried doughnut with a plastic trinket inside, it just starts to look a little ridiculous."

And, given our sue-happy world, bakers do have to make sure customers are aware of the non-edible baby choking hazard:

You have my attention.

Still, there's gotta be a better way to warn folks there's a non-edible baby baked into the cake, right? You know, something a little more self-explanatory? Something that just screams, hey, buddy, there's a non-edible baby in this cake!

That works.

Remember, the King Cake was originally created as a treat to enjoy before Lent, when many people give up their favorite foods or sweets for 40 days.


So this oughta hold you for the first week or two.

Thanks to Anony M., Brinn M., Brooke S., Marcia T., Chastity B., Kelley H., Brandon H., Lauren, & Kiki, who think Fat Tuesday just got a little skinnier.

UPDATE: Whatever you do, DO NOT venture into the comments today. Our EPCOT threat level is at RED, people. RED! Run away! Don't look back! And whatever you do, DO NOT SAY A KING CAKE IS DEEP-FRIED! OR CAJUN! OR TASTES BAD!

[Kermit flail] AAAAAUUUUGGGHHH!!!

« Deep Fried Thoughts | Main | Seussical Sunday Sweets »

Reader Comments (200)

There are so many kinds - it depends upon the town AND the bakery. The best one I've eaten was actual raised doughnut dough, fried, of course, filled with strawberry stuff, generously iced and covered with the colored sugars. A diabetic coma ensued. Most King Cakes are a very dry coffee cake and the plastic baby is the best tasting part.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

The King Cake of New Orleans is one of those Southern traditions people actually think are good. It is the tradition that is tasty, not the cake.
One Who Knows Better

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

The "THERE IS A BABY IN THE CAKE" one is from Randazzo's, and it is AMAZING. I spent $50 to have one shipped to SC this year, and the entire thing (it was huge to begin with) was gone in three days.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlysia

How sad is it that this has actually inspired me to make a king cake for DH to take in to his office tomorrow? Sans baby though, don't have any of those in my kitchen stores.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette

As a New Orleanian, one who loooooves all things Mardi Gras, including (not-fried) king cake, I challenge you to find a single attractive-looking king cake. Seriously, even Sucre, which makes the most beautiful sophisticated professional glittery desserts, can't make a truly fancy-looking king cake.

I think king cakes are like the overalls of baked-goods: you just can't dress them up.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSome Girl

Since first becoming aware of them and especially since I moved to New Orleans, I have had good and bad experiences with King Cake. I would first like to point out that the name is deceiving. I was disappointed the first time I had one. I was expecting cake and what I got was bread...but now that I know what to expect, I like them occasionally...about once a year.

My friends and I got a king cake a few weeks ago from a shop down here called http://www.shopsucre.com/" rel="nofollow">Sucre. They forgo the purple/green/gold sprinkles and Mardi Gras flotsam and go with a metallic airbrushed look (which you can see on their website). Even the babies are metallic! I find their version to be too dry for my taste (and the metallic coloring is a *bit* disturbing), but to each their own!

In my personal opinion, almost every king cake I've ever seen is ugly, but you have presented some prime examples here...

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

First time commenting, but I had to when I saw the threat level warning!

I'm heading to NOLA at the end of March and one thing I'm so excited about is all the different foods. I'd never heard of King Cakes before today, but now, as long as I can still find one a a good bakery I'll definately be buying one.

Btw, the face down baby made my day!

Joy (born in raised in Ontario!)

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercanadian-pixie

Why would you eat something like this?!?

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMicalah

Geeeeez! Everyone getting sooooo upset over a King Cake?! These are "wrecks" people!

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I feel like someone has to say this:

King cakes? Looks more like drag queen cakes to me!

(Ahhhh. There. Got the politically not-particularly-correct out of my system for the day.)

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKae

I made the first King Cake I've ever had. It looked just like your examples. So it was ugly but delicious. It is a coffee cake which means you can eat it for breakfast! Bonus!

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTheBunny

@canadian-pixie

May be a challenge to find a king cake at the end of March--tomorrow is Mardi Gras. You'll probably need to go to Randazzo's or Haydel's or something, they might have left over novelty king cakes from St. Pat's or some version for Easter. Traditionally, they only appear from Twelfth Night to Mardi Gras--although a couple years ago I ordered one shaped like a 4 for my daughter's birthday.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

An Epcot at threat level red will guarantee that I go and look at the comments, just for a laugh. Especially when the Epcot has been blazing at red for some time, and a commenter weighs in with ALL CAPS :D

I noticed something while reading that filled me with a sense of awe and wonderment. Along with the comments relating to the actual cakes, and what a King Cake is made of/looks like, etc., I noticed a decent sprinkling of Wikipedia comments. We have a double Epcot, people! All the way! What does it meeeeeeeeeeeannnn???

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWolverine Girl

I'm not sure there's really a way to 'pretty up' a King Cake. We had 5 brought in (to TX) from LA a couple of weeks ago and honestly I can't really tell you how they looked because I was too busy stuffing my face with the cinnamon-y goodness to care (whilst stabbing my piece several times to make sure I wasn't about to swallow a baby).

The layers on the inside were very thin, tasted like a good sweet version of brioche, and probably about 20 layers of cinnamon were in there. Mmmmmm....

We got our own cake home and my husband went to get a slice and he was sawing and sawing...then I screamed, "MY GOD, YOU'VE HIT THE BABY!" Sure enough, he was trying to decapitate the poor little plastic baby, who we now call Al ('Scarface'). What are the odds that your first cut would be slicing the baby's face?

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermylittlecountry

Wow...ok then! They accually look pretty good when they are made the right way! Not these...:)
-Madmadmadi

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Whew! Us southern people take our king cakes seriously! Jen, as an avid blog reader, proud CW book owner, AND a NOLA girl... Thank you! This is hysterical! Now I'm going to my kitchen to see how my own king cake compares. I bought the old fashioned cinnamon this year!

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGillian O'Daniel

Aww, I was going to thank you for featuring King cakes, 'cuz I'm far from home this Mardi Gras season, and I miss it all. Sorry your tribute to Mardi Gras went Epcot Red...

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLet Them Eat Cake

Apparently King Cakes are to the Louisianans as Smorgastartas are to the Swedish.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

Wait...
so could someone explain to me what a king cake actually is?

@Krusho, I'll see you in the fallout shelter! Save some booze for me!

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaitlyn

I hate sugar crystal sprinkles! It's like sand.

LOUD VOICES!

That would make sense if anyone is an Anchorman fan. :)

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi D

*facepalm* at this entire post and some of the comments.

I know Wikipedia is not the BEST best source, but since this is a cake blog I feel ok citing it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_cake#History . **Please go there first.**

King Cake is (essentially) coffee-type cake with frosting on it. It is ok if you don't like it, really. But, many people find it delicious. The colors of the frosting have cultural and religious significance.

Regarding the "Zulu" cake from the charming commenter below, it is named after the Mardi Gras krewe named Zulu. http://www.kreweofzulu.com/ . Yes, it's a little politically incorrect. Much of the history of the South, and of our dear old America, is politically incorrect. That's why the "Zulu"-named cakes are not very popular.

What are you going to trash next, Cake Wrecks, communion wafers? *Sigh* Have you ever actually *had* King Cake?

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Well you've finally done it. An entire post where not a single cake has a redeeming quality. They ALL made me nauseous.
Are the colours the same every year or will I be nauseous over a new combo in 2012?

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPauline

Ahahahaha!!! Wow--I've heard of a King Cake and was considering trying one...until now. These naked babies just aren't cutting it for me without their vegetable seats. Also...sprinkles, much?

LOL. Thanks for brightening my day, as always, Cake Wrecks! :)

~Eve S. D'ropper, of http://wordsfromthehallway.blogspot.com

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEve S. D'ropper

Jen, because I know you like yummy sweet treats, especially ones that are super simple to make, thought I'd share a with you and the CW readers a link to an easy recipe for petits Gallttes des Rois (mini king cakes) which I made for an Epiphany party one time (in honor of the 3 Kings), although I left out the dried bean "baby". I sprinkled the tops of mine with plain turbinado sugar, skipping altogether sticky icing and dyed sugars. Hope you (and John) enjoy!

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/01/cakespy-mini-galettes-des-rois-three-kings-cake-recipe.html

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPromise

This is all new to me. I had no idea that the US did "king cakes". I only knew about the French "gallette de rois" served at Epiphany (early January) which is a baked pastry with almond butter-cream inside. This I have had, and it's YUM.

These doughnut things look capable of inducing a diabetic coma with the amount of icing on them. *shudder* Blech!!

Oh and Mardi Gras actually means "Fat Tuesday" (gras = fat, Mardi = Tuesday) in French. It comes from the tradition of Lent where you gave up all the extravagances of life, which included things like butter and cream, so you used them up on Mardi Gras (the last Tuesday before Lent).

Elizabeth
Sydney, Australia

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Kermit flail indeed!! That update was my favorite part of the post lol!!!

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJessicaH

Well, I'm going to weigh in on this even though I've never weighed in on a post before and I check this site religiously.

I am a Cajun girl with parents from Rayne, Louisiana, in the heart of Cajun Country. I also happen to live in the great city of New Orleans, where tomorrow is Mardi Gras day and we have been celebrating since Twelfth Night.

Anonymous got it right when he/she said that King Cakes are not Cajun but rather Creole. However, the part about Creole traditions being a mix of French and African traditions is dead wrong. Creoles were French and settled here in New Orleans directly from France. The confusion as to whether or not there are African Creoles came from slaves being sent to sell the Creole goods such as tomatoes. They were sold as Creole goods by African slaves and the two got muddled.

Now lets talk about King Cakes. What Jen and John posted are King Cake nightmares. They are quite ugly and don't look very appetizing. As you all know by now, King Cakes are not fried doughnuts but rather baked brioches. They are also quite tasty.

Everyone around here knows that there's a plastic baby stuck in the cake. Thanks to our litigious society, bakeries have become afraid of just labeling the box and putting the dang baby in the cake anyway. Personally, I will not buy a King Cake that doesn't have a baby inside. It's the tradition.

As for the tradition, we don't eat King Cake until Twelfth Night on January 6th, which is the official start of the Carnival season. Whomever finds the baby in the cake is King/Queen for the day and must buy the next cake. We don't let them wait until next year, however. Most of the places I've worked have a King Cake every Friday. We do love our king cakes here.

I will concur with the folks who say that Randazzo's King Cakes are the best traditional (non-filled) cakes. I prefer Francis' Bakery when I'm looking for a filled King Cake. As for Gambino's King Cakes, they are quite dry and I would rather have a piece of shoe leather.

A number of years ago many doughnut shops began baking their own King Cakes, which are actually huge doughnuts. While tasty for what they are, they are not truly King Cakes.

John and Jen, I think what happened today is rather than just pointing out some really wrecky King Cakes, you guys made fun of the tradition itself and that set some folks off. We Louisianians are proud of our traditions and are used to having folks not understand them. I assume that's why so many of us have come here to try to explain it.

Thanks for the site. I come here everyday for a good laugh and you guys always come through with that. BTW, Jen, I love EPBOT too. :)

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarefootCajun

Jen and John - great post, even though it blew into an Epcot threat level red! Too bad when people can't take a joke. I think you've officially been "kinged" by this one :)

Krusho and Kaitlyn, you need to make some more room in the Epcot shelter... oh, and since you've already got the drinks, I'll bring the donuts!!

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlma

Oh help. That last one looks like a giant caterpillar, not a doughnut.

I'm surprised Sandra Lee didn't lead the charge on these -- she has already desecrated every other holiday there is.

What's the deal on these babies? I had already surmised that they were supplied in 'the pose' (as we naked mohawk baby carrot jockey fans call it), but what is the significance of that pose? Apart from being ideal for placement on icing carrots, that is. Do they all come with mohawks?

Real king cake sounds good -- these things look too much like something I might have 'decorated' in grade school. How many remember the infamous macaroni & spray paint days, when just about anything passed for 'art'. It's the same in these bakeries, where just about anything can be called 'food', it seems.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

I saw something like #1 at Publix and thought that looked NOTHING like the King Cake I had years ago. I thought it looked pretty bad and thought about taking a picture and sending it in. Someone beat me to it!

JB in Florida

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I only have two thoughts at this point.

1) "Kermit flail" totally made my day.

2) I really want a doughnut. ;-)

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLadybug914

Anon @ 6:22,

Wiki also says that the traditional king cake is deep fried like a doughnut but I got in trouble for pointing that out.

I'm so glad you all enjoyed the post so much!!!!

john

From what I have seen, it seems to be that at least where King Cakes are concerned, the wreckier, the better.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanus

This is probably the saddest holiday cake I've ever heard of. Why a baby in the cake? That's just kinda weird.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary

I LOVE the one with the hand written note on the lid! It looks like some kind of warning in a horror film. :)

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJ. Rose

"Apparently King Cakes are to the Louisianans as Smorgastartas are to the Swedish."

What a great sentence this is. Well done!

J&J, thanks for hanging in there. Rest assured that the vast majority of your readership gets the jokes, thinks this blog is great, and realizes that laughing at poorly-carried-out traditions is not a crime against humanity (nor against Louisianans, Canadians, or communion wafers.)

--kate

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

The "do not venture into the comments" warning just made me want to read the comments. I shook my head in disappointment on more than one occasion.

I'm going to Spaceship Earth to wait until this blows over.
-Tara

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertara_d

Couldn't resist...

Here's a recipe, if y'all want to try this at home: http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/food/homemade-mardi-gras-king-cake-2454135/

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLet Them Eat Cake

Anonymous: "As a cajun, every word of that is 100% and that's half the fun of the king cake tradition. :D"

Hee! Ever since I moved away, my dad has insisted on shipping king cakes from various bakeries in and near Lafayette, which is really sweet. But those bad boys wind up lingering a LONG time. I've ended up bringing three KCs to a party and taken home two and half because they're so damn sweet and rich. And I've had atrocious grocery store king cake that makes you want to slap the board of directors.

On the other hand, the plastic babies had a way of popping up around the house, so my cousins and I always had proportionally sized infants when our Barbies married Ken and had a baby. :)

Had to look up "Kermit flail." Love it.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNoo-Noo Shoo-Shoo

Geez - I am amazed at some of the people and the veritable dissertations that they penned for this comment section. My impression now is that King Cakes are sickeningly sweet concoctions and that people from Louisiana take themselves and their traditions way, way too seriously. Lighten up people, it's just cake!

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

blech....to all of it.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHyena Overlord

I wasn't going to come in- I've learned to take your warnings very, very seriously. However, two things caused my downfall:

#1-we haven't partied in the Epcot bunker in WEEKS (I brought Oreos everyone- who's got the milk?)

#2-[Kermit flail] AAAAUUUUGGGHHH!!! FTW

LMAO

-Barbara Anne

P.S. has anyone mentioned a true king cake isn't a deep fried...oh, they have? okey dokey then. :D

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I lived in LA for a time so I feel qualified to weigh in. Jen, can you block these King-Cake fascists like on twitter? You should. King-Cake is nauseatingly sweet, served EVERYWHERE, gas stations included, and the only reason to keep eating them through the Mardi Gras season is to further a wish for diabetes. My son refuses to even look at that mess to this day. That being said "Laissez les bon temps rouler!"

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie Miller

I think it was more the misinformation that set people off than anything else. Obviously most of that's been cleared up at this point, but the point (and humor) of the post kind of gets lost in translation if some of the basic material you're trying to make fun of in the first place is actually wrong.

That said, having grown up in Louisiana, and eaten traditional King Cakes every year as a child, they're quite tasty, but it's hard to make them terribly pretty. They basically look like coffee cakes with a lot of colored icing. What most chain bakeries in other parts of the country try to pass off as King Cakes (i.e. the things pictured in the post) are neither King Cakes, nor tasty. They're just catastrophes. Hilarious diabetic-coma-inducing catastrophes.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

As disgusting as those look, I still wanted to eat them all....that's how good kings cake is....yum..

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Krusho, even though I DO have a dog in this fight, I'll be joining you in the Epcot Memorial fall-out shelter.
I can bring pralines (chewy, natch) that work for you???

March 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterakprincess72

Well, I would say that a deep fried doughnut would be closer than a 1/4 of a chocolate sheet cake with buttercream frosting...

March 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Lol makes me want to run out and try a King cake. Never had one. Plus I thought they had alcohol in them which would explain why these cakes look like this. The wreckerators drank it all lol.

March 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterArlene

Blah blah blah cake. Blah blah blah not doughnut. Blah blah blah Baby Jesus. Blah Serious business blah!

The gist of the comments, am I right?

March 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAi

Wow, things went seriously whacky since this morning! EPCOT level Red? I'd say closer to the burn off after IllumiNations. *dives for the bunker carrying home-made chocolate chip cookies*

From another Canadian *waves at the other two Andreas and Marylene and Joy* French Canadian and Acadian are different creatures, even if they do rhyme quite nicely. And, really can't we all just get along? Sing "Kumbaya" and toast Drag Queen cakes over the fire? Can we have a fire in the bunker?

Andrea J (Born in BC, Tortured in TO, Living in T-Bay)

WV: Scritine - what I will use to clean my eyes with after looking at those King Cakes.

March 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGalinda

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