Not long ago it was Mardi Gras season in New Orleans, and the Pud-Hog was getting a piece of the action.
Through the continuous consumption of King Cake, of course.
Now, for those of you who have not yet had the good fortune to try it, King Cake is a Mardi Gras staple, bought, sold and eaten from Twelfth Night (i.e. 5 January) until Fat Tuesday (which, this year, fell on 12 Feburary).
As sweet treats go, it is, quite frankly, delicious: a large hoop of Cinnamon pastry, often filled with flavoured Cream Cheese, and sprinkled with gaudy granules of sugar in Mardi Gras colours of green, gold and purple.
A regular fixture in cafes and bakeries around New Orleans and Southern Mississippi, each one contains a small plastic baby, planted somewhere in the dough. Get one in your slice and tradition dictates that the next King Cake is on you – as long as you don’t choke on baby, that is.
Our first exciting taste of the stuff was in Biloxi: a shop-bought slice filled with Strawberry Cream Cheese.
It. Was. MAGNIFICENT.
And from that goo-filled moment on, my mission became to try it at every juncture.
The King Cake had such an excellent texture: the Pastry was fluffy, soft and chewy; the Sugar was extra crunchy, and the Cream Cheese filling was moist and… well… creamy.
No doubt each piece was suffused with a large dose of e-numbers too (making sugar that bright can’t be easy), but what the heck – it probably just helps you party that little bit harder.
My second King Cake opportunity arose at the Lost Love Lounge – a dingy Vietnamese restuarant, attached to an even dingier bar.
Despite the unlikely setting, the food was exceedingly good, and their King Cake (though not made onsite) was only $2 a slice.
This time there was no Cream Cheese filling, but again it tasted wonderful. Lubricated with some sort of Cinnamon Jelly, it slid down my gullet in record time, making me hungry for more…
I did not have to wait too long, thank goodness, for the next day, at the Cake Cafe, I managed to buy two lumps of the homemade variety.
I say ‘managed’ because it was bloody hard: two times I attempted to buy some before I came up trumps.
The first time I was two hours late, and all the day’s stock had sold out. The next time (the following morning), I was told I was much too early – and advised to come back in an hour or so.
Third time lucky (at last), I bought one portion of Goats Cheese and Apple, and one of Raspberry Cream Cheese.
At $5 a piece sans tax, they weren’t the cheapest cakes by any means. They were, however, the biggest – each one enough to satiate two people, I should think.
Anyway, as you may have guessed, these were Cakes for a more gourmet market.
Though lacking crumbs of Sugar, both were festooned with bright strips of icing, with small plastic babies on top. When we bought them, both were warm as well – but, having filled up at breakfast, neither of us could face eating them in their prime.
This was a shame, as it happened – because, by evening, each one was slightly stale.
Not that we threw them away, though, Ogglers…
Instead, we made the best of what we had – enjoying the fillings (though wishing there was more to keep things moist).
The Raspberry version was particularly good, while the Goats Cheese and Apple was a twist on the classic I gladly tried – but might not rush to try again (though pleasingly peppered with Apple chunks, it lacked my desired amount of goo).
The King-Cake-a-thon wasn’t over, however.
In the morning, not ten hours later, our guesthouse served shop-bought pieces with Praline Cream Cheese for breakfast (!) and I felt unable to go without trying a slice.
Nutty, creamy, soft and sweet, it probably contained enough sugar to power a steamboat – yet compared to the Deep-Fried Cheesecake I’d had it was virtually Muesli and Milk.
Alas, however, even the Pud-Hog have too much of a good thing.
And having tried King Cake in almost every setting, at last I was ready to turn my attention elsewhere – at least for the time-being.
Truly, this is one sweet treat that really suits its name.
Just put some in Buckingham Palace and I’ll be a royalist.