In case you’ve ever wondered if there is such thing as too much king cake, I discovered today that, yes, there is. Since its inception in 2014, I have wanted to attend the King Cake Festival at Champion’s Square outside the Mercedes Benz Superdome, and this year, I finally got my chance.
Upon entering the festival on this chilly but beautiful day, I purchased ten tickets for ten dollars. Each ticket would allow me to sample an item from one of the approximately twenty vendors at the festival. (I suppose I could have cashed in all ten at one vendor if I had chosen to, but I’m trying to be more adventurous.) My first sample came from Mad Batter Bakery, simply because I thought the name was cute. It was a good, traditional king cake, although it was a little too plain for my taste, lacking that sugary, sprinkling-covered frosting that I so love. A solid start to my tasting, though. My second stop was at Bywater Bakery, in part because its booth was near Mad Batter, but more so because it included a toppings bar. After receiving my traditional king cake sample, I was instructed to choose my toppings, which would normally be used as fillings inside the cake. After careful consideration, I chose pecan praline (a no-brainer, really) and strawberry cream cheese. I can’t say I was a fan of the strawberry, but then, I have never been a lover of fruit fillings. The praline, however, (and for you non-Louisianans, we say prah-leen here), was divine. I made a mental note to save a ticket for a possible repeat visit to this booth.
I was feeling a bit sugar-rushy at this point, so I spent some time near the stage listening to Remedy, a fun local band that covered high-energy tunes from the late 90s and early 2000s. I was thoroughly enjoying the music when I spotted Pierre the Pelican and the Pelicans’ other seasonal mascot, that freaky King Cake Baby, making their way in to the crowd. Some weird part of me could not resist a photo with KCB, but I was told I had to include Pierre in the photo, as well. I’m not sure if Baby can not be trusted by himself or if Pierre’s ego is fragile or if there is some other valid reason, but I now have a souvenir photo of our bizarre trio.
Feeling ready for more king cake, I re-entered the crowd. A long line for Mr. Ronnie’s Famous Hot Donuts grabbed my attention, and I decided this would be a good use for ticket number three. I chose a praline king cake donut sample (sensing a theme?), and it with one bite, I understood the attraction. It was yummy! Two thumbs up to you, Mr. Ronnie! Approximately 45 minutes had passed, and I was feeling anything but hungry, but I knew I had to press on. I still had seven tickets in my pocket!
A sucker for anything with the name Randazzo in it, I sampled the traditional king cake at Caywood and Randazzo’s next. I’m not sure which Randazzo this is (there are many branches of this family tree, and they can all bake), but he or she did not disappoint. The cake was tasty and the frosting was abundant. Another win. At this point, I was quite full, but those six tickets weren’t going to spend themselves. I had the distinct feeling, however, that I would be donating some of my tickets to another fest-goer. Not yet ready to wave the white flag, I found myself in line for a Kupcake Factory sample. (I think the cutesy spelling drew me in.) This traditional king cake sample left me wanting something more, and while I was beyond stuffed, I did not want my festival experience to end on this note.
I still had many choices, but as I was running out of room, I went with an old favorite…Nonna Randazzo’s. Yes, I can get one of these cakes any day of the week on the Northshore, but I know they’re tasty, and yes, Nonna is generous with the frosting. I was content to call it a day at six samples until I spied a ridiculously long line that I felt had to be investigated. The line was for the Buttermilk Drop, which offered a choice of traditional king cake, the “buttermilk drop”, or a spicy sausage and Swiss with a maple frosting. My sweet tooth would not normally allow me to go for a savory snack, but after six sweet samples, I needed a change of pace. It was the best decision I made all day! It was simply the perfect mix of sweet and savory, and the perfect end to my eating safari.
Two voting tokens were included with my tickets, and I used one for Buttermilk Drop and the other for Caywood and Randazzo’s. (The People’s Choice winner, I have since learned, was Nonna Randazzo’s. Not a bad choice at all, but I stand by my selections.) I donated my three remaining tickets to a cute, sixteen-year-old boy, who had blown through the ten I had bought him at the door. No doubt, he put those bonus tickets to good use. There is also no doubt that the King Cake Festival will become an annual event for me. Next year, someone please remind me to buy fewer tickets…or show up extra hungry!