Today's King Cakes take many forms, from simple yeasty coffee cakes to giant doughnutlike confections stuffed with cream cheese, nuts and other goodies. They're typically decorated with colored sugar in purple (representing justice), green (representing faith), and gold (representing power). And all have a plastic baby hidden inside (if you want to find the piece with the baby, look for where the two ends of the dough meet -- that's where the baby is usually inserted). The baby hidden in the cake is a nod to the three Kings having a difficult time finding the Christ Child.
The cake remains a fixture right up through Mardi Gras so you have plenty of time to try making it at home -- give this classic King Cake recipe a spin.
• Try our best Mardi Gras food recipes.
• No time to make a King Cake? Haydel's Bakery is a time-honored mail-order source.
• Want a New Year's cake that's not a King Cake? Make this French almond log (a nutty, sweet sponge cake roll), and serve it while burning a Yule log, a French custom that's said to prevent bad spirits from flowing down the chimney into the new year.