Sidestepping king cake temptation was once relatively easy. Steer clear of the office break room or wherever else communal snacks are offered up, keep your hands full with drinks and beads at the parade party where one may lurk, and you were good.
All of that has changed, and the start of another Carnival season once again opens the king cake floodgates.
No longer a mere dessert, king cake has become more of a notion, a flavor profile and even a marketing hook. So now it isn’t just something to eat with your coffee, but a flavor for your coffee (see the king cake latte or iced mocha at P.J.’s Coffee shops, for example). King cake isn’t only something to nibble between drinks at a parade party: it is the drink, thanks (if that’s the word) to a number of distillers selling king cake-flavored vodka.
King cake long ago joined the pantheon of sno-ball flavors served around town, and in something of a seasonal hand-off, the prodigious king cake producer Haydel’s Bakery (haydelbakery.com) has been converting sno-ball stands to pop-up outlets for its cakes. Haydel’s set up shop early in December inside the SnoWizard at 4001 Magazine St., added another this week at Chilly’s SnoBalls at 3940 Veterans Blvd., and a third at the Ridgeway events hall at 2431 Metairie Road.
That aligns with another wrinkle to the king cake game — ubiquity. This year, Pizza NOLA (141 W. Harrison Ave., 504-872-0731; pizzanola.com) will even deliver them around its Lakeview vicinity like one of its pepperoni pies. The pizzeria struck up a deal with Dong Phuong (dpbanhmi.com), the Vietnamese bakery in far-eastern New Orleans East, to sell and distribute its king cakes closer to the center of town.
Essentially, if you are trying to avoid king cake this season, you are doomed. On the other hand, if you’re ready to just belly flop into king cake mania, mark Jan. 25 on your calendar. That’s the date for the King Cake Festival, when bakeries, donut shops and food trucks will gather in Champions Square in a benefit event for Ochsner Hospital for Children. The public gets to vote on best in show, which of course means sampling across the field. And that means eating a lot of cake, though it looks like this Carnival season will give us plenty of practice.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.