This year brought a shorter than usual Carnival season to New Orleans. That means the window for king cakes is narrowing. In fact, we are already almost halfway through it.

I’ve been packing them in as the season progresses. While I’m on the record for my respect and affection for the classic king cake, this year I’ve been devoting my personal king cake capacity to trying new twists on the idea.

The possibilities are endless. This week, I’m giving some highlights and we start with a trio of eye-catching king cakes from a first-time contender.  

Beer, Cider and Bonbon King Cakes at Piety and Desire Chocolate

2727 S. Broad St., 504-491-4333

Chris Nobles makes his own chocolate, working from bean to bar at his new Broadmoor chocolate shop. Now he’s making some offbeat king cakes with local baker Justin Irby, and folding in his own high-end chocolate as well as the beer, rum and cider produced by neighboring businesses.

Piety and Desire king cakes start with traditional braids of bricoche and light twirls of cinnamon. And that’s where tradition ends.

The marquee king cake here, dubbed “Da Crown,” has purple and green bonbons dotting the exterior while candied kumquats add gold to the color scheme. Bits of pink peppercorn glitter over a surface of chocolate swoops and broken cacao nibs, and inside there’s more peppercorn and a ganache made with Earl Grey tea.

The pepper sets off the richness of the ganache, and the cake has a dark, more-sumptuous-than-sugary flavor between big detonations of chocolate from the bonbons.

Another called “Dat Double IPA” is a craft beer lover’s king cake. The chocolate is made with Clean Slate IPA, produced three blocks away at Wayward Owl Brewing. Nobles puts hops in the caramel sauce that covers the top, and the cake is garnished with green, leafy hops berries.

Eating this cake does not taste like drinking a beer. Mostly the ganache tastes like full-flavored, not-too-sweet chocolate. But there is a subtle hoppiness running through it.

Finally, the ultimate collaborative king cake here is called “Da Broad Street Band.” The chocolate ganache is made with rum from Roullaison Distilling (located just behind the chocolatier). It’s laced with caramel made using hard cider from Broad Street Cider & Ale, the adjacent tavern that makes its own dry ciders.

In the place of plastic babies, each of these cakes comes with a whole cocoa bean to embed within.

Get some: $33-$39 whole cakes by special order (info@pietyanddesirechocolate.com); slices available on weekends at Piety and Desire and periodically at Broad Street Cider & Ale (2723 S. Broad St.)

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Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.

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