But what exactly is the tri-colored confection that makes an appearance at Mardi Gras celebrations across the country?
King cake traces its origins back to 12th-century France, to something called "galette des rois," cake of the kings, consisting of puff pastry with a sweet filling and sometimes sprinkled with sugar. It was a way to celebrate the Epiphany or “King’s Day” — the day that the three wise men arrived to bestow gifts to baby Jesus. Eating the cake has long been a way to commemorate the holiday throughout Europe.
In the 1870s, this tradition made its way to New Orleans because of the city's French and Spanish roots — and as often happens in the Big Easy, the recipe evolved.
Modern king cakes are often doughy and slightly sweet, made with think layers of pastry dusted with cinnamon sugar. It's bready, too — kind of like a cross between a coffee cake and a brioche. Most versions are then typically topped with icing and tri-colored sugar: purple represents justice, green represents faith, and gold represents power.
As part of the tradition, a plastic or porcelain baby is placed inside the cake, and the person who finds it is tasked with bringing the king cake the following year.
Not all king cakes are created equal, though. Some spots in the Big Easy offer their own over-the-top takes on the classic dessert.
But regardless of how you take your slice, make sure you don’t make these mistakes while celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans.