Kristine Froeba: The Reign of King Cake—Traditional, Historic, Gourmet, Filled, Unfilled, and… Crawfish???

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Sucre' Ziggy Stardust Cream Cheese King Cake* Kristine Froeba)

Sucré’s Ziggy Stardust Cream Cheese King Cake (Kristine Froeba)

It’s that time of the year again. You’ve probably already had one.

Kristine Froeba

Kristine Froeba

If not, you’re planning on buying two. But which King Cake will it be? Things have changed since McKenzie’s Bakery held sovereignty over King Cake’s court. Before the year 2000, New Orleanians chose between the small round King Cake or the large oval classroom size. There was no question of which “type” of King Cake. King Cake was, simply, King Cake. The cake was plain, akin to French bread, narrow, no filling, barely sweet, but covered with colored sugar crystals. Earliest memories of King Cake for most New Orleanians are King Cake parties in grammar school. The teacher bringing a sugary chunk of cake to your desk. Green, Gold, and Purple sugar all over your uniform. Terrified you’d get the baby. Hoping you’d get the baby. If you lost, or won, depending on how you saw it, your mother would be delivering the next King Cake to class. Somehow, I always got the baby.

Today’s King Cake market is wildly different. The rules are—there are no rules.

Sucre' Ziggy Stardust Cream Cheese King Cake

Sucré’s Ziggy Stardust Cream Cheese King Cake (Kristine Froeba)

British Chef Tariq Hanna of Sucré was one of the first to modernize the traditional cake, while respecting its origins. Hanna may have actually started the post-Katrina King Cake Renaissance. He explained that his goal was to create a “less sweet cake with a richer brioche’”. Less sugar, more butter. The result has been described as what would happen if Ziggy Stardust got his hands on King Cake. Sucré started selling Hanna’s version eight years ago. The first year, they sold 800. This year, projected sales are at 30,000. The glittery, glamorous Sucré cake also won a Washington Post taste test for shipped King Cakes. What distinguishes the Sucré King Cake is that it is meant to be served warm. Yes, warm. Heating instructions are included in the box. I was skeptical but gave it a go. It did indeed bring out the cream cheese filled brioche’ buttery flavor.

La Boulangerie Galettes des Rois and Cream Cheese King Cake

La Boulangerie’s Galettes des Rois and Cream Cheese King Cake

La Boulangerie is the only Uptown bakery to offer the Galettes des Rois or the original French King Cake. Pastry Chef Maggy Scales’ Galettes du Rois is the flaky-layered pastry filled with traditional almond paste, and then brushed with a rich, clear sugar glaze. They also offer traditional New Orleans King Cakes with Cinnamon, Strawberry, and Cream Cheese filling. New owners Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski, the duo behind Cochon and Butcher, give a nod to their origins by substituting pigs for the traditional baby. Manager Carolyn Jan found a variety of porcelain pigs which the French Pastry shop imports from France.

O’Delice French Bakery & Pastisserie, the Vietnamese-French Bakery, also offers a very good King Cake. Chef Nancy Nguyen offers a more traditional cake that’s less sweet, but then spins tradition by adding a cinnamon swirl. Nguyen’s cakes are also offered with a Cream Cheese filling and are sold in two sizes.

Off the beaten track, on Jeff Davis Parkway is the newer Gracious Bakery. Chef and owner, Megan Forman (formerly of Sucré) gives King Cake variety new meaning. A Satsuma King Cake is offered, along with Coffee & Praline and a Chocolate flavor. A Nutella & Pretzel King Cake has a Pretzel Brioche base. Gracious’ Galettes des Rois is almost weightless. As above, the traditional puff pastry cake is layered with Almond Paste and brushed with a glossy sugar glaze. Gracious also offers an unfilled Queen Cake where the almond paste is mixed into the batter creating a taste similar to wedding cake.

Gracious Bakery's Galettes des Rois and Filled King Cake (Kristine Froeba)

Gracious Bakery’s Galettes des Rois and Filled King Cake (Kristine Froeba)

Uptowners can also get their King Cake fix from Toast on Laurel, Tartine on Perrier near Uptown Square, the Haydel’s Bakery Magazine Street Pop Up currently residing in SnoWizard, Breaux Mart, or Rouses. Rouses has an enormous display of King Cakes in too many fillings to list.

Crawfish and Carmelized Onion King Cake

The Station Bakery’s Crawfish and Carmelized Onion King Cake (via

Amazingly, during my investigation, I came across a carmelized onion and crawfish King Cake from Mid-City’s The Station Bakery. Topped with Purple, Green, and Gold parmesan cheese no less. Frankly, this traditionalist has bent enough. I’m not ready for a seafood King Cake just yet, nor King Cake Vodka or the King Cake flavored Smoothie from Smoothie King. Gracious Bakery, however, is selling King Cake marshmallows, cupcakes, and cookies. Those I may try in 2016.


Sucré: A Sweet Boutique
3025 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70115
Sun–Thurs: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Fri & Sat: 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.
(504) 520-8311

La Boulangerie
4600 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70115
Mon–Sat: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sun: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
(504) 296-3777

Gracious Bakery + Cafe
1000 S. Jeff Davis Pkwy, Ste. 100
NOLA 70125
Mon–Fri: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sat–Sun: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
(504) 301-370

O’Delice French Bakery & Pastisserie
6033 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70118
Mon–Fri: 7:45 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sat: 7:45 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sun: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

7217 Perrier St.
New Orleans, LA 70118
(504) 866-4860
Mon–Sat: 8 a.m. to 3p.m.
Sun: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Haydels King Cake Pop-Up (SnoWizard)
4001 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70115
Mon–Sat: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sun: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

5433 Laurel St.
New Orleans, La 70115
(504) 267-3260
Mon–Fri: 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sat–Sun: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Kristine Froeba is a third generation Uptown girl whose varied background includes food and travel writing, celebrity ghost writing, public relations, social media management, fundraising, ex-tabloid hack, and litigation specialist. She describes herself as part foodie, part writer, part historian, a historic renovation zealot, and a full time dabbler.

[Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of one of La Boulangerie’s new owners. He is Donald Link.]

3 thoughts on “Kristine Froeba: The Reign of King Cake—Traditional, Historic, Gourmet, Filled, Unfilled, and… Crawfish???

  1. They all sound delicious & I’m looking forward to trying many of them. I have to say that the crawfish king cake intrigues me. If it’s similar in taste to something like crawfish bread then it might be a fun thing to add to the Mardi Gras food list. There goes my New Year’s resolution about eating!

  2. Don’t be too quick to dismiss the crawfish-and-onion King Cake. Years ago, a place in Metairie called Crawfish Cottage made a crawfish etouffe King Cake that was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten!

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