Where to Buy the Best King Cakes for Mardi Gras
With apologies to Flannery O'Connor, a good King Cake is hard to find, unless you happen to be in Southern Louisiana or parts of Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama between January 6 to February 25, this year's Carnival season. But believe me, you want to find one.
A traditional New Orleans-style King Cake is a ring of cinnamon-laced brioche dough topped with a glaze and sparkly sanding sugar in the colors of Mardi Gras: gold, green, and purple. Famously, King Cakes also include a small plastic baby inside, or sometimes other ceramic or plastic trinkets—if you get the slice with the trinket inside, so the tradition goes, it's your job to host the Mardi Gras party next year. I've never seen anyone actually held to this rule, and also the sheer level of King Cake consumption during Carnival time means that odds of you getting the baby at least once is pretty high.
King Cake is one of those regional treats that's just going to be better in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, or Lafayette (and the other Gulf Coast cities that observe Mardi Gras) than in any other part of the country. Many bakeries have their own versions of the treat, including James Beard winner Dong Phuong, whose king cake got so popular in years past that it inspired a wave of king cake scalpers. But outside of Louisiana and Louisiana-adjacent states, your best bet for finding a King Cake is ordering one to be shipped to you by mail, a service that, luckily, many bakeries provide. Here are some of the best options for buying a King Cake to bring a little bit of the Carnival spirit into your February, no matter how far away you are from the parade routes.
Along with traditional options, Bywater bakery offers a king cake stuffed with azul dulce, local delicate Louisiana blueberries cooked down to a tangy and sweet jam. King cakes, with delivery included, run $50 to $55.
One of the King Cake stalwarts, Manny Randazzo King Cakes sells three kinds of King Cake for shipping: a traditional medium-sized cake that serves about 22 to 24, another medium-sized King Cake with cream cheese filling, and an extra large King Cake that serves up to 48 slices. All of them come with overnight shipping, and they start at $55.95.
A New Orleans bakery that has been serving up King Cake since 1949, Gambino's offers shipping of several kinds of King Cake through Goldbelly. Their cakes come with gold, green, and purple sanding sugars on the side, so you can assemble the cake when it comes to your door. A traditional King Cake kit, including shipping, will run you $44.
A favorite of Meredith Food eCommerce writer Katie Macdonald, a Louisiana native, Keller's has been a Lafayette institution since 1929. You can order King Cake from them in any of their flavors, including cinnamon butter, strawberry cream cheese, butter pecan, blueberry cream cheese, cream cheese pecan, amaretto walnut. You can even order a King Cake that's one half one flavor, and half another. King Cakes run $38 to $71, depending on your flavor choices.
Another great King Cake option that's not in New Orleans proper, BisKing Cake in Shreveport, Louisiana makes a biscuit-based riff on the standard brioche King Cake. They sell a small cake for $25 and a large one for $34, not including shipping.
A New Orleans bakery that inspires fierce loyalty in its fans, Haydel's offers several kinds of King Cake for delivery, including a praline pecan that's a best-seller for $58 including next day shipping. They'll also ship a dozen mini king cakes if you'd prefer a more personal-pan pizza vibe to your King Cake experience.
Located in Picayune, Mississippi, Paul's Pastry is one of the few shops that will ship you a King Cake all year long, just in case you're feeling that Mardi Gras doesn't last long enough. Their cakes come with a variety of fillings, including apple, raspberry, lemon, and peach, and come with the icing and decorating sugar packaged separately so you can do your own decorating and not worry about the glaze getting smeared en route. A medium King Cake from Paul's will run you $53.95—a pittance to pay for a true taste of Carnival.