Today is Mardi Gras – meaning “Fat Tuesday” in French – and it’s the last hurrah before the Season of Lent begins tomorrow (Ash Wednesday)! For many, tomorrow signals the start of a season that includes fasting, moderation, spiritual discipline and repentance in preparation for Easter. However, today is all about merrymaking and getting rid of all that yummy food in the house… by eating it!
King Cake is a popular part of the Mardi Gras festivities – and while you can make it from scratch using yeast, here’s an easy recipe using crescent rolls. “King Cake” is a traditional coffee-like-cake inside of which you hide a plastic baby (representing baby Jesus – our King & Savior). Whoever ends up with that piece is King for the Day and will have good luck for the whole year!
(Read more interesting tidbits about King Cakes, Fat Tuesday and more at the bottom of this post!)
- 2 Rolls of Crescent Rolls
- Either use canned pie filling of your choice
- 1/2 block cream cheese (4 oz)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup pecan halves (optional)
- 1/4 cup raisins soaked in hot water 15 minutes, patted dry (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 tsp teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 to 4 tablespoons milk
- Food Coloring or Colored Sugar: Purple (=Justice), Green (=Faith) and Gold (=Power)
- Preheat oven to 350, spray a cookie or pizza pan with cooking spray. Unroll crescent dough and pull apart the triangles. Lie them in a circle with all points to the center. Make sure the longer sides or the triangles overlap about 1/4".
- Spoon the filling onto a ring - midway between the center points and the outer edge.
- Place a plastic baby somewhere in the filling.
- Now, lift up the outer edge of each crescent triangle, and one at a time, fold it so it lies over the filling. The outer edge should now reach just past the filling ring - no further.
- Next, take the center point of each crescent triangle, and one at a time, fold it over the outer edge of the crescent roll so the filling is completely encased. The point will now be lying on the outside of the ring. It should make a pretty crescent wreath.
- Bake for 20 -25 minutes and let cool.
- Now spoon your prepared colored icing over the King Cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.
- Serve, making sure to warn your guests about the plastic baby :)
More fun facts about Mardi Gras, Carnival & King Cakes!
King Cakes began in France in the 12th century – and are made in a circle (legend has it) to represent the circular route the Wise Men took on their journey to find the baby Jesus (to fool King Herod and ruin his plans to kill the child). In Catholic tradition, the solemnity of Epiphany falls on January 6th – and celebrates the Magi coming to visit Jesus in the manger. From this time until Mardis Gras (Fat Tuesday – the day before Lenten fasting begins) King Cake is a popular treat.
Mardi Gras is the last day to “fatten up” before the season of Lent and marks the end of the season of Carnival. The word Carnival actually means “Saying goodbye to the flesh”. Mardi Gras is also known as “Shrove Tuesday” – which comes from the word shrive meaning “Confess”. Again, all part of the preparing our hearts for the Easter Season.
The one who finds the King in their slice of cake is said to have good luck in the coming year and is pronounced “King of the Feast”. When celebrating with other adults – the one who finds it will have to make the next King Cake. In Mexico – the one who finds the baby Jesus must prepare the tamales for the Candlemas feast.
Sometimes there will be a King Cake and a Queen Cake in order to pronounce a King & Queen of the feast.
Have you ever heard of Mardi Gras being referred to as “Pancake Tuesday”? No? Me either! But apparently that’s another name for it – and here’s why, according to Wikipedia:
Pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent because they were a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. The liturgical fasting emphasized eating plainer food and refraining from food that would give pleasure: In many cultures, this means no meat, dairy, or eggs.
In England, the “Pancake Race” is still popular to this day, as participants run through the streets with frying pans flipping pancakes and catching them!
I could see making a pancake dinner on Mardi Gras – that might become a fun new tradition!
If you want to find out more about Lent – read our post on Ash Wednesday and Lent HERE!