9 Royally Interesting Facts About King Cake

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iStock

It’s Carnival season, and that means bakeries throughout New Orleans are whipping up those colorful creations known as King Cakes. And while today it’s primarily associated with Big Easy revelry, the King Cake has a long and checkered history that reaches back through the centuries. Here are a few facts about its origins, its history in America, and how exactly that plastic baby got in there.

1. The King Cake is believed to have Pagan origins.

The king cake is widely associated with the Christian festival of the Epiphany, which celebrates the three kings’ visit to the Christ child on January 6. Some historians, however, believe the cake dates back to Roman times, and specifically to the winter festival of Saturnalia. Bakers would put a fava bean—which back then was used for voting, and had spiritual significance—inside the cake, and whoever discovered it would be considered king for a day. Drinking and mayhem abounded. In the Middle Ages, Christian followers in France took up the ritual, replacing the fava bean with a porcelain replica engraved with a face.

2. The King Cake stirred up controversy during the French Revolution.

To bring the pastry into the Christian tradition, bakers got rid of the bean and replaced it with a crowned king’s head to symbolize the three kings who visited baby Jesus. Church officials approved of the change, though the issue became quite thorny in late 18th century France, when a disembodied king’s head was seen as provocation. In 1794, the mayor of Paris called on the “criminal patissiers” to end their “filthy orgies.” After they failed to comply, the mayor simply renamed the cake the “Gateau de Sans-Culottes,” after the lower-class sans-culottes revolutionaries.

3. The King Cake determined the early kings and queens of Mardi Gras.


A Mardi Gras King in 1952.

Two of the oldest Mardi Gras krewes (NOLA-talk for "crew," or a group that hosts major Mardi Gras events, like parades or balls) brought about the current cake tradition. The Rex Organization gave the festival its colors (purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power) in 1872, but two years earlier, the Twelfth Night Revelers krewe brought out a King Cake with a gold bean hidden inside and served it up to the ladies in attendance. The finder was crowned queen of the ball. Other krewes adopted the practice as well, crowning the kings and queens by using a gold or silver bean. The practice soon expanded into households throughout New Orleans, where today the discovery of a coin, bean or baby trinket identifies the buyer of the next King Cake.

4. The King Cake's baby trinkets weren't originally intended to have religious significance.

Although today many view the baby trinkets found inside king cakes to symbolize the Christ child, that wasn’t what Donald Entringer—the owner of the renowned McKenzie’s Bakery in New Orleans, which started the tradition—had in mind. Entringer was instead looking for something a little bit different to put in his king cakes, which had become wildly popular in the city by the mid-1900s. One story has it that Entringer found the original figurines in a French Quarter shop. Another, courtesy of New Orleans food historian Poppy Tooker (via NPR’s The Salt), states that a traveling salesman with a surplus of figurines stopped by the bakery and suggested the idea. "He had a big overrun on them, and so he said to Entringer, 'How about using these in a king cake,'" said Tooker.

5. Bakeries are afraid of getting sued.

What to many is an offbeat tradition is, to others, a choking hazard. It’s unclear how many consumers have sued bakeries over the plastic babies and other trinkets baked inside king cakes, but apparently it’s enough that numerous bakeries have stopped including them altogether, or at least offer it on the side. Still, some bakeries remain unfazed—like Gambino’s, whose cinnamon-infused king cake comes with the warning, "1 plastic baby baked inside."

6. The French version of the King Cake comes with a paper crown.


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In France, where the flaky, less colorful (but still quite tasty) galette de rois predates its American counterpart by a few centuries, bakers often include a paper crown with their cake, just to make the “king for a day” feel extra special. The trinkets they put inside are also more varied and intricate, and include everything from cars to coins to religious figurines. Some bakeries even have their own lines of collectible trinkets.

7. There's also the Rosca de Reyes, the Bolo Rei, and the Dreikönigskuchen.


"Roscón de Reyes" by Tamorlan - Self Made (Foto Propia).

Versions of the King Cake can be found throughout Europe and Latin America. The Spanish Rosca de Reyes and the Portugese Bolo Rei are usually topped with dried fruit and nuts, while the Swiss Dreikönigskuchen has balls of sweet dough surrounding the central cake. The Greek version, known as Vasilopita, resembles a coffee cake and is often served for breakfast.

8. The King Cake is no longer just a New Orleans tradition.

From New York to California, bakeries are serving up King Cakes in the New Orleans fashion, as well as the traditional French style. On Long Island, Mara’s Homemade makes their tri-colored cakes year round, while in Los Angeles you can find a galette de rois (topped with a nifty crown, no less) at Maison Richard. There are also lots of bakeries that deliver throughout the country, many offering customizable fillings from cream cheese to chocolate to fruits and nuts.

9. The New Orleans Pelicans have a King Cake baby mascot—and it is terrifying.

Every winter you can find this monstrosity at games, local supermarkets, and in your worst nightmares.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

35 Offbeat Holidays You Can Celebrate in July

mscornelius/iStock via Getty Images
mscornelius/iStock via Getty Images

The big fireworks show may come at the beginning of the month, but there are plenty more celebrations to keep you feeling Yankee Doodle Dandy all the way through to August.

1. July 1: National Creative Ice Cream Flavor Day

Multicolored scoops of ice cream
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In 1984, Ronald Reagan deemed July National Ice Cream Month, and the third Sunday of this month National Ice Cream Day. As great as the treat itself is, we’re big fans of those unusual flavor combinations that make you question the limitations of culinary science and marvel at their possibilities!

2. July 2: World UFO Day

Keep your eyes on the sky at night on this day, because the truth is out there. What's the best way to celebrate? The World UFO Day website suggests "watching UFO movies, talking with your friends about the possibility of UFOs or alien life."

3. July 3: The Start of the Dog Days of Summer

That's right, dog days is more than just an evocative, old-timey phrase. The Farmer's Almanac describes it as the period of the summer when Sirius, the Dog Star (hence the name), rises each day around the same time as the sun. Or as we know it now, the really hot stretch of summer running from July 3 to August 11. Interestingly, the start of this steamy stretch for the Northern Hemisphere actually coincides with the day Earth reaches its aphelion, the point in the orbit farthest from the sun.

4. July 3-9: Be Nice to New Jersey Week

New Jersey gets a lot of flak. This is the week to make up for all those Jersey Shore jokes.

5. July 4: Sidewalk Egg Frying Day

Photo of a fried egg on hot concrete
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We’ve all heard the phrase “so hot outside you could fry an egg,” but today is the day we put that expression to the test. Though the origins of this climate-specific holiday are unknown, we imagine heat-inclined states were the earliest adopters.

6. July 6: International Kissing Day

Pucker up for some summer love! Formerly known as National Kissing Day in the United Kingdom, this holiday was invented to remind us all of the simple pleasure a sweet kiss can bring. It is also cited as a direct cause for National Mono Day (which also occurs on July 6).

7. July 7: Father-Daughter Take a Walk Together Day

Just because July 7 is designated as Father-Daughter Talk a Walk Together Day does not mean that it's an activity to be avoided the other 364 days of the year. The same goes for Tell the Truth Day, which is also July 7.

8. July 10: Teddy Bear Picnic Day

In the early 20th century, John Walter Bratton composed an instrumental song entitled “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” In the late 1980s, collectible items dealer Royal Selangor decided to turn that into a national holiday. He also had the idea to conveniently release toy boxes and collectible items in conjunction with said event. Regardless of capitalist motives, the day became a national holiday and remains popular throughout Europe, as far away as Australia, and among many reputable stuffed bear circles.

9. July 10: Don’t Step On A Bee Day

Stepping on a bee is bad for a lot of reasons (and for both parties involved), which is why it's good that these furry friends usually stick to the skies.

10. July 11: Bowdler's Day


This day honors the prudish man who gave us the word bowdlerize. English doctor Thomas Bowdler quit his job to focus on expunging all lewd and indecent references from Shakespeare's work. His (presumably much shorter) version of the Bard's tales, Family Shakespeare, came out in 1818, after which he turned his attention to Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and sections of the Old Testament.

11. July 11: World Population Day

World Population Day, which was created by the United Nations Development Programme in 1989, "seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues."

12. July 13: National French Fries Day

Or National Freedom Fries Day, depending on your politics. We can’t make any promises, but some restaurants have made a point of giving away complimentary fries in the past. Free or not, on this day treat yourself to a full basket of fried goodness—guilt-free.

13. July 13: Embrace Your Geekness Day

Whatever your definition of a geek may be, lean into why you're proud to be one.

14. July 13: International Town Criers Day


This holiday, which occurs annually on the second Monday in July, is a chance to honor the lost art of speaking loudly and starting proclamations with "Hear ye, hear ye!" in celebration of the ancient practice of town crying.

15. July 14: National Nude Day

Yes, this is the day the Tobias Fünkes of the world fear most. Originating in New Zealand, this non-public holiday encourages everyone to publicly celebrate their all-natural form. Note: please be sure to familiarize yourself with current local legislation concerning public nudity, lest you find yourself observing “international delinquent day.”

16. July 15: Saint Swithin's Day

Little is known about Swithin, the Bishop of Winchester in the 800s. But what is known is that many years after his death, his relics were transferred to the Winchester Cathedral on July 15, 971, a day which featured heavy rains. Since then, the belief has been that if it rains on this day, it will continue to rain for 40 more days.

17. July 18: Mandela Day


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Since 2009, Nelson Mandela's birthday has been celebrated as a chance to honor his life and inspire others to take action to change the world for the better.

18. July 18: National Woodie Wagon Day

Celebrate this symbol of 1940s and '50s Americana with a drive down Route 66 (or at least what's left of it).

19. July 19: National Ice Cream Day

In the middle of Ice Cream Month, there is Ice Cream Day. You know what to do.

20. July 19: National Flitch Day

A 15th century relic, a flitch referred to an amount of bacon offered to married couples by local monks who could prove a year’s worth of matrimonial bliss to a jury of their single peers. Thought to have originated in Dunmore, England, the modern-day flitch ceremony now takes place once every four years, but is still very much all about the bacon.

21. July 20: National Get Out of the Doghouse Day

It'll probably be too hot to hold grudges anyway.

22. July 20: Take Your Poet To Work Day

If you have a real-life poet friend, this could probably apply to them. But this holiday is meant to be for pocketing your favorite famous lyricist and taking them to your place of business (seriously).

23. July 21: No Pet Store Puppies Day


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Many puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills, which, according to the Humane Society, are "inhumane, commercial dog-breeding [facilities] in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits." The ASPCA campaigns to reduce demand for these puppy mill puppies by calling for a full boycott of stores that sell them.

24. July 22: Rat-Catcher’s Day

On the supposed anniversary of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, this day honors exterminators of all shapes, sizes, and species.

25. July 22: Spooner's Day


Reverend William Archibald Spooner was a learned man, the warden of New College at Oxford. But he also had a habit of transposing the first letter of certain words. It is from his frequent, funny slips of the tongue that we get the word spoonerism.

26. July 24: National Drive-Thru Day

As with every food or beverage-related holiday, you're probably celebrating this anyway, but now you have a reason.

27. July 24: National Tell an Old Joke Day

Dust off your best chicken-crossing-the-road zinger.

28. July 24: Cousins Day

Get the whole family together—via Zoom, of course—and take a screen shot (or whatever families do).

29. July 26: Parents' Day

Did you think you were off the hook for appreciating the people who gave you life just because you made it through Mother's Day and Father's Day? Think again.

30. July 27: Bagpipe Appreciation Day


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Though bagpipes are perhaps most commonly linked to the Scottish, the largest producer in the world of this aerophone instrument is Pakistan. Just one of many fun facts you can toss out on Bagpipe Appreciation Day. You're welcome.

31. July 27: Walk on Stilts Day

If you can.

32. July 27: Take Your Houseplants For A Walk Day

It doesn't matter if your neighbors think you're crazy. Set those plants free!

33. July 29: National Lasagna Day

Grab some ricotta, pasta, and Bolognese and whip up a homemade lasagna, then catch up on some Garfield comics while you wait for it to finish cooking. There are many ways to honor National Lasagna Day. The only wrong way is to not honor it at all.

34. July 30: National Chili Dog Day

The last Thursday in July is your annual chance to proclaim your affection for this truly American delicacy.

35. July 31: National Talk in an Elevator Day


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We all do it. We look at our phone, at our feet, or at the fresh coffee stain on our shirts. Anything to avoid even making eye contact with our fellow elevator riders. Not today. Not on the last Friday in July. Say hello to your fellow elevator rider—through your face mask, of course.