Baby in the cake for Mardi Gras? Here's what it means

Olivia Olphin February 16, 2021
Baby in the cake for Mardi Gras? Here's what it means
Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Today is Mardi Gras and we can’t wait to celebrate (from a safe distance). However, there are a few traditions leaving people stumped. We take a closer look and explain the meaning behind the baby in a cake for Mardi Gras.

What is a King Cake?

The traditional cake to eat at Mardi Gras is a King Cake. This pastry delight is decorated with purple, green and yellow – the colours of Mardi Gras, and is traditionally made in an oval braided shape.

Green stands for faith, gold or yellow for power, and purple stands for justice.

Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

The Mardi Gras cake – plastic baby or no – traditionally tastes like a cinnamon brioche or a Danish pastry. Here are a couple of recipes if you want to try to make your own.

One unusual tradition for the Mardi Gras King Cake is that a small plastic baby figurine is baked inside the it, much like the tradition of baking silver coins into Christmas pudding.

Carnival season kicks off on 6 January, a day also known as the Christian Feast of Epiphany or King’s Day. This is traditionally linked to the arrival of the three wise men in Bethlehem.

Why is there a baby in your Mardi Gras cake?

If you are lucky enough to get a slice of cake with the baby inside, you are thought to have earned good luck and prosperity.

Although ideas differ, and it can also mean that you will be prosperous in the next year, but that you’ll have to bring the King Cake next Mardi Gras.

Some people also think that the baby figurine is supposed to represent the baby Jesus hiding from King Herod.

The baby in the cake for Mardi Gras was originally made out of porcelain, an idea popularised during the 1950s by a bakery called McKenzie’s, run by Donald Entringer.

The tradition of the King Cake itself comes from France and Spain as far back as the Middle Ages and was brought to America in the 1870s. Previously, a fava bean was hidden within the cake, but the plastic baby is a tradition that originated specifically in New Orleans around the carnival of Mardi Gras.

We can’t wait to celebrate and have a slice of this delicious cake later today!

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Olivia Olphin is a freelance writer at GRV Media. She graduated with a first in English Literature from UCL and with a distinction from the Broadcast Journalism MA at City University. She has three years of freelance journalism experience and during this time she has worked for companies such as Eurosport and Times Radio. Her particular areas of expertise include film, theatre, and TV; she will most likely be found bingeing the newest fantasy or Marvel series! Olivia has many years of reviewing experience, working as accredited press for the London Film Festival. She has also written widely about culture and sex education, as well as LGBTQ+ and women's issues.