A King Cake is associated with Mardi Gras (it is also linked with Epiphany and the Christmas season, according to Wikipedia). King Cakes have a small trinket (we use a small plastic golden baby or a coin) hidden beneath a slice. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket is King or Queen of the Day!
Sometimes the person who receives the "baby" must provide the King Cake for the next gathering of the season. It is the perfect way to guarantee a series of King Cakes!
The King Cake comes in a variety of styles. This instructable will demonstrate a traditional New Orlean's King Cake.
My daughter and I usually bake a Pillsbury 'Funfetti" cake version and call it good. But it is no comparison to a traditional King Cake. The traditional recipe is a ring of twisted bread topped with royal icing and decorated in Carnival colors of purple, green, and gold. (Gold for power, green for faith and purple for justice).
General information: The King Cake was served on "Little Christmas" or "Kings' Day" for the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated Jan. 6. Although the ritual of the King Cake can be found during the days of the Roman Empire, King Cake parties in New Orleans are recorded back to the eighteenth century. (See the sites listed below).
One web site reports that NOLA bakeries sell 4,000-5,000 king cakes each day during the Carnival season, and cakes are shipped all over the world!