Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Twelfth Night: Serve up the King Cake

This Christmas season I have fallen in love with a carol called The Snow Lay on the Ground, particularly the line that says:

And thus that manger poor became a throne.

Tonight we gathered in the living room for our Epiphany celebration. We sang We Three Kings, and when we got to Melchior's verse about gold:

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign

I remembered the "manger poor" that became a throne for the King of Kings on Christmas.

Nathaniel and Emma opened their Epiphany presents. Then Emma served the King Cake. Herb got the baby.

I didn't quite know what to think about this King Cake; it was solid instead of a ring. The strangest thing was that the plastic baby that represents the Christ Child was affixed to a flat plastic crown. He wouldn't come off, and I couldn't push him, crown and all, into the cake, though I did try. Luckily, we have extra babies that we have saved for when we bake the King Cake ourselves. So I got one and tucked him in. Then I took a jeweled crown ornament and put it in the center of the cake, arranging the plastic crown with attached baby in front of it. It looked really pretty, especially by candlelight.

I first ate King Cake in Baton Rouge when I worked for LSU Press. We got huge, scrumptious ones fresh from local bakeries like Gambino's. Whoever got the baby had to buy the next one. We gorged ourselves on King Cakes--strawberry, cream cheese, apple, bavarian cream-- from Epiphany to Mardis Gras. As far as I remember, the baby was already hidden when we got the cake. Somewhere along the way I guess the bakeries got worried about being sued over the potential "choking hazard" the plastic babies presented. They began providing a baby that you had to install yourself. It took a large chunk of the fun out of it.

The other odd thing I noticed today was Mexican King Cakes. I've never seen them before, but at the grocery store this morning they were stacked up right next to the traditional French ones. The Mexican ones don't have all the white icing and colored sugar. They are decorated with dried fruit and look somber and dignified, almost Puritanical, compared to the garish French ones that we love. I'm going to get a Mexican one next. We can doctor it up if necessary.

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