Each year the southern parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama gear up for Mardi Gras, a celebration dating back to 1699 that precedes the Christian holiday of Lent. Mardi Gras has increased in popularity, turning the religious holiday into a popular culture phenomenon in New Orleans complete with parades, balls and best of all, king cake.
King cakes are made of cinnamon roll-style dough with cream cheese or fruit filling. The cakes are typically glazed and topped with purple, green and gold sprinkles. Traditionally, there is also a small baby figurine hidden within the cake. Whoever finds the figure is supposed to buy the next king cake.
Due to the close proximity of several local businesses in Hattiesburg, the city has used the influence of king cakes to create seasonal food items. With this in mind, I set out on a quest to find the best king cake imitator. My goal was to find something that tasted as close to king cake as it could without actually being king cake.
First on my agenda was a donut from Midtown Donuts. The number of sprinkles and glaze on the donut seemed promising; however, after the first bite, I realized those were the only elements that resembled a king cake. Instead of a cinnamon flavor or some sort of filling, it was a plain donut on the inside. While the overall taste of the donut was in line with the quality Midtown Donut is known for, I would give this one and a half out of five stars for accuracy.
The second item was a king cake-flavored latte from Java Moe’s. There was a strong cinnamon flavor in the coffee in addition to whipped cream and festive sprinkles on top. Although I am not typically a coffee drinker, the sweet and creamy flavor of the drink made me forget it was even coffee. If black coffee is your go-to, I would not recommend it, but if you have more of a sweet tooth, this is the drink for you. I give the latte 3 out of 5 stars.
For the final item, I tested a king cake milkshake from Ed’s Burger Joint. Each year, Ed’s comes out with a new version of the king cake shake after trying seven to eight different recipes. The presentation of the item was promising, complete with beads and a tiny plastic baby figurine. To my surprise, the shake had an impressive resemblance. The key to the flavor was the chunks of king cake that were blended into the shake as well as the cream cheese base. I recommend this item, giving it a 4 out of 5 stars.
While these imitators come close, nothing can compare to the real thing. King cakes are the epitome of the proper celebration of the Mardi Gras season.