The hunt for the best king cake of the 2020 Mardi Gras season was bound to have some ups and downs. I just didn’t know how low the lows might be.
I’m not even going to tell you who sold me the worst king cake ever seen in the AL.com office in Mobile. It’s true they shouldn’t have sold it, but really I blame myself. I shouldn’t have bought it.
They only had three left, the last dregs of a shipment that must have come in a few days sooner. Determined to get started on a comparison of supermarket king cakes, I picked what looked like the best of the bunch and brought it on in despite my misgivings. The minute I opened it, I knew this was probably going to be a mulligan.
The green and purple sugar had blended into a mildewy near-black tone. The chemical progress that produced that color seemed to have sucked all the moisture out of the cake itself, which was a dry as a week-old biscuit. The only good thing about this king cake is that the baby was gold, so it looked like a little C-3PO, its arms raised in the Star Wars sidekick’s characteristic gesture of distress.
But nobody ate enough of this atrocity to find that hidden droid. There are people in this office who will never trust my judgment again. To them I say: Shame on y’all for not figuring that out sooner.
Anyway, following our look at the unconventional king cake being offered by one Mobile coffee shop, here’s a comparison of three conventional ones from area supermarkets. The search for king cake perfection will go on as the season continues and, presumably, options increase.
Publix: Maybe it’s not the biggest confidence-booster to see that your king cake has been shipped in from Tampa, but since Publix itself is based in Florida we’ll cut them a little slack for going with what they know. Anyway, the Alessi Bakeries king cake we sampled was perfectly acceptable. The box said it was supposed to have a cream cheese filling; if it did, it was awfully skimpy, but the main thing is that the cake itself was moist. Everybody who sampled it said some variation of pretty much the same thing: “That’s not bad. You know, I hear Rouses has a real good one.”
Winn-Dixie: I went to some supermarkets that had no king cakes yet. Fine, it’s early in the season, we haven’t even had the first parade yet. I’ll check back later. The Winn-Dixie in midtown Mobile had three different kinds of king cakes. That’s what you call getting into the swing of things. One was shipped in from Louisiana, one was a bundt cake-looking thing. I went with the biggest of the three, an elongated oval with the store’s own brand on the box.
Like the Publix cake, this one was found acceptable by the office folk. Maybe it wasn’t quite as moist, but the Bavarian cream filling was definitely there. It wasn’t even. You might get a little, you might get so much you had to eat your slice of cake with a spoon, but it was there. Not everybody’s a fan of filled king cakes but I am, so this was a step in the right direction. Everybody who sampled it said some variation of pretty much the same thing: “That’s not bad. You know, I hear Rouses has a real good one.”
Rouses: Resident Louisiana expat David Holloway, who found the baby in the Publix cake, brought in a Rouses cake on the day the office had a big birthday luncheon. I’m pretty sure that was the only thing that kept it from being entirely consumed on the spot. It was, as promised, a cut above. The colors were bright, the texture was soft, the Bavarian cream filling was properly proportioned and evenly distributed. Everybody who sampled it said some variation of pretty much the same thing: “See?”
Mardi Gras rookie Lily Jackson hid the baby so badly that people could tell where it was, and the advertising folks all avoided it. John Sharp ended up obliviously grabbing that piece. What can you say? He’s a reporter, it’s his job to find things. Thanks to the abundance of food at the luncheon, there were leftovers. Two days later, I saw Chris Harress take a big slice of it for lunch. I don’t judge. In the world of journalism, calling a big slice of two-day-old king cake your lunch is perfectly normal, perfectly reasonable behavior.
“It was delicious,” he said. “Better than the last one.” And then: “That was two days old?”
I’d give a B-minus to Winn-Dixie and Publix, an A to Rouses. Maybe like a 93 or so. It’s good, but there must be better king cakes out there. We’ll find them. I’m starting to hear tales of gas stations that ship them in from Louisiana, and there are some local option to try too.
I was going to include Walmart’s king cake in this roundup, but the store I visited only had one left. I’m not making that mistake again. Never buy the last king cake in the store. That’s the real lesson here. Not even if the baby is gold.
Source: Thanks https://www.al.com/life/2020/01/never-buy-the-last-king-cake-in-the-store.html