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King Cakes and Cakes for The King: Carnival Confections Embrace Tradition, Bacon
by Sarah Esenwein
The Carnival season in New Orleans is almost like Christmas all over again, with most anticipated excitement surrounding the availability of a staple of the season, the King Cake. While they come in all shapes, sizes, fillings and flavors; the Manny Randazzo bakery is renowned for its classic and consistently delicious cake. Cochon Butcher's "Elvis" King Cake offers connoisseurs a meatier take on the tradition.
The Randazzo Original is a braided, brioche type bread, spiced lightly with cinnamon and smothered in their signature icing. Much like Pavlov’s dog, mouths start salivating as the season starts on King’s Day for these sweet and spiced, icing drenched confections. The moist, flaky layers that make up this cake practically melt in your mouth. Together with the not-too-sweet, citrus-infused powdered sugar based icing, the cake creates an aromatic and unique flavor experience.
Fillings are available to heighten your King Cake experience by adding Cream Cheese, Apple, Lemon, Strawberry, Royal (all four fillings quartered off) or Pecan Praline. While the fillings are not entirely considered ‘traditional’, they are a tasty addition and quite worth the added calories.
Representing the true standard of tradition is the Randazzo’s brand King Cake. As with age-old traditions, new spins are an expected revolution. One store taking that tradition to epic, odd, and somewhat obscene places is Cochon Butchers with their aptly named ‘Elvis’ King Cake.
Inspired by the King’s favorite sandwich, the confection is a hunka-hunka round of dense, yeasty bread stuffed with peanut butter and bananas. Since enough is not enough, the entire cake is covered with an ample dose of Cochon’s homemade marshmallow cream. The egg-based bread is heavier than most king cake recipes, most likely to sustain the incorporation of the interior banana/peanut butter components. On the peanut butter front, if you were maybe expecting a creamy explosion oozing from the cake, you will be a little disappointed.
The peanut butter's flavor is of the home-crushed, potent variety, surely not Jiffy or Skippy (such inferior products have no business serving the King properly). However, it seems as though the bread absorbs the oil from the peanut butter, leaving behind a nutty paste-like residue to surround the bananas. The bananas, though fresh before baking, have cooked down during the baking process; their texture is firm, slightly dried and chewy, rather than caramelized and mushy. The combined flavors are of course reminiscent of a classic peanut butter and banana sandwich made famous by Elvis Presley himself.
Setting this cake apart even further from the pack is the sticky sweet marshmallow cream. Now, mind you, this isn’t your ordinary Fluff out of the jar or the spongy nugglets spilled across sweet potatoes, this stuff is the real homemade deal. Cochon’s recipe is most certainly made with honey (for all those concerned with corn syrup intake, high five!) and its addition to peanut butter-banana bread is somewhat overwhelming in flavor.
This gooey component may set this cake apart, but tasters remarked how the cake may have been better without. After toasting said mallow top, a generous dose of diced candied bacon sprinkles are finally tossed over the entire affair. Cochon is renowned for their divine swine, and this bacon did not disappoint. The familiar cut was not in strips, but diced into chunks of sweet (think maple bacon) mainly meaty bacon. This King Cake tribute to the King is an innovated and somewhat stunning take on the classic, is truly not for the faint of protein, but could be considered quite satisfying to those looking for a king cake unchained.
Randazzo's Bakery is located in Metairie off Causeway Blvd. at 3515 N. Hullen Street, and they can be reached at 456-1476. Cochon Butcher is located at 930 Tchoupitoulas, and their number is 588-7675.
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