These Mardi Gras pastries in Dallas beat regular King Cake by a mile
Mardi Gras in 2023 is February 21, and that means king cake, the flashy seasonal treat that has been a New Orleans tradition since 1870.
With its proximity to Louisiana, Dallas has always had a bounty of king cake options from which to choose, everywhere from supermarkets to local bakeries. Whether any of those king cake options are any good is another topic.
The baby is a cute schtick. King Cakes come with a little toy plastic baby that gets baked into the dough; whoever gets it and doesn't choke on it supposedly has good luck. There's that.
But the cake itself .... NewOrleans.com says that a prototypical king cake is somewhere between cinnamon roll and coffeecake, and is "frequently packed with fruit fillings and decadent cream cheeses."
Hm. That might be true in New Orleans — but Dallas king cakes always seem dry and bready, with the only distraction being the signature garishly colored sugar, so crunchy, it hurts your teeth.
It's almost as awful as kolaches.
Fortunately, Dallas has some creative king cake spinoffs that celebrate the spirit of king cake without forcing you to actually eat king cake.
Here are five:
King Cake Danish from La MadeleineLa Madeleine
Mardi Gras Danish at La Madeleine. The French bakery chain first introduced this seasonal pastry in 2019. It's described as a flaky Danish with a strawberry & cream cheese filling, topped with a fondant glaze and dusted with purple, yellow, & green sugar. It's basically croissant dough, fashioned into a Danish-like round shape, similar to their other Danish offerings such as lemon-blueberry Danish and ham & Swiss cheese Danish. $3.99, and it'll be available through March 7.
King Cake cupcakes from Overeasy, festively iced.Overeasy
King Cake Cupcakes at Overeasy. The breakfast-and-lunch spot at the Statler Dallas hotel is doing special, house-made King Cake Cupcakes, featuring a vanilla cupcake topped with a colorful vanilla creme swirl rendered in the signature colors, and topped with a plastic baby. But you'll have to be quick because these are available for one day and one day only: on Mardi Gras day itself, February 21. You can enjoy them at the restaurant or get them to-go. The cupcakes are $2.99 each, $13.99 for a half-dozen, or $22.99 for a dozen. Best to order ahead of time by calling 469-320-8998.
Empire Baking Co King Cake is filled with cinnamon and pecans.Empire Baking Co.
Brioche King Cakes at Empire Baking Co. Dallas' premiere bakery is doing King Cakes for the first time. It being Empire, it's not like the others. They use a brioche dough into which they roll layers of cinnamon, chopped pecans, and a brown-butter glaze — almost (OK, exactly) like a giant cinnamon roll. It's then iced and dusted with sugar, but with a ratio of more icing and less sugar than the usual King Cake. They're selling them at both their Inwood Village and SMU locations on Fridays-Saturdays through February 19, then on Monday, February 20 and Tuesday, February 21. $35.
It's a pie version of King Cake by Humble Pie.Humble Pie
King Cake Pie at Humble: Simply Good Pies. As this East Dallas pie shop notes, "We are a pie shop, so it made no sense to make a king cake." Instead they do this "Bon Temps" King Cake pie version, filling their flaky pie crust with a sweet-and-tart citrus chess pie with cinnamon swirl, topped with traditional icing and sugar. And of course, a baby in the center. The shop has a special connection to this item: It was the last pie they were forced to pitch after their location caught on fire in March 2022. The pies are $45 and are available for order through February 21.
Dusty Biscuits' beignet version of a king cake.Dusty Biscuits
Mardi Gras beignets at Dusty Biscuit Beignets. Fort Worth beignet shop does one of the most clever New Orleans crossover items, combining two NOLA favorites — King Cake + beignets — into one. Fluffy fried beignets get drizzled with a sweet cream cheese glaze, dusted with cinnamon sugar, then colored powdered sugar. They're such a signature that they do them year-round, and are 3 to an order for $6. During Mardi Gras season, they also do a mini-king-cake version, using their same beignet dough, but in a traditional round, with an iridescent purple plastic baby in the center. The mini-cake is $12 and officially serves 2 to 4.