New South Style #3: Twelfth Night Nola Celebration

Twelfth Night, otherwise known as the Feast of the Epiphany, is observed around the world in celebration of the Magi or Wise Men’s visit to Baby Jesus. It also marks the closing of the Christmas season. While some celebrate it on January 5th, in New Orleans, Twelfth Night is celebrated on the 6th and plays a culturally significant role as it represents the official start of the Carnival season. There are various superstitions surrounding Twelfth Night, from having bad luck if the Christmas decorations are left up past this date to king cake being eaten too early will bring rain on Mardi Gras Day!

In Nola, the world famous king cake has played a signature role during the Twelfth Night celebration since as far back as 1870. During the celebration, the Twelfth Night Revelers would present a large king cake to the ladies at their bal masque. Each cake had a gold bean baked into it, which represented Jesus. This tradition is still continued today, however, with a wooden king cake that has built-in drawers in which to hide the bean. Once the bean is pulled out, it signals the beginning of Carnival season.

Anyone can partake in the Twelfth Night-king cake tradition! Nowadays, when you purchase a king cake, it comes with a small plastic baby that symbolizes luck and prosperity. The baby is then hidden inside the cake and whoever finds the baby in their slice has to provide the next king cake for sharing!

A perfect way to celebrate Twelfth Night is with a delectable dinner with friends followed by a king cake tasting! Plan an easy seated dinner with some Mardi Gras flair added to your setting. Invite a small or large group of friends over and have them each bring a king cake from a different location for tasting after dinner. Not a great cook? Just order something to pick-up. After all, the king cake is the real star anyway!

Ways to add Mardi Gras décor to your dinner settings:

Use handmade napkin rings made from recycled Mardi Gras beads to create a fleur de lis silhouette with the napkin.

Add a small flag to each wine glass with a vellum scroll name card.

Use toy/decorative crowns as name card holders.

Choose a mask for each guest and add a vellum strip name card.

There are so many amazing places baking king cakes that it is hard to choose a favorite! But here are two recommendations- for traditional king cake I love Haydel’s, , featured in photos below (and they ship so get your list ready!).

And for a new twist on king cake flavors I love the apple and goat cheese one at Cake Café, .