Mardi Gras season is nearly upon us, and while we may not have extravagant parades and bottomless beads like New Orleans, we still know how to party here in the not-so Holy City.
For many people who grew up in Louisiana or have experienced Mardi Gras festivities firsthand, cutting into that first piece of King Cake is often the sweetest part. King Cake has long been a traditional treat served during Mardi Gras (which officially begins on Jan. 6) a day known as Epiphany or Three King’s Day, and continues through Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins.
In Christianity, Epiphany is celebrated after Christmas to commemorate the day that the Magi visited the baby Jesus, which is how the custom of adding a small, decorative baby to King Cakes originated. Though the meaning of the baby has changed, it’s still intended to represent the holiday’s Christian roots. Over the years, finding the baby in your slice of King Cake has meant everything from good luck to determining the King and Queen of Mardi Gras. Now, most people believe that whoever finds the baby is the one who has to buy the next King Cake.
But finding a traditional King Cake outside of the Big Easy can be tough, which is why Jennifer Caywood-Williams, a local private chef and vintage pop-up owner, started her own operation, King Cake Orders Charleston. “I thought it was the perfect way to bring Mardi Gras outside of New Orleans,” she says.
Caywood-Williams comes from a long line of bakers. Her family in New Orleans married into the Randazzo family, another well-known family of bakers. After Hurricane Betsy devasted the city in 1965, the Randazzo family decided to start making bread for the people of New Orleans who needed food after the storm. From there, the bakery took off and they began making King Cakes each year.
Caywood-William’s family opened their own bakery with the Randazzos five years ago, using the same classic family recipes. When Caywood-Williams and her husband relocated from Louisiana to Georgia, she decided to start taking orders for King Cakes from locals and bringing them back up from her family’s bakery as a special Mardi Gras treat. Now that she’s been living in South Carolina for the past few years, Caywood-Williams wants to spread the Mardi Gras love to the city of Charleston, too.
You can place your King Cake order with her now via her Facebook group King Cake Orders Charleston in-person at MOMO Kitchen + Market in Goose Creek or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). A few days before Mardi Gras, Caywood-Williams takes her list of orders and rushes down to NOLA to help out the family bakery. “When I go down there it’s usually really hectic because they’re only open during Mardi Gras season, and my whole family will be in the bakery working at 2 a.m.,” she says. “Our family is very involved, but it’s really a celebration.”
After the cakes have been baked and Caywood-Williams gets in a few parade viewings, she packs up the car and heads straight back to Charleston with the freshest, most authentic King Cakes around. Orders are picked up at MOMO on Feb. 25. The restaurant will also be hosting its own Mardi Gras party complete with slices of King Cake and traditional Louisiana dishes like gumbo and beignets.