You Might Want To Order Your King Cake Early This Mardi Gras. Here's Why

The pandemic is the ultimate party foul, affecting every aspect of how we celebrate. It limits the number of people we can be around and makes party food hard to find. 2021 saw the cancelation of Mardis Gras due to COVID, and people turned their homes into makeshift floats (via CNN). And now it's after our king cake.

According to Country Living, king cake was a European pastry created to celebrate Three Kings Day, which is the day that Catholics believe the baby Jesus was visited by the three wise men. In the 1870s, the French brought king cake to Louisiana, and it became a traditional part of the Mardi Gras celebration. The circular cake comes with different flavors and fillings but is traditionally made with a cinnamon brioche dough that has a little baby figurine baked into it and is topped with icing and purple, green, and gold sugar. The colors are said to represent justice, faith, and power. Some say the figurine is supposed to be the baby Jesus while others believe it represents prosperity. The lucky recipient of the cake slice with the baby figurine is made "king for the day" and is sometimes designated as the person to bring the king cake to the party next time (via the Caluda's King Cake website).

If you are bringing the king cake to this year's party, you'll need all the luck you can get, as everything from staff to flour is in short supply. 

How has the production of king cakes been affected?

The Omicron variant of COVID is attempting to make your Fat Tuesday celebrations a little leaner this year by making it harder for bakers to produce king cakes for Mardi Gras. While there's no need to panic buy ingredients as folks did during the great homemade sourdough experiment of the early pandemic times, it might be wise to go ahead and reserve your king cake sooner rather than later.

Southern Living says that New Orleans bakeries hope to keep their production numbers up while they deal with the challenges posed to them by Omicron. The highly transmissible variant has caused significant staffing shortages have been a significant hurdle. One bakery owner recounted working a 15-hour day to compensate for the employees who tested positive for COVID. According to The Wall Street Journal, even with a 40% increase in production, flour mills can't catch up to the demand after almost two years of the pandemic. These issues trickle down to the bakeries producing king cakes who have had challenges getting basic ingredients like yeast and flour.

Have no fear, party-goers! Many Louisiana bakeries say they can meet the demand for king cakes this year without raising their prices too much. So, order early and ensure that your local king cake baker knows that you appreciate their effort.