King cakes are almost synonymous with the Carnival season.
Go into any grocery and you’ll see plenty of boxes with those oval-shaped pastries decked out with purple, green and yellow icing or colored sugar. King cake-inspired doughnuts and cupcakes are showing up in the bakery sections, even if their only connection is the color of their topping.
But there are other king cake items popping up on shelves, purportedly capturing that sweet (SWEET) icing and cinnamon-roll deliciousness.
Call it our local version of pumpkin spice.
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How do they stack up? Folks in the Sun Herald newsroom taste-tested some of the items available on the Coast. P.S.: No plastic baby included.
Both PJ’s and Community have offered a king cake-flavored coffee for several years. We tested Community’s Mardi Gras King Cake, which has “hints of cinnamon and vanilla.” All the tasters liked it. The flavor is subtle, so the description is perfect. A bag is $4.99 at Rouses.
This is a relatively new player on the king cake flavor turf. You can get their offering with a frozen yogurt base or their Gladiator Protein base. Gladiator has half the sugar (23 vs. 43 grams) and a third of the fat (2 vs. 6 grams) but more calories (350 vs. 310) in the 20-ounce (small) size. For more mass appeal, we went with the frozen yogurt. Ingredients are almond milk, bananas, vanilla frozen yogurt, protein blend, ground cinnamon, pure almond extract and vanilla extract. Some tasters really enjoyed it while at least one other said it had a “perfumey” flavor. A 20-ounce smoothie is $4.59 with tax.
Just so you know, this taste test was heavily controlled. Only one Sun Herald staffer (that would be me) had the green light from the corner office to sample a very small sample, and after that, the vodka had to go away somewhere dark and mysterious. Vodka cranberries or screwdrivers are my usual and rare means of enjoying vodka. I was prepared for something akin to cough syrup but was surprised. Yes, it’s sweet, but not cloyingly so, and the flavor is heavy on the creamy vanilla side. A co-worker had suggested mixing it with cola. You see the price; it is what it is, a vodka made for the season of partying. A 200 ml. bottle is $5.99 at L&M in Gulfport. They also carry Pinnacle King Cake vodka for $12.39 for 200 ml. (not tested).
New Orleans Ice Cream Company Mardi Gras Pie
OK, true. This is not king cake-flavored. But if you want a small-batch ice cream made regionally that captures the essence of a Carnival parade, this is your choice. “Gooey marshmallow ice cream with marshmallow swirl, chocolate flakes and soft graham cracker” is how the company describes it, so you know what it’s re-creating (without using a trademarked name). Available in pints, it isn’t cheap, so unless your kids are little gourmands and won’t squirt a coating of chocolate syrup and dump half a container of sprinkles on top, keep it hidden in the back of the freezer for the grown ups to enjoy. Find it at Rouses at $4.49 for a pint. P.S.: Check out the company’s other Big Easy-centric flavors, too, including Lemon Cake Doberge, Cafe Au Lait & Beignets, Baked Alaska, Bananas Foster, Creole Cream Cheese and White Chocolate Bread Pudding.
In the past, Blue Bell Ice Cream has offered a Mardi Gras King Cake variety, featuring cinnamon ice cream with pastry pieces, candy sprinkles and a cream cheese swirl. The Texas-based company is still releasing a limited number of flavors, and so far, their king cake option isn’t on the Coast or mentioned on their website or Facebook page.