A week into Carnival season and it’s clear New Orleanians are hungrier than ever for king cake. Whether it stems from entering the third year of the pandemic, prompting many to find joy in the small things, or the recent proliferation of lauded independent bakers and pastry pop-ups, options for the traditional treat this year are head-spinning, and partakers are cleaning out shelves, booths, and bakery cases all over town.
While king cake pop-ups have long been a thing, last year was a boon for the niche industry; a Mardi Gras with no parades, no balls, and no crowds. The season was full of fresh, creative, and visually arresting cakes to add to an already abundant roster of longtime bakeries and shops, often offering gluten-free or vegan versions. This year is no different (though parades are on), making it harder than ever to keep track of all the king cakes worth trying, and how to get your hands on them.
Here, Eater rounds up this season’s best king cake pop-ups, available at farmers markets, for pickup or delivery, or at other temporary locations. Most of these options require preorders, and many are only available to order and pick up on a weekly basis. Follow the pop-ups’ social media pages for updates on availability as cakes have already been quick to sell out. For the best king cakes that can be found on a regular basis this season, see Eater’s 2022 guide here.
Did we miss an amazing king cake pop-up this year? Let us know.
For the second year, star baker Bronwen Wyatt is selling, and quickly selling out of her popular king cakes. Orders open on a week-by-week basis Tuesdays at noon for pick up on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at her brand new headquarters, the Southern Food & Beverage Museum (SoFab). Along with a few special flavors that are sure to be wildly creative, Wyatt’s baking three main varieties this year: Cinnamon-date with sour cream glaze; sweet potato swirl with cardamom meringue; and walnut frangipane king cake with apple cider vinegar and cream cheese glaze (pictured in 2021). Order through the website.
Many New Orleans residents are familiar with Cake Cafe’s signature king cake — the slightly dense, almost doughnut-like cake with a perfectly tart and sweet goat cheese and apple filling, streaked on top with deep green, gold, and purple icing. Though Cake Cafe is no more, its beloved king cake is still available each Carnival season, this year at NOCCA — order online through NOCCA’s site for a designated pickup date and enjoy. Bonus — the folks behind Cake Cafe are also doing a gluten-free, dairy-free version this year.
Creme Confectionary is beloved for its gluten-free king cake, finally bringing a tasty way for the gluten-intolerant to partake during Carnival. This one is quick to sell out, but will be available at Haydel’s Bake Shop on Magazine Street, at Grounded Coffee Cafe on Jefferson Highway, and at Lafreniere Farmers Market, weekly on Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. (call Haydel’s or Grounded Coffee directly to check availability); there’s also going to be a weekend pop-up each week that will be announced on social media. Finally, shipping to anywhere in the country is available this year through the website.
Kaitlin Guerin’s intricate pastries and cakes are as beautiful as they are delicious. She will be making at least two types of king cakes this year: a spiced citrus galettes des rois and the beloved sourdough brioche, available for preorder and pick up on a weekly basis throughout the season.
From the pastry chef for Emeril Lagasse’s flagship restaurant, Mae’s Bakeshop is Jeremy Fogg’s bakery dream come to life. Starting Friday, January 14, he’ll be selling king cake monkey bread, a shareable, pull-apart version of the classic, topped with icing, edible Mardi Gras beads, and a bananas Foster sauce for dipping. Order online for delivery every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. during carnival season, or find Mae’s booth at the Bounyful Green Market in Algiers Point on January 16, February 6, and February 20.
Calvin Virgil’s salted caramel and candied pecan king cake has absolutely been one of the most highly sought-after king cakes for the last few years, selling out within minutes of opening orders or at pop-up appearances. This year, Not Too Fancy’s traditional, strawberry cream cheese, and the salted caramel king cakes can be ordered through the website for local pickup only in Kenner.
This local pastry pop-up has gained a following in the last year or two, making appearances at Crescent City Farmers Market, Undergrowth Coffee, and at other local markets. King cake flavors like blackberry nutmeg sweet cream, pistachio honey butter cookie, and chestnut sweet cream will be available by the slice at the Mid City Crescent City Farmers Market and to preorder for whole cakes via Instagram. Follow on social media for updates and new flavors.
Eater’s 2021 pop-up of the year got that way in part due to its unexpected but delicious king cake creations (in addition to mind-blowing ice cream). There will be different types available at various points this season, announced through weekly menu drops, to include ice cream and non-ice cream king cakes, beginning with a churro ice cream king cake and at some point to include Jillian Duran’s purple, green, and gold ice cream king cake — last year, it was an ube bread cake braided with taro and adzuki bean filling, layered with golden coconut milk ice cream and shredded coconut, and topped with matcha cream cheese frosting.