Mardi Gras & King Cake: YUM!

The season of Lent begins this week… on the 10th.  Can you believe it’s already here?  It comes especially early this year since Easter is early.  But honestly, for many years of my life, Lent would catch me off guard whether it came early or late!  😉

Being the Baptist girl that I am, I didn’t grow up observing the Lenten season.  In fact, I just learned of this season’s specialness not too many years ago.

Basically, Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ – His Cross, His suffering and His sacrifice, His life, death, burial and resurrection.

Lent follows the Liturgical seasons of Advent and Epiphany where we seek and find Jesus, celebrate His coming into our lives, and determine to follow Him into the new year.  From fellowship and intimacy with our Holy God inevitably comes the realization of our sins.  And that’s where Ash Wednesday comes in, where Lent picks up, and we are led into the blessed celebration of Easter.

This week I’ll be sharing a bit of what I’ve gathered over the years about Lent and some resources to help us turn our eyes upon Jesus during this season.  But before Lent begins, there is Mardi Gras… And that is this Tuesday.


Mardi Gras and King Cake.

 Mardi Gras 

Which literally means “Fat Tuesday” in French.

The name Mardi Gras comes from the tradition of slaughtering and feasting upon a fattened calf on the last day of Carnival (see below). The day is also known as Shrove Tuesday (from “to shrive,” or hear confessions), Pancake Tuesday and Fetter Dienstag. The custom of making pancakes comes from the need to use up fat, eggs and dairy before the fasting and abstinence of Lent begins.  {This explains why IHop often gives out free pancakes on Fat Tuesday. (Which I was so glad to have figured out! – It puzzled me every year!)}

What is less known about Mardi Gras is its relation to the Christmas season, and that the days following Christmas in many Catholic cultures are known as Carnival.  The word Carnival comes from the Latin words carne vale, meaning “farewell to the flesh.”

 The Carnival season kicks off with the Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, Three Kings’ Day and, in the Eastern churches, Theophany. Epiphany, which falls on January 6, 12 days after Christmas, celebrates the visit of the Wise Men bearing gifts for the infant Jesus. In cultures that celebrate Carnival, Epiphany kicks off a series of parties leading up to Mardi Gras.  (

Interesting, yes?

During the longer Epiphany season (from Christmas until Lent) many (including us!) enjoy a popular treat, King’s Cake.  The King Cake (which is really a yummy iced cinnamon roll/cream cheesy-type pastry) is said to have originated in France in the 12th century as a celebration of the coming of the Three Wise Men bearing gifts for the Christ Child.

Part of the celebration was the baking of a King Cake to honor the Three Kings. Legend has it that the cakes were made in a circle to represent a both a king’s crown and the circular routes that the Wise Men took to find Jesus, in order to confuse King Herod and foil his plans of killing the Christ Child.

In the early King Cakes, a symbol of baby Jesus was hidden among the dough.  Later, Jesus was replaced with a coin, pea, pecan, or bean was hidden inside the cake, and whoever found the item was said to be “king for the day” or was said to be blessed or lucky for the rest of the year.

When the King Cake was brought to Louisiana by French settlers in the 1870s, bakers began putting the small baby (representing the Christ Child) back in the cake.  Now the one who finds the baby in his/her piece of cake is said to be extra blessed and is expected to host the next King Cake party.

The three colors of Mardi Gras and the King Cake are Purple, which stands for justice, Green for faith, and Gold for power.

Want to make your own King Cake?  This is an easy 30 minute recipe I found on Pinterest.  (TBH, I haven’t made it yet, but if I were going to make a King Cake myself instead of buy one, I promise, I’d use this recipe.) haha

Easy 30 Minute King Cake Recipe for Mardi Gras from Paula @Frog Prince Paperie



  • 1 12oz tube refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup brown sugarFROSTING
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Purple, gold and green sugar sprinkles


1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. Roll out tube of crescent rolls on parchment lined cookie sheet, pressing the seams of the dough together to form one large layer of dough.

3. Mix cream cheese, 1/4 cup powdered sugar and and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and spread it along the center of your dough.

4. Cut a few slits in the sides of the dough to make flaps that can be folded over the filling.

5. Sprinkle brown sugar and pecans over the cream cheese.

6. Fold the flaps over the filling to make a “braid” and pinch together any holes along the bottom so the cream cheese doesn’t leak out while it’s baking.

7. Gently form the dough into a ring on the cookie sheet.

8. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

9. While cake is baking, mix together the frosting: 3 cups powdered sugar and 1/4 cup water with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. This mixture will be rather thick.

10. When your cake is out of the oven, spread it in a ribbon around the top of the cake, a section at a time. You have to work quick to add your sprinkles before the icing hardens after you put on the icing.

11. The finishing touch is the baby. Slip it under the cake and see who gets to hit the kitchen next to bake up another cake!



Want to try a bite-sized King Cake treat?  One of my favorite food bloggers posted this recipe on her blog last year, and a friend of mine (who actually TRIES the recipes she finds) made these a few weeks ago and they were wonderful!!!

King Cake Bites  from Steph @Plain Chicken
32 bites
(Printable Recipe)


    • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp lemon juice
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 2 cans (8 oz each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls


    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 2 Tbsp milk
  • yellow, green, purple sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar and lemon juice with mixer until well blended.

Separate dough into 8 rectangles; seal seams. Sprinkle each rectangle with approximately 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Spread cream cheese mixture down middle of each rectangle. Fold each rectangle lengthwise into thirds to enclose filling (bring long edges up to cover cream cheese); cut each into 4 squares. Place, seam-sides down, on baking sheet.

Bake 13 to 15 min. or until golden brown. Cool slightly.

Mix together remaining 1 cup powdered sugar and milk. Spread on top of King Cake Bites and sprinkle with colored sugars.



Enjoy your King Cake, pancakes, or whatever else it is that you plan to enjoy this week. I’ll be back to share some resources for Lent in a few days.

The Lord’s blessings upon you all~

About SmellingCoffee

I'm a Jesus-loving, husband-loving, family-loving minister's wife and mom to two college kids, making our home and serving our Lord in the Mississippi Delta. I study, teach, speak, and write for the greatest Boss in the universe. "Faith, Family, Food, Fun, and Living Life brewed in the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus Christ in every place": That's what you'll find at


  1. Jen, this is so so good. As a protestant this is a season I’m learning about too – as no church we’ve ever belonged to has “celebrated” Lent. Love this!