Big Easy Living: Essence of king cake

Bar Chef Laura Bellucci from SoBou created King Cake Sua Da, a boozy mixture of cold brew coffee, king cake infused brandy, allspice dram liqueur and king cake sprinkles. (Photo: SoBou)

Now you can have your king cake and drink it, too. It seems king cake flavored libations are making the rounds.

SoBou bar chef Laura Bellucci has concocted the King Cake Sua Da, made with cold brew coffee, king cake-infused brandy, allspice liqueur and king cake sprinkles. The recipe can be found below, although how to make king cake-infused brandy remains unexplained. Soak and strain, I suppose?

Trinity beverage director Lexi Winston has come up with a King Cake Martini, featuring honeysuckle and pecan vodkas and rum Chata mixed with a frothed egg white and served in a purple sugar crystal-rimmed glass. It was just named semi-finalist of Where Y’at’s Rum Chata Cocktail Mix Off 2017. Over at Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA, the King Cake Martini is a mix of Absolut Vanilla, Frangelico and lemon, garnished with lemon zest.

Meanwhile, PJs Coffee has gone one better on its king cake latte with a new “ultra-low-calorie” Skinny Cake Velvet Ice made with fat-free milk and whey protein concentrate. I’m not sure that “guilt-free” and “king cake” belong in the same sentence, even in a glass.

All of these concoctions prompted a recent conundrum. I’m all for seasonal blends: Pumpkin for Halloween, peppermint for Christmas and king cake for Carnival. I get it. But what I don’t quite get is … what exactly is king cake flavor?

King cakes have strayed far from the simple cinnamon-laced brioche of my youth. King cakes these days don’t necessarily taste like … king cake. At Boulangerie in search of a king cake the other day, I found that only one was left in the case: double chocolate. Cochon Butcher’s Elvis king cake flouts peanut butter, bananas, bacon and marshmallows.

And crossover king cake foods have only muddled things more. Sucre has king cake flavored macarons; Roux Bistro makes something called king cake push ups; Bluebell has a seasonal king cake ice cream that Texans seem to be clamoring for. There are actually several king cake flavored vodkas, prompting local food writer Todd Price to stage a taste test a few years back. I’ve seen king cake donuts, snocones, milkshakes …. Well, you get the idea.

I’m not a king cake purist (though my kids are – for them, only Randazzo’s need apply). I love praline king cakes and cream cheese-filled king cakes, though the fruit fillings don’t move me much.

But what exactly, given so many variations and interpretations, so many creative additions and whimsical fillings, should king cake flavored coffee or a king cake flavored martini taste like?

According to the Manny Randazzo website, the king cake arrived here from France in 1870, and traditionally was a cross between a coffeecake and a French pastry. Honestly, I’m not sure what a coffeecake or pastry flavored martini would taste like either.

Most traditional king cake recipes are flavored with cinnamon. Emeril’s adds nutmeg, lemon zest and cream cheese. That king cake vodka tasting mentioned above unearthed essences of cinnamon, almonds, cherries (?) and, in one case, a hint of burned plastic, “as if the vodka was trying to capture the taste of a king cake with the baby melted inside.”

I guess the bottom line is … Sweet. Cinnamony. Maybe a little lemony. Almondy?

Whatever. I’ll drink to all of that.

SoBou’s King Cake Sua Da

2 oz cold brew coffee

1.5 oz king cake infused brandy

¼ tsp allspice dram liqueur

1 drop vanilla

¾ oz sweetened condensed milk syrup

Cake sprinkles

Happy drinking!


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