First, a few truths:
One: Southerners who celebrate Mardi Gras have strong opinions about king cake.
Two: Many people in the rest of the United States have no idea what a king cake is.
Three: Pretty much everyone in the country can identify a biscuit.
That last one is what led Shreveport, Louisiana’s Jim Broyles to create the “BisKing Cake,” a savory-sweet king cake/biscuit hybrid he introduced this Mardi Gras season. “It’s good that there are purists in the king cake world,” Broyles says, “but I’m hoping that a cake with a biscuit base—more salt and butter—makes this one a little more approachable for the rest of the South.”
To New Orleanians and Mobilians, king cakes need no explanation. The oval-shaped treats are made of brioche dough or cream-cheese filled pastry, usually covered in white icing and green, gold, and purple sprinkles, with a surprise baked inside. Thought to have been brought to New Orleans from France and to the Gulf Coast by Basque settlers in the eighteenth century, the tradition nods to the Christian calendar’s Epiphany, when three wise men journeyed to honor the birth of Christ. (The date is also the official start of Mardi Gras season.) Early versions of the cake baked a bean inside to represent Jesus; modern iterations included porcelain and later plastic figurines. Most versions today still have a tiny baby hidden inside, a custom that to some means good luck and to others means the baby-biter is responsible for throwing next year’s party.
Biscuits don’t really need explanation, but here goes: A biscuit is a fluffy gluten gift that makes you wonder how butter and flour can create something so transcendent. Broyles combined biscuits’ dense, buttery dough with the cinnamon and sugar found in traditional king cake recipes, and then added a salty finish. The decorative flourishes break with tradition, too. “I know I’m going out there on a limb with the biscuit, so I didn’t want the icing to look exactly the same either,” Broyles says. “So I settled on a multi-colored splatter effect.” It brings to mind flying Mardi Gras beads.
BisKing Cakes are available to order all Mardi Gras season. We’re warning you now: This cake might be delightful to the first-time king-caker, but an opinion-eliciting bite for friends from coastal Alabama and Louisiana. Smile politely, and when one of them chomps down on the plastic infant (yes, BisKing Cakes come packaged with a tiny figurine for you to hide), they’ll be responsible for next year’s party—when they can decide what kind of cake to serve.