Behind the Scenes

A San Francisco Pastry Chef’s Mardi Gras King Cake

Mardi Gras just wouldn’t be Mardi Gras without the crazy, colorful King Cake. This ring-shaped pastry is one of the South’s most traditional baking recipes, and is a popular Christmas dessert in certain European countries, too.

Although King Cakes are rarely spotted in San Francisco, we caught up with one of the city’s best pastry chefs, Bill Corbett, to learn about his take on King Cake for Boxing Room, a Southern Louisiana style restaurant in Hayes Valley. Take a look at his delicious cake, below, served on our new, colorful Emma dishware.


While there are a variety of fillings (everything from cream cheese to fruit to chocolate) most King Cakes are baked in a ring with purple, green and gold sugar sprinkled on top. The colors were originally chosen to symbolize the three kings (thus the name of the cake) who visited the Christ child.


Corbett’s King Cake has a cream cheese filling. Since the chef doesn’t use any artificial food colorings, each sugar is colored with natural flavors — hibiscus, mint and saffron — for a subtle color and taste.

Most King Cakes come with some sort of trinket inside. Some countries use fava beans, but today it’s usually a small, plastic baby doll. Whoever finds the trinket in their slice of cake is crowned king or queen of the party. Most importantly, they’re responsible for bringing the King Cake to the next get together.


It’s certainly not traditional, but Corbett also serves his cake with the option of a pineapple side. Since pineapple is a common symbol of hospitality and friendship in the South, it felt appropriate for his twist on the King Cake.


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