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KING CAKES: Martin’s at Midtown brings New Orleans tradition to Vicksburg

Sisters Lisa Martin and Shelley Carr will be doing their part to bring a little slice — or two — of a Mardi Gras tradition to Vicksburg.  For the first time, the duo will be making King Cakes for customers at Martin’s at Midtown, the neighborhood eatery at 1101 Belmont Street.

“This will be our first year making king cakes at Martin’s,” Lisa Martin said. “We’ve been making our own bread since we opened 10 years ago, and my sister, Shelley Carr (Shel’s Sweets) has always prepared our sweets.”

Since Shel’s Sweets has focused on the “sweets” and Martin’s has done all the yeast breads, the sisters decided this year would be a good time to combine the two.

“King cake is a sweet yeast bread, so it’s been lost in our boundary,” Martin said. “This year, Shel and I decided that Martin’s would make King Cakes.”

Martin said they’ve had a recipe for a couple of years that was given to them by Jennie Smith of At Last Farms in Vicksburg, who supplies farm fresh eggs for the restaurant.

“Jennie baked King Cakes at a commercial operation in Natchez,” Martin said.

The Mardi Gras or Carnival season officially begins Jan. 6, or the “Twelfth Night,” also known to Christians as the “Epiphany.” Epiphany comes from a Greek word that means “to show.” Jesus first showed himself to the three Wisemen and to the world on this day. As a symbol of this Holy Day, a tiny plastic baby is placed inside each King Cake.

The King Cake tradition is thought to have been brought to New Orleans from France in 1870. A King Cake is an oval-shaped bakery delicacy, crossed between a coffee cake and a French pastry that is as rich in history as it is in flavor. It’s decorated in royal colors of purple, which signifies “Justice,” green for “Faith,” and gold for “Power.” These colors were chosen to resemble a jeweled crown honoring the Wise Men who visited the Christ Child on Epiphany. In the past such things as coins, beans, pecans, or peas were also hidden in each King Cake.

Today, a tiny plastic baby is the common prize. At a party, the King Cake is sliced and served. Each person looks to see if their piece contains the “baby.” If so, then that person is named “King” for a day and bound by custom to host the next party and provide the King Cake.

Mardi Gras Day, or “Fat Tuesday,” has a moveable date and can occur on any Tuesday from Feb. 3 to March 9. It is always the day before Ash Wednesday, and always falls 46 days before Easter. In 2019, Mardi Gras Day is March 5.

Martin’s will be making two King Cake versions each week beginning Jan. 2, through Mardi Gras Day.

“Each week, we will have a cream cheese filled King Cake and a ‘special,’” Martin said. “The cakes, made fresh daily, will be available as long as supply lasts each day.”

She said customers can also place an order to avoid disappointment.

“We will offer one size, which will serve 8 to 12 people,” Martin said. “A larger version may be special ordered.”

From Jan 2-11, the Martin’s King Cake will be a “King of the Hill” version with berry filling and dusted with coconut. Proceeds from sales will be donated to Grace Christian Counseling Center in conjunction with the Chill in The Hills race Jan 12.

Other special King Cake versions will be “The King,” which is an Elvis version filled with bananas and peanut butter, topped with marshmallow cream and bacon. Also, a Zulu-style King Cake filled with chocolate and topped with coconut.

Easy King Cake

Ingredients for cake

2 cans (8-ounce) reduced-fat crescent rolls

4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Ingredients for icing and sugars

1 cup powdered sugar

1 to 2 tablespoon skim milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Colored sugars (purple, green and gold)

Instructions

•Preheat oven to 350F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

•To prepare cake, separate crescent rolls at perforations, into 16 slices. Place slices around pan with points in the center. About halfway down from points, press seams together.

•Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Using a mixer at medium speed, beat until creamy. Spread cream cheese mixture on dough in the center where seams have been pressed together.

•Combine butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Stir with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over cream cheese. Fold dough points over filling, then fold base of triangles over points forming a circular roll.

•Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.

•To prepare icing, combine all ingredients except colored sugars in a small bowl. Whisk until icing reaches desired consistency, adding more powdered sugar or milk as needed. Drizzle over cooled cake.

•Sprinkle colored sugars in wide horizontal bands over the iced cake.