On Epiphany, my family would have kings cake during the course of the day. It is a ring-shaped cake made out of bread that has sprinkles of green, purple, and gold on top of the icing. There is a small plastic baby inside the cake. Each member of the family would get a piece and whoever ends up with the baby in their piece gets to be king or queen of the day and wear a paper crown.
My informant learned this tradition around the age of three or four in her hometown of New Orleans. Her family taught it to her on the Epiphany when they all gathered at one of the family members houses to spend the day with the family and have a family dinner. Whoever gets the plastic baby becomes the king or queen of the day. All the family members had to be extra nice to the king or queen. The king or queen would get to sit at the head of the table during dinner and lead the family in a prayer before they began eating.
My informant says many families and groups of friends celebrate Mardi Gras using the kings cake not only in France but also in New Orleans. Usually those who celebrate are big, close-knit families who believe in the value of family and enjoy spending time together.
Kings cake is also called the galette de rois in French and is popular around the Mardi Gras season. In my French class, we ate kings cake on the actual day of Mardi Gras rather than on the day of the Epiphany.
Annotation: Marcia Gaudet. Ribbon Pulls in Wedding Cakes: Tracing a New Orleans
Tradition. Folklore 117.1 (2006): 87-96. Humanities Module. ProQuest. USC
Libraries, Los Angeles, CA. 24 Apr. 2007.
This article mainly talks about recipes for kings cake, but it also has a history of the cake and when it is used. They are used mainly during the Mardi Gras season and is very popular in Louisiana. The tradition was brought to Louisiana by the French.