In December 2010, two months after we opened Pizza Nola, we opened La Dolce Nola, a gelato shop in Old Metairie. We were a week away from Christmas and three weeks away from Carnival. We thought, “Hmm. Maybe we should try our hand at a king cake.” My wife experimented in the kitchen and came up with a pretty awesome recipe that we debuted just in time for Carnival, 2011. Our king cakes were well-received with many folks comparing La Dolce Nola’s king cake as the closest thing to the original McKenzie’s recipe. Jennifer worked hard for three Carnival seasons waking up super-early and cranking out cakes every day, even when New Orleans hosted the Super Bowl- she baked 100 cakes overnight then we headed to the Arena early that morning to handle a major catering event cooking a breakfast and lunch buffet and taking care of hospitality rooms.
In 2014, it was my turn to handle the baking. La Dolce Nola had closed and we were baking out of a commissary kitchen in Broadmoor. It was a long season but productive and we were selling our cakes at the restaurant as well as in Langenstein’s and Morning Call. By Lundi Gras we were exhausted. We finished our final bake the previous day but we needed a cake for Fat Tuesday! We had heard a little about the Dong Phuong king cakes and decided to make the trek to the East to check them out. “Wow,” we said, after the first bite.
The next year, we started carrying Dong Phuong’s cakes at Pizza Nola and word began to spread. In 2016 we held our first “Carnival Kickoff” event with Benny Grunch & The Bunch playing early in the morning in our parking lot. Carnival Kickoff got bigger and bigger with live media coverage and lots of special guests and is now recognized as one of the city’s main Twelfth Night events (and mark your calendars for January 6, 2019!).
Meanwhile, thanks largely to our marketing efforts, word got out about the Dong Phuong King Cakes and over the next few years they became the hottest king cake in town. In 2018, things got a little crazy. Lines were forming, pre-orders were through the roof, and we were selling out as quickly as we were getting them in. Then midway through the season word got out about the bakery’s James Beard Award. Dong Phuong couldn’t keep up with the demand and had to cut our (and other smaller outlets’) supply and decided to only sell from their bakery. There was just no way for them to increase production to keep up with the demand (that, ironically, we were a major factor in creating).
Shortly after Mardi Gras we made the decision to close Pizza Nola (we had a good 7+ years, but it was time). We announced that even though we were closing we still would have a substantial presence for Carnival, 2019. Within two hours after sending out our press we received an email from Gambino’s bakery saying, “we would love to partner with you next Mardi Gras with an endless supply of king cakes!” Boom. We knew what the plan would be. Gambino’s has been the King of King Cakes for 70 years and the opportunity to partner with them would be amazing- what better way to honor the spirit and tradition of Carnival than by working with one of New Orleans legends. We realized that it was a good opportunity to reach out to other of our favorite bakeries and over the last several years we’ve done some extensive research into New Orleans area king cakes!
As King Cake Hub has developed we have gathered together an aggregation of the best king cakes in the region offering years of Carnival tradition as well as new developments and creative flavors. Gambino’s encapsulates the tradition and spirt of Carnival with their special recipe Danish dough and popularized the Doberge cake first made by Beulah Ledner 80 years ago. We are also working with Gambino’s as they develop a brand-new king cake exclusively for us. We call it EPIPHANY and you’ll experience it for the first time on January 6. With a sweet homemade Danish dough and yummy cream-cheese icing, Epiphany is destined to be the newest entry in the pantheon of favorite king cakes.
We are also excited to partner with Hi Do Bakery which celebrates its 30th anniversary next year as a popular West Bank Vietnamese institution with a very popular King Cake (and one of our personal favorites). Bywater Bakery joins us with one of the hottest new king cakes on the scene- the Berry Chantilly Cake developed by Chaya Conrad who served previously as Bakery Manager at Rouses Market and Whole Foods. Girls Gone Vegan offers a vegan and gluten-free King Cake that allows us to accommodate customers of all dietary needs. Finally, we’re so excited to bring Cannata’s King Cakes to the New Orleans market. Cannata’s has served Southeast Louisiana for 80 years beginning in 1939 with a small stand in the French Market. The bakery offers over 60 flavors of king cakes (we’ll carry a few) and was the People’s Choice winner at the 2017 King Cake Festival. The first time we tasted their Snickerdoodle Ooey Gooey King Cake it was unlike any other king cake we’ve had (and we’ve had many). If we said “wow” in 2014, we said “WOW!!!” when we tried Cannata’s. We can’t wait to bring it to you in New Orleans.
We look forward to seeing you at the King Cake Hub- we’ll be bringing you the best king cakes you’ve ever had and introducing you to those that will become your new favorites (and you won’t have to wait in three-hour lines to get them!). Carnival is truly a magical time in this city and we thank you for giving us the chance to help make your Carnival experience even more special.