The Northern Southerner: There’s a Plastic Baby in My Cake

February 8, 2016 | By | Comments (2)

Raised in Washington state, Hannah Norling has never lived in the South before. Now habituating to Alabama, she is experiencing the South for the first time as a resident and documenting the whole thing. Welcome to the Northern Southerner. 

Photo courtesy of Getty

Photo courtesy of Getty

I bit into a baby this weekend. A small plastic, little baby. You read that correctly. I tried king cake for the first time this weekend and was surprised/confused by the baby lodged in my cake who had the potential to choke me (PSA: I did not choke).

I’ve never celebrated Mardi Gras, unless you count the time the cafeteria at my college offered the Fat Tuesday themed lunch, I’m talking, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and shrimp. Pretty much any dish that people in Arizona thought constituted as New Orleans food.

So I was eating my king cake and almost swallowed the tiny baby whole, but I spit it out just in time. What is this? Question marks ran through my head. I had heard about king cake, why you eat it, and all that jazz. But no one, and I mean no one ever disclosed there was a baby in the cake.

Why the baby? Why the little plastic baby?

I was about to find out.

Babies in the king cake used to be a little bean back in the day, but people were actually choking on them. The baby became a thing when a travelling salesman sold little porcelain babies to the owner of McKenzie’s Pastry Shoppes, Donald Entringer Sr.

Entringer then in turn, hid the babies in the cake. Fast forward to today, you’ve got your cheaper version: the plastic baby.

If you find the bean/baby, it used to be you got to be king or queen for the day. Now it means you are responsible for buying the next king cake to keep the delicious pastry comin’.

I learned two things. One, king cake is delicious. Like I could probably eat one myself, no lie. Two, always tell your friends there is a tiny plastic baby shoved inside the cake, because friends don’t let friends swallow plastic babies.



  1. Kathleen

    Lisa’s correct. And the cake is more about the 3 Kings than a Mardi Gras King.
    In Louisiana, Mardi Gras season starts right after Christmas & the last day of Christmas traditionally is Epiphany or 3 Kings Day.

    February 8, 2016 at 3:20 pm
  2. Lisa

    Not just any baby. The baby in a King Cake represents the baby Jesus.

    February 8, 2016 at 1:13 pm

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