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Mardi Gras Blog Party!

Happy Tuesday (Fat Tuesday), everyone! I hope everyone has dug out from under the snow and is ready for a party. It’s been busy here, ending one writing project, starting another, revising another, but hopefully I can have a Hurricane and some King Cake while I settle in to watch the Olympics again tonight. I also got another new cover (for the US release of To Deceive a Duke in May!), and thanks to Julia Justiss who sent me a link to a new review of Countess of Scandal at All About Romance (A-, yay!), plus another new one at Single Titles. And I’m at the Unusual Historicals blog all week, giving away a copy…

Mardi Gras has a very long history. In mid-February the ancient Romans used to celebrate the festival of Lupercalia, and after the rise of Christianity the tradition of a winter-time party continued (though it was re-fashioned as one last hurrah before the deprivation of Lent). It came to America in 1699 along with French explorer Iberville, who sailed into the Gulf of Mexico to launch an expedition up the Mississippi River. By March 3 he had set up a camp about 60 miles south of current-day New Orleans, and remembered it was Mardi Gras in France (thus the site was named Point du Mardi Gras). The French tradition took hold immediately in the new French settlement, and by the late 18th century raucous masked balls and festivals were commonplace at this time of year, only to be curtailed when the Spanish came to power and banned masking. In 1803 New Orleans became US property, and the ban against masked festival continued until the local Creole populace convinced the governor to make masking legal again in 1823.

The first documented parade was in 1837, but soon things got way out of hand. The local press in the 1840s and 50s called for the end of the celebration, due to violence associated with the parties. In 1857 a group of 6 men took over and formed the Comus organization to keep things (somewhat) under control. They were the first group to use the word “krewe”, and they also started the custom of having a parade with a unifying theme, a ball after the parade, and secret Carnival societies. In 1871 the custom began of choosing a Queen of Mardi Gras, and in 1872 Mardi Gras had a pivotal year. The Grand Duke Alexei Romanov of Russia visited, the krewe of Rex debuted along with the Knights of Momus, and the Queen was joined by a King of Mardi Gras. Purple, green, and gold became the official colors, and “If Ever I Cease To Love You” became the official song.

In 1882, the Krewe of Proteus debuted in an Egyptian-themed parade; in 1890 the first marching band, The Jefferson City Buzzards, marched (hard to imagined a parade without marching bands!), and things expanded with the first African-American krewe in 1894 (the Original Illinois Club) and the first all-female organization in 1896 (Les Mysterieuses).

This is only the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to the history of Mardi Gras, of course! It’s a long, fascinating, and very special subject. You can find more here at MardiGras.com along with help planning your visit to New Orleans. You can have a party even if you’re at home, though! Here is a recipe for King Cake:

  • PASTRY:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • FILLING:
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • FROSTING:
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

  1. Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  5. To Make Filling: Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
  6. Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10×16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push the doll into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners’ sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.

And one for a Hurricane:

Hurricane recipe

1 oz vodka
1/4 oz grenadine syrup
1 oz gin
1 oz light rum
1/2 oz Bacardiยฎ 151 rum
1 oz amaretto almond liqueur
1 oz triple sec
grapefruit juice
pineapple juice

Pour all but the juices, in order listed, into a hurricane glass three-quarters filled with ice. Fill with equal parts of grapefruit and pineapple juice, and serve.

And some music!

What are your plans for Mardi Gras??? Anyone else as obsessed by the Olympics as me?

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Lavinia
12 years ago

Great blog, Amanda. UPS has had my King Cake for a week and doesn’t show any sign of actually bringing it. How long can it be stuck on “weather delay”?

I may just try your recipe if it’s not here soon.

I don’t dare try the hurricane’s until my revisons are in though. LOL.

Lavinia

jcp
jcp
12 years ago

I have packages delayed this week. No plans for Mardi Gras.

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Great review, Amanda/Laurel! All About Romance is tough and the LOVED it!!!

I can’t think of New Orleans without thinking of our walk in the pouring rain, all to see a house that was closed and didn’t want our wet, dripping selves in it.

We shoulda gone at Mardi Gras!

Jane Austen
12 years ago

This was a great blog…very informative. It reminded me of our May Dance in 8th grade (like a junior prom). Our theme was Mardi Gras and I was in charge of baking all these cupcakes instead of King Cakes. We put little plastic babies in them, but they melted. So we had a hard time finding a queen and king. Plus we had too many cupcakes. But it was fun.

I am not obsessed by the Olympics. I am actually quite turned off by them. In college I did a lot of study on crisis communication and believe the Olympics is doing a crap job of it right now with the death of the Georgian luger. Plus the other athletes comments are quite harsh and rather heartless. I know I judge people quite harshly on this topic. It’s why I don’t watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade anymore after years of wanting to plan it and studying it. (I know everything about it). But one bad crisis communication event later and its dead to me. Tylenol on the other hand knows how to handle crisis communication and handle it well. I will always use them and respect them. Maybe I need to go into the field, but really it’s not hard to realize something you did caused a death and you need to treat that death with respect.

Amanda McCabe
12 years ago

Your King Cake is held up in transit, Lavinia?? Oh, no! (if you do try this recipe, let me know how it turns out–I’ve never tried it, but it came from a friend who used to live in NO and whose grandmother used to make it). And I think a Hurricane might make revisions go easier ๐Ÿ™‚

Ugh, Diane, I forgot about that downpour! My clothes never did dry out it was so muggy there…

Amanda McCabe
12 years ago

JA, I love the ice skating at the Olympics (especially the Chinese pair that took gold last night). I do NOT like NBC’s weak coverage, or all the mishaps that seem to be plaguing the events. Or Bob Costas’s weird hair. ๐Ÿ™‚

Amanda McCabe
12 years ago

Oh, and I’m also shallow and like looking at Apolo Ohno whenever I get the chance ๐Ÿ™‚

Virginia
12 years ago

No plans for Mardi Gras! Thanks for recipes though, may try them!

Jane George
12 years ago

Gung Hay Fat Tuesday!

Today I’m firing up the weed whacker and attacking the back hill before the house gets grown over. Then perhaps I’ll look into joining Les Mysterieuses. ๐Ÿ™‚

Jane George
12 years ago

Gung Hay Fat Tuesday!

Today I’m firing up the weed whacker and attacking the back hill before the house gets grown over. Then perhaps I’ll look into joining Les Mysterieuses. ๐Ÿ™‚

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
12 years ago

I’m only obssessed with the Olympics but only the figure skating. Can’t wait to see what Jonny Weir is going to be wearing tonite. As for Mardi Gras, my friend Natalie would point out that Mobile has it’s own Mardi Gras traditions as well.

Judy
12 years ago

Interesting historical info. I’ve never participated in Mardi Gras and don’t really have any desire to, though I’ll be saving that recipe to try.

I was appalled by the lack of respect in the handling of the death of the Georgian luger. All I could think was “Have we become so callous that the loss of a human life means nothing but a chance to sensationalize or the need to blame someone else?” God rest his soul, and may his poor family be comforted that at least he was where he dreamed to be.

Rant of my own: I don’t watch anything with Bob Costa. His snide and cutting remarks, over the years, have made it so I turn him off. I like the other announcers, but all of them combined can’t ease that unpleasant feeling of waiting for his next little dig, like waiting for the next time your brother pinches you. No fun at all.

Amanda McCabe
12 years ago

“Can’t wait to see what Jonny Weir is going to be wearing tonite”

OMG I can’t wait for this either!

Kim in Hawaii
12 years ago

Amanda, thank you for the blog about Mardi Gras! Being from Tampa, we celebrate Gasparilla Day (a celebrated pirate invades the city aboard a real life pirate ship that remains docked downtown). But it is a cheap (and shorter) imitation of Mardi Gras! I experienced my first Mardi Gras when I was a new Lieutenant assigned to Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi (most of the gulf side towns have their own celebrations) but we did drive to New Orleans for the big parade. Four years later, I was reassigned to a NATO base in Germany near Koln (Cologne) – where Carnival reigns on the Rhine River! The Germans celebrate two other days in place of Fat Tuesday:

– Wieverfastelovend – the women’s day recognizes women’s presence in the Carnival celebrations, dating back to 1824. Tradition holds that women do not work on this day. They even cut the ties of men! At the party held on the NATO base, men wore old ties for women to cut.

– Rosenmontag, Rose Monday, when the big parades takes place in Koln, Mainz, and Dusseldorf. The parades have political themes and they don’t throw beads.

Your King Cake recipe looks delicious … just one teensy omission. The baker must place a plastic baby (or gold coin) in the batter. Whoever receives the baby/coin in the slice of cake must bake/buy the next King cake!

Mardi Gras coincides with the Chinese New Year, which is taking precedence in Honolulu. Still, I pulled out my Hurricane Glasses from Pat O’Brien’s to drink a toast to the Lenten season!

Louisa Cornell
12 years ago

First of all, Congrats on the great review, Amanda/Laurel. As The Divine One said, they are a tough audience and they really loved your book. Hooray!

I was in grad school at the University of Southern Mississippi for six years so I have quite a few New Orleans Mardi Gras under my belt. And I truly enjoyed every one of them. The key to really enjoying them? Being sober! Watching other people become complete idiots is FUN !! I really want to go back down for one more Mardi Gras one of these days. I love New Orleans any time. One of my favorite cities!

I was also fortunate enough to enjoy and entire week of Fasching Balls (German/Austrian Mardi Gras celebrations)masked balls with lovely costumes and carriage rides from castle to castle. It was a magical week and I loved it!

This evening I am recovering from an entire day of baking and decorating king cakes at the bakery! Our little town in Alabama has its own Mardi Gras parade and we have a large contingent of people who relocated here after Katrina and never left. We always do a booming business in king cakes.The only thing I hate is that we are not allowed to bake the baby and coin inside. We give them to the purchaser to put in themselves later. Gotta love Wal-Mart’s lawyers!

Happy Mardi Gras, All !!

Laissez les bon temps roulez, chers!

Amanda McCabe
12 years ago

LOL, Louisa! Yeah, we don’t want any Mardi Gras baby lawsuits. ๐Ÿ™‚ The Target here had what they purported to be King Cakes, but they were just white cakes with purple/green/gold icing.

Louisa Cornell
12 years ago

Oh No! Ours were the real deal with the twisted dough, the cinnamon sugar thick in the folds and we did them plain and with filling. They were iced with white wrap ice and decorated with green, purple and gold sanding sugar. No fake king cakes on MY watch!

Amanda McCabe
12 years ago

I’m glad to hear you are upholding standards for King Cake, Louisa!! Hope you had some fun with the holiday, too. I ended up spending the afternoon making the cake (a challenge to my poor cooking skills), and it seemed to end up well for my party. It’s all eaten up and the Hurricanes consumed, so a lot of hilarity while watching the Olympics and listening to jazz,

(And Johnny Weir’s costume did NOT disappoint, nor did the performance)

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