As Mardi Gras approaches you may ask yourself, what is Fat Tuesday and what does it have to do with Mardi Gras? Well, Fat Tuesday actually is Mardi Gras. Mardi is the French word for Tuesday while Gras is the French word for fat. Fat Tuesday is celebrated on the day before Lent and is always the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.
In New Orleans, Mardi Gras is a legal holiday and always occurs 47 days before Easter, which means it is a fluctuating date like Easter and occurs on a Tuesday between February and March beginning on or after Epiphany and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday. In New Orleans, Fat Tuesday is traditionally celebrated with parades organized by Carnival krewes. The float riders toss colorful beads, doubloons (aluminum or wooden dollar-sized coins), throw cups and small toys.
Fat Tuesday is celebrated by indulging in gluttonous amounts of rich fatty food which is typically creole food, drinking, and sometimes participating in sinful behaviors before fasting. Other customs associated with Fat Tuesday include wearing decorative masks and costumes, parades and dancing. Those celebrating Fat Tuesday wear the official colors for Mardi Gras: purple, green and gold. The official colors were chosen in 1872 by the King of Carnival, Rex. The color purple represents justice, the color green stands for faith, and the color gold stands for power.
For two centuries Fat Tuesday has been an annual event in New Orleans, with the exception of during the two World Wars.
King Cakes are a big part of Mardi Gras tradition, with the orgins dating back to the Feast of the Twelfth Night, which honors the three kings present at the Christ child's birth. In modern day Mardi Gras celebration tradition, the person who gets the “lucky” piece of cake with the baby doll inside, will throw the next party or simply buy or make the next King Cake. Hurricane Cocktails are a traditional drink in New Orleans in general, but particularly during Mardi Gras.
Check out these delicious recipes below:
Recipe courtesy of DrinksMixer.com
- 1 Oz white rum
- 1 Oz Jamaican dark rum
- 1 Oz Bacardi 151 rum
- 3 Oz orange juice
- 3 Oz unsweetened pineapple juice
- 1/2 Oz grenadine syrup
- Some crushed ice
- Combine all ingredients, mix well (shake or stir). Pour over crushed ice in hurricane glass.
- Garnish with fruit wedge if desired.
This recipe, provided by Wayne Everard, formerly the Archivist in the Louisiana Division/City Archives, gets my vote for the best tasting King Cake.
If you like, you can replace the sour cream with yogurt, either plain or vanilla, to lighten the taste and calories. Other decorating options:
Divide the icing into three portions and use food coloring to make purple, green and gold icing. Spread in alternating bands along the length of the cakes.
Use purple, green and gold gumdrops, jelly beans, or other candy to decorate the white icing.Ingredients
The Dough Ingredients
- 4 packages active dry yeast
- 1/2 Cup lukewarm water (110-115 degrees F)
- 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1/2 Cup cold milk
- 1 Cup plain or vanilla yogurt
- 2 Tsp lemon juice
- 1 Tsp vanilla extract
- 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 1 stick butter or margarine
- 5-6 1/2 Cup(s) all-purpose flour
The Filling Ingredients
- 1 stick butter or margarine, melted
- 2 Cup(s) granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 2 dried bean, shelled pecans, or naked plastic babies
The Icing Ingredients
- 3 Tbsp soft butter or margarine
- 4 Cup(s) confectioners sugar
- 1 Tsp vanilla or almond extract
- 4-6 Tbsp milk
- Combine the yeast, 1/2 of the sugar, and the lukewarm water in a very large bowl, stir well and set aside for a few minutes until the mixture swells slightly and small bubbles appear on the surface. Stir in the remaining sugar, milk, yogurt, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Add egg yolks and mix again.
- In another bowl, work the butter/margarine into 5 cups of the flour.
- Add the flour-butter/margarine mixture to the yeast mixture a cup at a time, mixing well after each cup is added. Begin to knead in the bowl, adding more flour if necessary to make a smooth, elastic dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 5 minutes, adding more flour if the dough is still sticky.
- Shape the dough into a ball and place in a bowl which has been buttered or sprayed with a no-stick spray. Cover and let stand in a warm place until dough doubles in size.
- Punch dough down and divide in half. Roll each half on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 8 x 14 inches. Brush each rectangle with 1/2 stick of melted butter or margarine. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle 1/2 of the mixture over each rectangle. Roll up from the wide end, as you would a jelly roll, inserting one of the dried beans, pecans, or naked babies along the way. Press the ends of the dough together and stretch the roll into an oval about 14 inches long. Place on a greased/sprayed cookie sheet and allow to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.
- Bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 35-45 minutes until the cakes are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped with the fingers. Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes.
- Beat the butter or margarine until softened. Add confectioner's sugar and vanilla and continue to beat, gradually adding milk until a glaze consistency is achieved. Use half of the icing on each cake.
- Spread the icing evenly over each cake and decorate immediately with granulated sugar that has been rendered purple, green and gold with food coloring, making alternating bands of color.