Well, 'tis the season for king cakes and on the 8th day of Carnival season, I have already sampled almost as many king cakes. OK, well actually only 5 but I've certainly had at least 8 slices.
January 6th: First day of the season. I went to a party on the 4th where a king cake was present but I DID NOT EAT IT because it's blasphemy to eat king cake before Three Kings Day. Anyway, the 6th found me in Metry so I picked up a cream cheese-filled cake from Manny Randazzo's. (They had already run out of the pecan one I wanted). Their medium was pretty large but $17 for plain and $23 for cream cheese had me scratching my head a little. $6 add on for cream cheese? It was pretty skimpy on the filling too. Anyway, I liked the soft, tender cake, good icing, meager filling. It was good but I'd never pay that much for a king cake again that, to me, was just middle of the line.
January 11th: Saints vs the Seahawks. We went to a friend's house to watch the game, eat oysters and drink champagne. Minus the football part, that's pretty much my perfect day. King cakes from Sucre and Haydel's were featured. Now my dear friend works at Sucre and last year she told us they changed their recipe (I was glad, I previously thought it too dry). It was pretty much perfection in my book. On Saturday she reported that the recipe underwent another tinkering, I think last year's was better. Why mess with a good thing??? But she brought two and one didn't even get cut into so I did not protest when she told me to take it home. It really benefited from a 10 second warming in the microwave. The one from Haydel's was not filled, usually kind of boring to me, but it was so tender and perfectly (not too) sweet.
January 12th: Dropped in at a friend's house during a beautiful Sunday afternoon bike ride (to counteract all the king cake!). I spied a king cake from newcomer Gracious bakery. They only make one kind with a chocolate-cinnamon filling. The chocolate was dense and delicious but I tasted nary a bit of cinnamon. The cake was dry and dull as day old bread. No matter how good the filling is, I detest this bread-esque cake.
January 13th: Coworkers eating king cake at 7:30 this morning. We have 50 days left of king cake season I worry for all of our waistlines. Anyway, for the sake of journalistic integrity, I ate a piece. This one was a La Louisiane, apparently they don't have a retail bakery anymore but you can pick them up at a few places around town, including Sam's of all places. This is another traditional, unfilled king cake and it was pretty good, considering I prefer a ribbon of cream cheese or a smattering of candied pecans to liven things up.
Verdict: So far, Haydel's was my favorite, with Sucre running second. Hmm, or maybe Randazzo's. Gracious was definitely dead last. La Louisiane was good but when you've got the $8 Rouse's king cake to compare to, everything else just seems grossly overpriced.