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Rich king cake tradition rooted in...

Rich king cake tradition rooted in Paul’s Pastry of Picayune

By: Courtney Ingle - February 16, 2023

The Mississippi-based shop goes through about 300,000 pounds of ingredients during Mardi Gras season each year.

King Cakes are a staple of the Mardi Gras season. Originally, the king cake was made with a Danish dough and a cinnamon filling, but like many traditions, king cakes evolved to suit all kinds of tastes. 

Many of those tastes evolved thanks to Paul’s Pastry Shop in Picayune. 

“We have the largest selection of king cakes in the United States,” said Sherri Thigpen, owner of Paul’s Pastry Shop. “We’re trademarked as the Home of the Fruit and Cream Cheese Filled King Cakes.” 

Thigpen said the sturdier sweet bread that is used for their cakes is what really helps in providing a plethora of different styles and flavors for their king cakes. Since the rebirth of the king cake in their shop in 1972, the concept has been shared with bakers all across the country. 

“We feel like we’ve really helped to change from making the same thing to innovating this new king cake,” said Thigpen. “It’s something that’s different, but still good.” 

King Cake itself has a rich history that spans far beyond finding that plastic baby baked inside and getting to buy the next cake.

“It is a little plastic baby, but I think it used to be a bean,” said Thigpen. “And it goes back centuries. There’s been different things put in the king cakes over time.” 

The king cake is meant to honor the three kings, or the three wise men who visited with the baby Jesus following His birth. It is designed in a circle, which is meant to represent the route the men took to visit with the Christ Child in order to throw off King Herod, who wanted to kill the Baby. 

Traditionally, king cakes are decorated with the colors green, yellow and purple, representing faith, power and justice respectively. 

Traditions honored and traditions made 

These timeless traditions are still honored at Paul’s Pastry Shop – and those getting a king cake shipped to them get to be part of that history in a hands-on way. 

“When you get your king cake, you’ll have a packet with directions, the different toppings, and the icing,” said Thigpen. “You can decorate it to your liking with as little or as much of the sugar topping and almonds as you’d like.”

This not only adds another layer of control and options with your king cake order, it’s also fun to do with the kids. Leaving the toppings for you to add also means your cake is still firm and fresh when it arrives. 

“We ship all over the United States,” said Thigpen. “You can order your cake, and we’re also in some local stores, like Ramey’s.” 

Paul’s Pastry Shop enjoys an 11,000 square foot facility that handles all parts of the cake-making from start to finish, from the mixer to getting loaded onto the UPS truck. 

“We go through about 300,000 pounds of ingredients during Mardi Gras season,” said Thigpen. 

The highly customizable king cakes at Paul’s boasts different fillings from the traditional cinnamon to raspberry amaretto and different toppings, if you’re looking for something a little less traditional. 

“Our Chantilly king cake is one of our most popular right now,” said Thigpen. “It’s one third blueberry, one third strawberry, and one third raspberry, all over cream cheese for the filling. Then more cream, blueberries and strawberries on top.”  

For those looking for something a little more on the savory side, you’ll have to take a trip to Picayune on a Saturday morning and get ahead of the crowd because during Mardi Gras season, king cake is absolutely a lunch item. 

“On Savory Saturdays we have spinach and artichoke with mozzarella king cake, chicken and sausage jambalaya with cheese and herbs king cake, and savory boudin with garlic butter king cake,” said Thigpen. “And they go fast. People start coming in as soon as the doors open, and we sell them all very quickly.” 

Paul’s Pastry Shop king cakes are available year-round and for any occasion and customizable. For more information about Paul’s Pastry Shop, visit them on Facebook or click here

About the Author(s)
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Courtney Ingle

Courtney Ingle is a veteran journalist with more than a decade's worth of experience in print, radio, and digital media. Courtney brings her talents to bear at Magnolia Tribune to cover family-centered education and to elevate those unique aspects of Mississippi culture.