As much a symbol of Mardi Gras as beads and masks, the king cake is Fat Tuesday's most famous treat. It's more like a cinnamon-laced bread than a cake, and some king cakes have fruit, nut or cream fillings. The ring-shaped cakes are decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors, and come with a small plastic baby figurine baked in the cake -- a symbol of the Epiphany, and the holiday's religious roots. Whoever gets the slice with the baby in it is responsible for buying next year's king cake.
Many hardcore Mardi Gras revelers order king cakes directly from New Orleans. But for the rest of us, local restaurants and bakeries have stepped up with large and small cakes, available for dine-in or takeout on or before March 4.
Bayou Bakery: Louisiana-raised chef David Guas' cake has a cream-cheese filling, and comes with Mardi Gras beads. Orders must be placed 48 hours in advance. $39.95. 1515 N. Courthouse Rd., Arlington. 703-243-2410. bayoubakeryva.com
Pearl Dive: Individual-sized king cakes, $8, will be on the restaurant's dessert menu March 1-4. Five of the dine-in mini cakes that weekend will have a baby figurine hidden inside, which entitles its finder to a Pearl Dive gift certificate. Otherwise, you can order an 11-inch king cake by March 1, to be picked up March 3 or 4. $30. 1612 14th St. NW. 202-319-1612. pearldivedc.com
Firehook Bakery: The bakery's several locations offer a $25 king cake, but instead of the baby being baked into the batter, it's on top of the tricolor cake, so you can hide it yourself. Multiple locations. firehook.com
Buzz Bakery: Place your orders through March 1, and you'll get Tiffany MacIsaac's brioche king cake with pears, almond cream, sour cherries and cream cheese. Alas, there won't be baby figurines in these cakes. The 10-inch cakes, $35, can be picked up on March 3 or 4. Multiple locations. buzzbakery.com
Menu MBK: Individual-sized king cakes here are made by pastry chef Jason Gehring, formerly of Astro Doughnuts. They'll be for sale in the market through Fat Tuesday. $4.50 each. 405 8th Street NW. 202-347-7491. menumbk.com
Sticky Fingers: Order ahead for your king cake at this vegan bakery, which will make the dessert available beginning March 1. Instead of a baby, a dried bean is the surprise inside. $12.50. 1370 Park Rd NW. 202-299-9700. stickyfingersbakery.com