Jan. 6, better known as Epiphany or the Twelfth Day, signals the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Carnival. More importantly, Epiphany is the traditional start of king cake season. From Jan. 6 to Fat Tuesday, delicious cinnamon-swirled or fruit-filled rings of cake iced with the traditional purple, green and gold fill every bakery display and grocery store in southern Louisiana.
Though not every Louisiana resident is familiar with the king cake’s impressive history or symbolic meaning, all of us know its iconic taste and appearance. For those unfamiliar with the seasonal treat, every king cake, from the original Galette des Rois to the classical New Orleans cinnamon-filled cake, comes with a tiny hidden catch: a plastic baby.
Unfortunately for students, every free slice of king cake encountered on campus comes with the risk. The person who finds the baby hidden inside the cake is traditionally required to bring in the next king cake.
Prices for a grocery-store king cake, like one from Rouses, range from $7.99-$20.99, depending on size and filling, and those are considered the cheap cakes. The even more delicious and highly coveted cakes from bakeries like Manny Randazzo King Cakes, Haydel’s or Dong Phuong in New Orleans, cost even more.
The majority of full-time students at the University are either unemployed or work only part-time jobs. With students already expected to pay enormous expenses for tuition, textbooks, parking passes, housing, utilities and food, how could anyone in good conscience ask a university student to buy a cake because of a little plastic baby?
Tradition is important, especially in southern Louisiana, but students should not be forced to take part in the custom if it is a financial burden. While the anticipation of finding the baby makes eating king cake that much more exciting, excitement isn’t worth risking $20 on a cake of which you’ll only get to eat a small slice.
LSU students are admitted to sporting events free of charge and are often given free t-shirts or food just for attending University sponsored events, so the precedent already stands. Any LSU-affiliated department or organization which follows the tradition of weekly king cakes should give special dispensation to currently enrolled students. The decision would relieve students of this burden so we can all enjoy the dessert freely.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course, so students who feel financially stable and eager to provide a slice of Mardi Gras-flavored happiness are encouraged to contribute to the king cake supply on campus so that all LSU students can have their cake and eat it, too.
Marie Plunkett is a 20-year-old classical studies junior from New Orleans.