As long as I've lived and breathed, the only King Cakes I and my family have enjoyed have been those from Haydel's Bakery. Part of it is the Haydel's are family friends. They're wonderful people who pour their hearts into the most delectable pastires. We love supporting them. The other part is that their King Cake are simply the tastiest. Growing up in New Orleans, I'd had others at school and parties and none were nearly as good. It's part of our tradition during the Mardi Gras season to order a few, but this year my parents suggested we try someplace new. In the spirit of the season we agreed. Ordering one from Manny Randazzo's, my parents sent us our King Cake. There were some guilty feelings involved (it felt as if we were cheating), but there was a definite thrill in trying something new.
Ulitmately it arrived, we opened it, cut slices, and tasted our first Randazzo's King Cake. We couldn't help but compare. Randazzo's smelled exactly like Haydel's. Exactly. It was encouraging and certainly helped whet our appetites. But this is where the similarities ended. Where Haydel's has a beautiful powedering of purple, green, and gold sugars layered atop their iced cakes, Randazzo's used a sparse array of sprinkles. Haydel's icing seems to be the right amount: it's just enough to create a sticky coating for the sugars to attach. Randazzo's was so heavy and thick it was falling off the King Cake as I tried to plate it. The biggest difference, however, and the most important was the taste. Initially, and this surprised us, the taste was similar. Even with the different toppings, the actual cake initially tasted just like Haydel's~it was very good. But there was an after taste we did not expect; a slight lemony flavor. I enjoy lemon in lemon dishes, but not in King Cake.
My mother called to ask how we enjoyed our Randazzo's, and which one I would like sent for my birthday in two weeks. Without any hesitation I replied Haydel's. Randazzo's was fine, and I am glad we tried a different King Cake. But after four days our Haydel's was gone. Five days after receiving the Randazzo's only three slices have been cut. There is no competition.
If you want a King Cake during the Mardi Gras season (or in the off-season), order Haydel's. You'll delight in every bite!