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King cake from Bayou Bakery
Bayou Bakery specializes in the food of Louisiana, like this king cake.
Bayou Bakery/Facebook

Where to Find the Best King Cakes in D.C.

It’s the next best thing to celebrating in New Orleans

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Bayou Bakery specializes in the food of Louisiana, like this king cake.
| Bayou Bakery/Facebook

All hail the king cake. Beads may not rain from Mardi Gras floats during Carnival in Capitol City as they do in New Orleans, but D.C. bakes up an impressive variety of king cakes—from the traditional French galette des rois to the ring-shaped brioche version emblematic of Carnival season in the Big Easy.

Carnival begins on January 6 (Three Kings Day) each year and lasts until Fat Tuesday, which falls on March 1 this year. According to king cake tradition, the sweet dessert isn’t unleashed until Three Kings Day, and it promptly disappears when Fat Tuesday gives way to Ash Wednesday. All this is to say: There is a very limited time to eat all the king cake available in the D.C. area.

Remember that whoever finds the plastic baby, porcelain fève, or fava bean (a symbol of renewal) in the king cake is both royalty for the day and also responsible for the king cake at the next party. With D.C.-area eateries offering flavors like traditional almond, matcha yuzu, pistachio, and Bavarian cream, there are enough varieties to keep the king cake parties going all season long.

New to king cake? Check out Eater’s king cake primer.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Fresh Baguette

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This tidy bakery takes its king cake cues from the French galette des rois, showing off the puff pastry version of king cake instead of the brioche-based king cake. Indulge in the most traditional variety of this puff pastry dessert filled with almond cream and a splash of rum, or delight in the one filled with apples and salted caramel. Both cost $29.80 and are available at all three locations (Rockville, Bethesda, and Georgetown). Pre-order on the website.

A galette des rois with apple caramel filling from Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette fills a galette des rois with an apple caramel filling.
Fresh Baguette official

Praline Bakery & Bistro

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Available only until the end of January, Bethesda-based Praline Bakery bakes a flaky, sweet galette des rois. The 12-inch round cake follows French tradition with an almond frangipane filling. In lieu of a plastic baby (popularized in New Orleans in the mid-20th century), this bakery again holds tight to French tradition and hides a tiny porcelain fève in this king cake.

Bread Furst

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This James Beard Award-winning, Old World-style charmer in Van Ness joins the king cake races for the first time this year with a sweet brioche king cake laced with rum-soaked fruit and nuts. Fruit and nuts in king cake go all the way back to when the Romans added the hole to what was previously a round cake. This made it look more like a crown: The fruit and nuts represented the jewels in the crown. The $42 cake is available from February 28 through March 2. Order by calling the bakery at (202) 765-1200.

 

Le Diplomate

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The classy French bistro known equally for the presidents and “Real Housewives” who dine there doesn’t cut corners with its French galette des rois. With flaky pâte feuilletée (puff pastry) and rich, almond frangipane, the Carnival classic is only available until January 30. Order a whole cake by calling the restaurant at (202) 332-3333 or save room for dessert when dining in and order a slice to finish the meal.

Un je ne sais Quoi...

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Opened by French expats, this petite bakery near Dupont Circle knows a thing or two about the French galette des rois and demonstrates this with four different fillings on offer: traditional almond frangipane, pistachio, matcha yuzu, and apple. Each serves six people and runs between $33 and $36. Order online or by visiting the bakery.

Dauphine’s

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Kristen Essig spent a couple decades living and cooking in New Orleans—long enough to eat her fair share of king cakes—before arriving in D.C. to helm Dauphine’s. The lauded chef will celebrate Mardi Gras at the Louisiana-inspired restaurant with a a rotating list of five different flavors of a brioche-based version of the emblematic dessert: classic, Bavarian cream, spiced apple, chocolate satsuma, and banana praline. To try all of them, head to happy hour at the restaurant’s bar for the king cake kick-off on Wednesday, January 26 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Each full king cake comes with a ceramic fava bean created by local artist Material Things. King cakes are available for pick-up from January 27 through the end of February. 

Baked & Wired

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Georgetown’s hit bakery might have built its brand on colossal cupcakes, but starting in February Baked & Wired will unleash a nutmeg-spiced vanilla king cake brightened with a sweet, citrusy glaze and topped with a purple, green, and gold sanding sugar. In keeping with what everyone already loves about this sweet shop, a cupcake version will also be on offer.

Baked & Wired king cake
Baked & Wired spices its king cake with a hint of nutmeg.
Image courtesy of Baked & Wired

Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe

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This long-running Arlington bakery and deli has been serving authentic, European baked goods since 1975. Owner Wolfgang Büchler and team bake up a fluffy yeast dough king cake with diced fruits, raisins, and nuts before topping it with fondant icing green, purple, and yellow sugar. Each $12.95 cake serves six to eight people.

Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe king cake
Heidelberg’s king cake include fruits and nuts mixed into the dough.
Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe Official

Bayou Bakery

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If D.C. crowned a local king of Louisiana cuisine, New Orleans native David Guas would sit on the thrown. For a dozen years, he’s has been churning out Crescent City classics like sugar-topped beignets and dark, rich, soul-warming gumbos at his award-winning Arlington bakery. During Carnival season, Bayou Bakery serves up a Danish-style king cake ($45; 12-16 servings) stuffed with sweet and tangy Creole cream cheese and topped with fluffy, white icing and purple, green, and gold sugar. Go big and spring for a Mardi Gras “party in a box” ($150) with beads, masks, boas, doubloons, hurricane cocktail mix, and a Mardi Gras murder-themed mystery game. You supply the hangover.

A piece of king cake with yellow sanding sugar from Bayou Bakery
Bayou Bakery offers Mardi Gras in a box a king cake, beads, cocktail mix, and more.
Bayou Bakery/Facebook

Fresh Baguette

A galette des rois with apple caramel filling from Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette fills a galette des rois with an apple caramel filling.
Fresh Baguette official

This tidy bakery takes its king cake cues from the French galette des rois, showing off the puff pastry version of king cake instead of the brioche-based king cake. Indulge in the most traditional variety of this puff pastry dessert filled with almond cream and a splash of rum, or delight in the one filled with apples and salted caramel. Both cost $29.80 and are available at all three locations (Rockville, Bethesda, and Georgetown). Pre-order on the website.

A galette des rois with apple caramel filling from Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette fills a galette des rois with an apple caramel filling.
Fresh Baguette official

Praline Bakery & Bistro

Available only until the end of January, Bethesda-based Praline Bakery bakes a flaky, sweet galette des rois. The 12-inch round cake follows French tradition with an almond frangipane filling. In lieu of a plastic baby (popularized in New Orleans in the mid-20th century), this bakery again holds tight to French tradition and hides a tiny porcelain fève in this king cake.

Bread Furst

This James Beard Award-winning, Old World-style charmer in Van Ness joins the king cake races for the first time this year with a sweet brioche king cake laced with rum-soaked fruit and nuts. Fruit and nuts in king cake go all the way back to when the Romans added the hole to what was previously a round cake. This made it look more like a crown: The fruit and nuts represented the jewels in the crown. The $42 cake is available from February 28 through March 2. Order by calling the bakery at (202) 765-1200.

 

Le Diplomate

The classy French bistro known equally for the presidents and “Real Housewives” who dine there doesn’t cut corners with its French galette des rois. With flaky pâte feuilletée (puff pastry) and rich, almond frangipane, the Carnival classic is only available until January 30. Order a whole cake by calling the restaurant at (202) 332-3333 or save room for dessert when dining in and order a slice to finish the meal.

Un je ne sais Quoi...

Opened by French expats, this petite bakery near Dupont Circle knows a thing or two about the French galette des rois and demonstrates this with four different fillings on offer: traditional almond frangipane, pistachio, matcha yuzu, and apple. Each serves six people and runs between $33 and $36. Order online or by visiting the bakery.

Dauphine’s

Kristen Essig spent a couple decades living and cooking in New Orleans—long enough to eat her fair share of king cakes—before arriving in D.C. to helm Dauphine’s. The lauded chef will celebrate Mardi Gras at the Louisiana-inspired restaurant with a a rotating list of five different flavors of a brioche-based version of the emblematic dessert: classic, Bavarian cream, spiced apple, chocolate satsuma, and banana praline. To try all of them, head to happy hour at the restaurant’s bar for the king cake kick-off on Wednesday, January 26 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Each full king cake comes with a ceramic fava bean created by local artist Material Things. King cakes are available for pick-up from January 27 through the end of February. 

Baked & Wired

Baked & Wired king cake
Baked & Wired spices its king cake with a hint of nutmeg.
Image courtesy of Baked & Wired

Georgetown’s hit bakery might have built its brand on colossal cupcakes, but starting in February Baked & Wired will unleash a nutmeg-spiced vanilla king cake brightened with a sweet, citrusy glaze and topped with a purple, green, and gold sanding sugar. In keeping with what everyone already loves about this sweet shop, a cupcake version will also be on offer.

Baked & Wired king cake
Baked & Wired spices its king cake with a hint of nutmeg.
Image courtesy of Baked & Wired

Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe

Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe king cake
Heidelberg’s king cake include fruits and nuts mixed into the dough.
Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe Official

This long-running Arlington bakery and deli has been serving authentic, European baked goods since 1975. Owner Wolfgang Büchler and team bake up a fluffy yeast dough king cake with diced fruits, raisins, and nuts before topping it with fondant icing green, purple, and yellow sugar. Each $12.95 cake serves six to eight people.

Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe king cake
Heidelberg’s king cake include fruits and nuts mixed into the dough.
Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe Official

Bayou Bakery

A piece of king cake with yellow sanding sugar from Bayou Bakery
Bayou Bakery offers Mardi Gras in a box a king cake, beads, cocktail mix, and more.
Bayou Bakery/Facebook

If D.C. crowned a local king of Louisiana cuisine, New Orleans native David Guas would sit on the thrown. For a dozen years, he’s has been churning out Crescent City classics like sugar-topped beignets and dark, rich, soul-warming gumbos at his award-winning Arlington bakery. During Carnival season, Bayou Bakery serves up a Danish-style king cake ($45; 12-16 servings) stuffed with sweet and tangy Creole cream cheese and topped with fluffy, white icing and purple, green, and gold sugar. Go big and spring for a Mardi Gras “party in a box” ($150) with beads, masks, boas, doubloons, hurricane cocktail mix, and a Mardi Gras murder-themed mystery game. You supply the hangover.

A piece of king cake with yellow sanding sugar from Bayou Bakery
Bayou Bakery offers Mardi Gras in a box a king cake, beads, cocktail mix, and more.
Bayou Bakery/Facebook

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