Today, sugar fiends everywhere will descend upon bakeries for their first king cake of 2015. The treat is offered each year to mark the Epiphany -- aka when the Three Wise Men visited Baby Jesus -- except this year it might be missing something crucial: (plastic) Baby Jesus.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the practice of stuffing king cakes with plastic baby dolls has been coming to a halt in recent years due to paranoia over lawsuits. Traditionally, the desserts have always come with a hidden "baby" or other trinket to signify luck in the new year. The finder of the favor earns all the goodwill, and also often a paper crown, because they are now king. (Talk about a screwy electoral system.) But that magic toy has become especially difficult to come by in US bakeries. You might think it's because of the FDA, since their regulations technically forbid non-edible items in sweets -- that's why we can't have Kinder Eggs -- but even the feds have been reluctant to crack down on king cakes. Instead, experts are placing the blame on lawyers. People like Poppy Tooker, radio host of "Louisiana Eats," say most bakers are afraid they'll get sued over the choking hazard and are either offering the prize on the side or not at all. A few brave pastry chefs across the nation are sticking to tradition, but just to be sure, you may need to BYO baby to the king cake party this year.
Kristin Hunt is a Food/Drink staff writer for Thrillist, and has never had king cake, but is now holding out until she can get one with a baby. Follow her at @kristin_hunt.