There's many a king cake flavor available this year at Whole Foods, which provided us with three of the newer ones to sample. "There are different flavors of king cake? I thought it was just sort of like apple pie," said one of my coworkers when I brought them into work. He also went on some tangent about a post-Mardi Gras-party king cake gorge-fest, in which he and some buddies each ate an entire king cake and had purple and gold nightmares for weeks. But that is beside the point.
I set up an old-fashioned taste test at my office and let my 25 or so coworkers decide which one they would rather stuff their face with after having one too many hurricanes.
The flavors were berry Chantilly, cinnamon and praline. Yes, all of them had the traditional baby, but it was included on the side so we could insert it ourselves. They don't come baked in because Whole Foods is concerned that someone might choke on the plastic doll. (Actually, I might have a few coworkers I hope that would happen to...)
I set all three out in the kitchen and asked people to vote on their favorite. At the outset, all three were way better than your average grocery story king cake. Most of the time, the cake part of a king cake is super-dry and almost inedible, but in this case, it was actually really, really flavorful and could've stood on its own. Thankfully that wasn't necessary because there was filling -- delicious, delicious filling.
The berry was my least favorite, as I felt the tartness of the filling needed something like cream cheese to balance it out a little bit. It also was the least popular among my coworkers and only received two votes.
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The cinnamon was tops in my book and had way more spicy goodness than most king cakes. It wasn't to the level of Cinnabon, but it was good enough to sub in for coffee cake at breakfast. Cinnamon finished a distant second in the voting, though.
The runaway winner of this contest was the praline king cake. While it wasn't what I was expecting at all, it was pretty great. The gobs and gobs of flowing filling didn't exactly taste like pralines I've had in the past, but tasted and felt more like pecan pie, which isn't a bad thing at all. The Whole Foods bakers didn't skimp on the pecans, either. Praline received 17 votes, and the tabulations were scientific, except for the fact that Eric "Big E" Cormier voted for all of them.
The king cakes run between $10.99 and $12.99 and, of course --because it's Whole Foods, baby -- are all natural. You can also get them in raspberry cream cheese, cream cheese and chocolate.