By Marielle Songy, Mid-City Messenger
king cake center is back this year at the Zony Mash Beer Project and will kick off the Carnival season with a party and parade.
The seasonal popup is a one stop shop for king cakes. Local bakeries ship a daily supply, so lovers of Carnival confections, or anyone shopping for a king cake for their workplace, have a wide variety of fresh options in one place.
King Cake Hub was founded in 2019 by Will and Jennifer Samuels. The couple first tried the king cake business with their own king cake at their La Dolce NOLA ice cream parlor on Metairie Road in 2011.
When Will died of esophageal cancer in September 2021, Jennifer knew she would carry on with King Cake Hub as it was such a big part of the couple’s lives.
The Samuelses continued to sell King Cakes after La Dolce NOLA closed, initially out of their restaurant, Pizza NOLA. They then moved to share space with Artz Bagels on Magazine Street. They found success there, but were forced to go to “Plan C” when Artz Bagels filed for bankruptcy.
Will Samuels had the idea to sell King Cakes from multiple bakeries in one location. So the Samuelses made a list of all the king cakes they wanted to include, a list that has grown every year since.
The first incarnation opened at The Mortuary, on Canal Street, near the cemeteries, on the site of the seasonal haunted house.
When the owners of The Mortuary decided they wanted to try hosting a Christmas-themed haunted house, King Cake Hub moved to The Broad Theatre. The Hub operated here in 2021 while the theater was forced to close due to Covid restrictions.
When the Covid restrictions were lifted in 2022, Jennifer began looking for a place big enough to hold the king’s cakes and the crowds looking for them. So, she approached the owners of the Zony Mash brewery in hopes of getting a set up in the tavern.
The owners did better and allowed him to use the space next to the tavern facing Broad Street. With plenty of space, light and, most importantly, parking.
King Cake Hub 2022 was a success, with over 60 different king cakes from various local bakeries including Bittersweet Confections, Breads on Oak, Brennan’s, Bywater Bakery, Caludas’s, Cannata’s, Caywood and Randazzo Bakery, Hi Do Bakery and many more.
This year, he’s taking the celebrations up a notch with a King’s Pie Countdown Celebration Party at Zony Mash Tavern, 3940 Thalia St., on Thursday (January 5).
It will feature music by the Soul Project and the first Mardi Gras Monarch Parade. The party is from 9 pm to midnight, when revelers will welcome Carnival with the first king cake of the season.
Contestants Katrina Waters, Debbie with a D and Aiden Abette will compete in the pageant, which will include an interview, a Carnival-themed challenge and a costume competition. Then, at midnight, the newly crowned monarch will cut and share the first slices of the royal cake with all the royal subjects.
“We always place a premium on selecting someone to cut that first ceremonial piece of the king’s cake, so I thought we should have a contest,” Jennifer Samuels said. “We want to be able to eat king cake as soon as midnight hits.”
Professor Carl Nivale and Grand Marshal Marty Graw will present the pageant, which will feature various dance troupes including El Lucha Krewe, Sassyracs and Voulez Krewe.
As part of the celebration, Zony Mash will launch its 2023 King Cake Stout and Southerns food truck will serve fried chicken.
On Friday (January 6), King Cake Hub will officially open at 8:30am as Josh Paxton plays Carnival favorites in the beer garden and Hey! Coffee sells coffee. A new addition to the Hub, Paw Paws Donuts, will be serving king cake donuts.
More than 70 different king cakes will be presented at the Center throughout the season. Can’t get to the Hub? A collaboration with d’Livery allows you to get your king cake without leaving home.
The King Cake Hub pop-up will also return to The Shop at Historic New Orleans Collection at 520 Royal Street for a second year. The Shop will host a kick-off party on January 6 at 9:30am with DJ Eureka Starfish.
“We installed ourselves in the New Orleans Historical Collection last year and people loved it,” Samuels said. “They have a really nice gift shop with local stuff and they clear some space to feature a rotating selection of king cakes.”
King Cake Hub at Zony Mash will be open daily from Kings Day, January 6, through Lundi Gras, February 20.
Hours: 8:30 am until stocks last.
King Cake Hub at Zony Mash
1464 S. Broad St.
Reporter Marielle Songy can be reached at [email protected]