The article traces the evolution of the king cake, originally the Twelfth Night Cake, in New Orleans from the mid-nineteenth century into the early twenty-first century. Drawing on newspaper reports, literary accounts, and oral history interviews, the king cake emerged as a means of identifying royalty within Carnival organizations during Reconstruction. These so-called krewes aligned with white supremacist political and paramilitary groups to overthrow Radical Republican rule. In the twentieth century, bakeries democratized the king cake as it became increasingly available to all social classes, especially as tourism emerged as a vital local industry in the interwar years. McKenzie's Bakery chain adapted various ethnic traditions of placing a trinket, bean, or pecan in the cake, popularizing the now ubiquitous plastic king cake baby during the mid-twentieth century. Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the king cake and its baby have come to symbolize rebirth and the preservation of local traditions.