The history of Ambrosia Bakery’s distinctive Zulu King Cake

Twenty-three years ago, Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club wanted a signature king cake. The historically black krewe parades through the streets of New Orleans each year, its members wearing grass skirts and tossing signature coconuts to revelers. It’s a colorful and unique tradition that was in need of an equally memorable cake.

The krewe approached Ambrosia Bakery in Baton Rouge for the job, and the king cake experts whipped up a brand-new take on the well-loved Mardi Gras dessert: the Zulu King Cake. The custom confection features a dense, sweet dough loaded with chocolate chips and cream cheese, topped with a fudgy chocolate sauce and shaved coconut.

“It’s heavy. It’s thick. It’s exactly what Mardi Gras [is] when it comes to the Zulu tradition,” Ambrosia owner Felix Sherman Jr. says.

Though it’s a decadent deviation from the classic cinnamon-filled or wildly popular fruit-filled king cakes, Sherman estimates the Zulu is Ambrosia’s third-highest seller during Carnival season, behind only the cinnamon and strawberry cream cheese-filled versions. Customers still haven’t lost their “I’ve got to try that!” fascination with the Zulu King Cake, and Ambrosia bakes them for local balls and parties and even ships them across the country.

Being a signature cake at Ambrosia is no small honor. The beloved bakery’s king cakes are so famous they’re featured in French children’s textbooks to illustrate Louisiana’s Mardi Gras customs. A spot on Ambrosia’s lineup of best-sellers makes the Zulu King Cake a Louisiana treasure. ambrosiabakery.com

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This article was originally published in the February 2017 issue of 225 Magazine.