King cakes aren’t shy. They pop off the plate in a parade of neon yellow, purple and green sprinkles. The resulting sugar rush feels just as loud. It’s Mardi Gras in a dessert.
And that’s why we love them, begrudgingly retreating to our office kitchens for another slice we promise will be our last.
Melodie Reay’s approach is a little more refined. The Rosch Bakehaus co-owner’s brioche and rye puff pastry cakes are canvases for experimenting with seasonal flavors and unexpected ingredients.
“I totally love and respect the tradition,” Reay says. “But there’s so much of the traditional flavor. And I really love playing around with flavors. So why not just just play around and make it a bit more fun?”
Fresh farmers market strawberries and pink peppercorns from Red Stick Spice Co. were the inspiration for a Balsamic Roasted Strawberry, Mascarpone and Pink Peppercorn king cake.
Rosch’s Raspberry Rose Frangipane king cake is dotted with fuchsia rose petals. Its purple, green and gold sugars are pigmented not with artificial food coloring but with beets, matcha and turmeric.
The cakes are dainty, delicate and downright gorgeous.
It’s the kind of culinary experience you’d expect from an artist—and Reay’s background is, fittingly, ceramics. She’s an assistant gallery director at Glassell Gallery and an adjunct ceramics professor at LSU.
So of course she found a way to marry her two favorite mediums: She makes porcelain babies customers can add to their king cake orders.
Reay bakes from her Garden District galley kitchen. The first thing she and co-owner James Osborne did when they moved into their house last year was install a baker’s bench in the middle of the tiny kitchen.
Reay handles most of the baking these days, as Osborne is busy with grad school.
She bakes with the seasons: flower-studded cocoa truffles for Valentine’s Day, springy shortbread cookies for Mother’s Day, rich cookies and stollen breads for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then back to Mardi Gras again.
King cake flavors rotate throughout the season, with limited weekly pickups at Glassell Gallery and pop-up events. When Rosch posts its weekly menu on Instagram, the cakes sell out quickly.
And as beautiful as its cakes are, the bakery isn’t afraid to get wild. In a photo from last season, a port wine and cherry king cake is splattered with icing and dark chocolate. Its caption reads: “I’m a hot mess, but I’m a good time.”
It’s Mardi Gras in a dessert. roschbakehaus.com
TRY THEM ALL
Rosch Bakehaus favorites that may return this season:
• Raspberry Rose Frangipane
• Balsamic Roasted Strawberry, Mascarpone and Pink Peppercorn
• Dark Chocolate, Pistachio and Halva
• Apple Rosemary with Bourbon Salted Caramel
• Chocolate Lavender with Earl Grey-steeped Blueberries
• Traditional Galette De Rois with rye puff pastry, frangipane and homemade fruit preserves
This article was originally published in the February 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.