Martha Gilreath made her name in baking with king cakes and is taking a big new step at her new bake shop. (Contributed photo)

Every Carnival season sends me scurrying between the old and the new, with my love of the classics and a keen curiosity for what new creations are making their debut.


 Tastee Donuts replicates the old McKenzie's king cake recipes, and uses the old store's logo.

This season I have my eye on a harvest of new bakeries, including two with opening dates still coming down to the wire as I write this.

Bearcat Baked (726 Julia St., 504-513-4994) opened in December in the Warehouse District, as the bakery café and coffee program from Bearcat Café (845 Carondelet), which has one of its wildly popular restaurants locations just around the corner.

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New Orleans baker Cat Colby-Pariseau shows her affection for an oven-fresh loaf of bread at Bearcat Baked on Julia Street. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, | The Times-Picayune)

This finally gives baker Cat Colby-Pariseau a dedicated home base. That means she can ramp up a production of the marvelous, if very unconventional, churros king cake she has made for the past few seasons in makeshift space at the restaurant.


Churros king cake from Bearcat in downtown New Orleans.

This essentially bends the idea of churros (those sticks of fried pastry dough) into a king cake shape, with cinnamon and sugar and ridges of crunch that are a joy to untangle.

Across town in Faubourg St. John, Nolita (3201 Orleans Ave.) is preparing to open in the same spot that had previously been Mayhew Bakery.

This new bake shop is from Martha Gilreath, who has made her mark with king cakes at pop-ups and through King Cake Hub.

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King cake from local baker Nolita follows the classic form and adds a bit of citrus to brighten the flavors. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, | The Times-Picayune)

Her king cake is a classically beauty, one inspired by the McKenzie’s classic in texture and form, and adds a gentle twist of citrus with orange blossom water and satsuma zest. Nolita's king cakes are also available at King Cake Hub this year.

Uptown, the former Beth Biundo Sweets is now home to Mae’s Bakeshop (3917 Baronne St.), which is expected to open shortly.

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Jeremy Fogg, with his banana bread king cake, created his Mae's Bakeshop during the pandemic after working as pastry chef at Emeril's. (Contributed photos by Randy Krause Schmidt)

This is the first standalone location for Jeremy Fogg, former pastry chef at Emeril’s who started this brand pop-up style in the pandemic. He has a unique riff on king cake I tried last season.

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Mae's Bake Shop makes a monkey bread king cake by special order, to finish at home yourself with icing and candy beads. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, | The Times-Picayune)

It's king cake monkey bread, with the quilted warmth, crunchy top and a soft interior of monkey bread. It all pulls apart into pillowy, aromatic puffs of dough, just like monkey bread should. Mae's takes pre-orders for its king cake here.

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Betty Archote (center) with staff at Dough Nguyener's Bakery, the bakery cafe she developed in Gretna combining Vietnamese and American standards. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, | The Times-Picayune)

Across the river in Gretna, Dough Nguyener’s (433 Lafayette St., Gretna, 504-581-8255) has already established itself as a king cake brand over the past few seasons; this will be the first with its own bakery café as a dedicated production facility and retail spot.

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The Parisian king cake from Dough Nguyener's Bakery has a filling based on the Vietnamese iced coffee ca phe sua da. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, | The Times-Picayune)

Last year, this Vietnamese bakery introduced a king cake called the Parisian, which is made from croissant dough and bears a more-than-passing resemblance to the much sought-after Dong Phuong king cake. This one, though, gets a filling based on ca phe sua da, the Vietnamese iced coffee.

As ever though in Carnival, sometimes the highlights of the season are what you never saw coming, that surprise waiting around the corner. So I’ll have my eyes peeled and my sugary paws ready.

At the same time, a parallel joy of Mardi Gras is enduring tradition, and the old school styles will have plenty of room at the party too.

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