Bakeries Now Providing King Cake Trinkets On The Side Because No One Likes A Lawsuit

There are only a few foods in which it is acceptable to find artfully hidden non-food items, Cracker Jack being one and the traditional king cake, with a trinket baked inside waiting for the finder and soon-to-be anointed “king” lying in wait. But because the idea of a choking lawsuit is never a pleasant one, many bakeries are now providing the prize on the side.

Eschewing fun for safety, many chefs are selling plastic or ceramic king cake trinkets — often shaped like babies — separately from the pastries themselves, reports the Wall Street Journal.

King cakes are usually shared on Jan. 6, with whoever ends up biting the trinket inside getting dubbed the king or queen for the year during the feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. Sometimes a paper crown is also included for the new royalty, making the whole thing prime fun for the younger set.

And therein lies the chance for choking on small objects in food. While the king cake or galettes des rois, as it’s known in France, might not be widespread in the United States, New Orleans natives have adopted the tradition as well, using a green and purple Danish confection as the cake instead of an almond puff pastry.

“The tradition isn’t well known at all here,” said the U.S. bakery manger for Maison Kayser, a French bakery group that bakes the trinket into galettes in other countries but not here.

She says that as of starting business in 2012,some people were confused to find favors inside the cakes. “People were like, ‘What is this thing doing in my cake?’ ”

While nonedible items aren’t allowed in confections in the U.S. — just try to get a Kinder Suprrise egg — the Food and Drug Administration “has not taken any enforcement action or issued any regulatory requirements specific to king cakes.”

“Any decision by the FDA to take enforcement action is guided by, among other factors, the agency’s assessment of the public-health risk presented by the particular food and the resources and tools available to the agency,” it said.

But although some bakeries are leaving the trinkets out, others are pretty sure their customers know what they’re getting and will continue to hide favors inside.

“All of our customers know there is a charm hidden inside,” says the executive assistant at New York-based François Payard. Staff know to inform customers of the charms, which this year are fridge magnets. That you are not supposed to eat, reminder.

The Surprise in Your King Cake Might Be No Prize at All [Wall Street Journal]