BEAUMONT, Texas – Over in the southeast side of our state, you’ll find a melting pot of people that not only have Texan traits but also a sprinkle or two of creole seasoning. It’s also a great place to find these two cultures represented in local cuisine. That’s why we stopped by a bakery known for their king of cakes.
Every night for over 20 years, Pancho Rodriguez punches in at 11 p.m., but it’s not a time clock he’s worried about. It’s the amount of dough he has to dish out.
Throughout the night, Pancho prepares a smorgasbord of sweet treats that will delight as their devoured here at Rao’s Bakery in Beaumont. But there’s only one cake that rules them all in this neck of the woods, the King Cake.
Jake Tortorice took over Rao’s in the late 90’s but the man who was born and bred in Beaumont remembers coming by the bakery that’s been open since 1941 during his childhood.
“There was some days I would walk home and I would walk here first and if I had 10 or 15 cents I could buy me a brownie,” Jake said. “And then I’d continue walking home. And that was kind of the way it went. And that’s how I became a fan of Rao’s.”
Today, Jake and his son Josh run a few of these golden triangle traditions. The original location in downtown is still near and dear to their hearts but it’s not just the history that warms up their old oven, it’s the sweet and simple fact that people come here to sprinkle some sweetness into their lives.
“I’ve never once seen anybody eating a desert, whether it be gelato, whether it be cookies, a cake, or whatever, that was mad,” Jake said. “It takes you away from that moment of maybe you’ve been thinking about something. It’s heavy on you, and now you’re having a desert and all that’s out the window.”
And nothing is more synonymous with this confectionery then King Cake. A Mardi Gras tradition that’s available all year round at Rao’s.
“Widely regarded in Texas as the king of the king cakes,” Josh said.
Dating back nearly 300 years, the King Cake is usually enjoyed around Mardi Gras and celebrates the three wise men. Purple is for justice gold depicts power while green represents faith. As for the baby hidden inside the cake, well that represents baby Jesus.
“If you get the baby your king for the day, but you’re also required to buy the next king cake,” Jake said.
Traditionally king cakes are flavored with cinnamon, but at Rao’s their baking all kinds of different flavors ranging from strawberry cream to voodoo (their special chocolate king cake).
The traditional king cake is still Rao’s best seller, and is out of this world.
“It’s not cinnamon seasoning it’s a cinnamon smear,” Josh said. “It’s real thick, real gooey, you know. It’s got the cake and butter and all that just mixed up together with a little cinnamon.”
The cake is really flaky and soft, and no matter what flavor you try you’re sure to find Rao’s is well worth the stop on The Texas Bucket List.
So the next time you want to Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler right here in the Lone Star State a King Cake from Rao’s in Beaumont is a tres bien way to celebrate Fat Tuesday any day of the year.