Mardi Gras, New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl make for king cake ‘perfect storm’

Michael Tortorich
Shown clockwise from foreground are Renae Jackson, Jamie Simoneaux and Joyce Munguia as they prepare king cakes at Ralph’s Market. The crew turns out over a thousand king cakes per working day.

Brandon Accardo walked into the Ralph’s Market in Gonzales Wednesday to fill a request for king cake.

The Prairieville resident had just become a father the day before and he wanted to show his appreciation to the staff at Womans Hospital for a job well done.

When asked what the request was, the staff agreed on a king cake from Ralph’s.

Accardo said he stopped by the store to pick up the gift because he knew Ralph’s had a location close to his home.

When Ralph’s owner Ronnie Trosclair heard Accardo’s story, he paid for the good deed by giving the new father two freshly-made king cakes for free.

With a pat on the back from Trosclair, Accardo walked out of the store with a brimming smile on his face.

King cakes have been in high demand across the area this Mardi Gras season, Trosclair said.

Aside from the normal demand this time of year, plenty of customers are stocking up on the sweet treats for Super Bowl parties.

Trosclair said Ralph’s, which also has stores in Burnside and Baton Rouge, sets itself apart by using a unique process to prepare king cakes.

The Gonzales store may look like a modest corner grocer where Hwy. 44 and Hwy. 931 meet, but it is the home to a cake-making operation that is turning out more than 1,000 king cakes a day this Mardi Gras season. The store produces more than 5,000 king cakes a week.

“We can’t keep them out there,” Trosclair said.

If they were able to put out 10,000 boxes, customers would scoop them up, he added.

“It’s unbelievable,” manager Brett Wederstrandt said.

In order to keep up with the work, at least seven or eight employees make king cakes.

The process involves rolling and stuffing dough, putting in real fillings, baked, iced and brushed.

The finished product weighs more than two pounds.

“We don’t slack at all,” Manager Jason Jenkins said after explaining the steps of the process.

“We don’t take short cuts, we make the best we can make,” Trosclair added.

EATEL also did a television segment to air locally on the king cake operation. Host Jenny Heroman took a tour of the facility and even tried her hand at making king cakes.

Not only are the cakes flying off the shelves locally, but they are also shipping boxes out of Ascension Parish.

“One lady bought 12 and sent them to Arkansas, another bought 45 that went to Jackson, Miss.,” Trosclair said. “We mail hundreds a week.”

One family shopping Wednesday said they planned to send a couple of king cakes to their sons in Kentucky.

From Mardi Gras and New Orleans Saints “Who Dat” cakes, the store is also putting out heart-shaped cakes for Valentine’s Day.

The crew even experiemented and learned the New Orleans style of braiding the cake. They learned the technique from employees who hailed from the Crescent City area.

Getting ready for the Super Bowl and Fat Tuesday has kept crews working both day and night.

The managers said customers have been lining up at the door every morning before the store opens.

“It’s just been a perfect storm,” Trosclair said.

Ralph’s Market owner Ronnie Trosclair looks over a batch of king cakes.