2016's best Mardi Gras king cakes

January 2016
By: Anne Roderique-Jones, USA Today

The long-standing tradition of eating king cake is rooted in Old World Europe, but eventually found its way to America — specifically Southern states and New Orleans, in particular. Celebrating with this dessert has become the sweetest way to usher in Mardi Gras celebrations. The cake, traditionally a braided wreath of cinnamon-laced brioche dough, is adorned with sugared stripes of green, gold and purple. Inside, the king cake can be filled with cream cheese, fruit or even unique takes on savory elements. But all king cakes include the tiny baby tucked inside, said to represent good fortune — and the responsibility of bringing the cake to the next party.

Here's your guide for where to find the best king cake in time for Mardi Gras 2016.

Willa Jean in New Orleans

The recently opened Willa Jean is the brainchild of Besh Restaurant Group’s executive pastry chef Kelly Fields and pastry chef Lisa White. This year’s version of the king cake is created by chef White and is comprised of two dense rings of homemade cake, each filled with sliced bananas, mascarpone filling and salted caramel sauce, then topped with a praline glaze. The final touch is a sprinkling of edible gold. The $45 dessert can be ordered online and picked up in person, and $1 for every cake sold will be donated to the John Besh Foundation, which provides loans and scholarships to up-and-coming chefs in New Orleans.