A collection of Mardi Gras desserts on wooden boards with king cakes, paczki, and fastnachts with colored beads among them
Foodie Travel,  Holiday Travel,  Syracuse

Celebrate Mardi Gras in Syracuse with Paczki, King Cake, and More Desserts

When it comes to Mardi Gras celebrations, nobody does it better than New Orleans. Or Rio. From festive parades with creative costumes to delicious holiday treats, they sure know how to celebrate. So while a Mardi Gras in Syracuse, New York is going to look incredibly different, we can still enjoy ourselves. And what better way to do it than by having the traditional desserts eaten during Mardi Gras festivities? Keep reading to find out where you can order king cake, paczki, and other pre-Lenten desserts in Syracuse.

Where to Get King Cake in Syracuse

When it comes to Mardi Gras, the most classic dessert people think of is king cake. Why? Maybe because of its signature Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. Or the delicious filling. But it’s probably because of the tiny baby inside.

Yes, you read that correctly. A tiny baby. Well, that’s what it was for many years. Now, most bakeries don’t hide anything inside for fear of a customer accidentally swallowing it or chipping a tooth. But I digress.

King cake actually dates back to the 12th century in France. The iconic cake was used to celebrate the Epiphany, or Twelfth Night. Its circular shape replicates the circular path the 3 Kings traveled. In the earliest king cakes, a pea or bean was hidden somewhere inside the cake. The person who found the treasure in their piece of cake was considered “king for the day”. And it meant they would have good luck in the coming year.

More recent cakes replaced the bean with a tiny plastic baby, symbolizing the Christ child. And the baby adds another significance: the finder has to host the next Mardi Gras celebration.

Keep in mind that a king cake is more closely related to a cinnamon roll or bread than a traditional cake batter cake. It has elements of traditional French pastries mixed with coffee cake. Every bakery creates their own version using pastry cream, jam, nuts, and/or cinnamon sugar.

Order king cake at Brickhouse Cafe

Located in Brewerton, Brickhouse Cafe is a locally-owned, woman-owned bakery that has been operating for two decades. Owner Ginny prides herself on using all-natural, preservative-free food. She also likes to challenge herself to try different traditional baked goods. So she has been making her version of a king cake for years. She takes orders for king cake leading up to Mardi Gras through Easter. The cakes are $25 each and generous in size.

Ginny’s king cakes come in a variety of flavors. Her most popular is an original mix: chocolate, walnuts, and cinnamon. The cafe also sells a walnut-cinnamon variety as well as a nut-free version with golden raisins and cinnamon sugar.

In addition to pre-ordering whole cakes, customers can also visit the cafe to have just a slice.

Buy king cake at Tops Markets

If Brewerton is too far of a hike for you – or you just didn’t think to order one ahead of time – head to Tops. The local grocery chain is known for selling king cakes every year for Mardi Gras. These king cakes are less dense and more bread-like than a typical bakery cake. But at just $8 per cake, it’s a reasonable option. More similar in taste to a bread-y cinnamon roll, these desserts are more of a crowd pleaser with approachable flavors.

Stack of king cakes in plastic container with a price stand

Where to Get Paczki in Syracuse

In comparison, paczki is much easier to find in Central New York than king cake. That is probably due to the large population of Eastern European immigrants. (Like my ancestors!) This traditional Polish donut is made with a richer, denser dough, leading to a fluffier donut. According to Smithsonian Magazine, paczki are a cross between donuts and brioche.

The delectable dessert dates back centuries in Poland, when rich ingredients like milk and butter needed to be used up before Lent began. And although many people celebrate “Paczki Day” on Mardi Gras, Poles originally would make and eat them on Fat Thursday, nearly a week earlier. The most traditional paczki contain a fruit preserve filling and are topped with a thin glaze. But modern paczki can be found in a wide variety of flavors.

Browse the widest variety of paczki at Price Chopper

When I stepped foot into my local Price Chopper this afternoon, I was honestly blown away by the selection of paczki for sale. A large sign in front of the bakery window advertised that paczki were back for the holiday season – and on sale. Typically $5.49 for the 4-pack, they were marked down to $3.99.

The selection had a mix of everything. There were paczki covered with cinnamon sugar, icing, glaze, and powdered sugar. Inside there were fillings of custard, apple pie filling, jams, lemon pudding, blueberries with cream cheese, triple berry preserves, and several others.

Pick up traditional paczki at Wegmans

When it comes to holiday traditional baked goods, there is a good chance you can find it at Wegmans. And the famous grocery chain didn’t disappoint. When I visited today, I found a mix of both glazed and powdered paczki. While the boxes indicated a wider variety of flavors, I was only able to find lemon and red raspberry-filled donuts. I suspect the selection may vary by store depending on customer demand. A box of 4 paczki at Wegmans is $6.

Boxes of paczki and fasnacht at Wegmans for Mardi Gras

Where to Get Fasnacht in Syracuse

Surprisingly, I had never heard of fasnacht until today, when I found them sitting beside the paczki at Wegmans. A quick Google search informed me that these doughnuts are of German tradition. Made with a potato-based dough, fasnacht are heavier and denser than typical doughnuts. They are also a little less sweet, and rectangular in shape. Unlike the other desserts mentioned, fasnacht do not have a filling inside.

Find some fasnacht at Wegmans

Of course New York’s favorite grocery chain would have one of the rarest Mardi Gras treats. I discovered the fasnacht in boxes right next to the paczki varieties. A box of 4 fasnacht was $6, but you could also buy them individually with the other donuts.

Close up of a king cake at Brickhouse Cafe

So how do you celebrate Mardi Gras in Syracuse? Are you more traditional with fruit-filled desserts? or do you prefer the more modern flavor combinations? No matter your choice, it is sure to be delicious.

With Mardi Gras on the brain, you may be itching to plan a trip to New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro. Lucky for you, I’ve been to both! If you’re heading to NOLA, check out these famous cemeteries. And if you’re in Rio, you have to admire the incredible street art.

Tell me your thoughts!