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New Orleans native’s sweet tradition funds a church program

January 27, 2019

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Every January, a New Orleans native brings one of her favorite traditions from The Big Easy to life. The custom connects Jenifer Cameron to her Louisiana home and raises money for Mobile Meals, which, she said, is icing on the cake.

The King Cake.

Cameron has been baking and selling the sweet treat to aid her church’s Mobile Meals program since 2011.

“This was a way to create my own Mardi Gras celebration,” she said to The Oklahoman , laughing.

King Cake is a traditional indulgence eaten from around the festive time of Epiphany or Three Kings Day through Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras Day/Carnival.

Epiphany, generally observed on Jan. 6, is the Christian celebration of the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi or Three Kings.

Cameron describes King Cake as an oval-shaped sweetbread that is a cross between a coffee cake and a French pastry.

She began the annual King Cake project when she was a member of Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church. Cameron and a group of Mobile Meals volunteers made the cakes — one year as many as 500 — in the church’s tiny kitchen annually until last fall, when the Midwest City house of worship closed its doors because it needed costly repairs.

As a longtime Mobile Meals volunteer, Cameron worried that the church closing would affect the program that provides meals to older residents in the community.

She was also concerned about the fate of her annual King Cake fundraiser. The benefit raises money to help supplement and enhance the meals provided to about 125 older neighbors in need and had allowed the church to buy them Christmas gifts and food items traditionally eaten during the holidays.

Cameron was elated when St. Matthew United Methodist Church welcomed her and many members of Douglas Avenue United Methodist into the congregation. The church’s leaders were thrilled to get behind the Mobile Meals program and the King Cake fundraiser.

Cameron said they moved five commercial freezers, a commercial double oven, two commercial refrigerators and one commercial ice machine from their former church to their new church home in October.

Now, the baking has begun.

The Rev. Wendy Perceful is St. Matthew’s associate pastor and wife of the church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Ron Perceful.

She said the church quilter’s group and a youth Sunday School group had to make accommodations for Cameron and the Mobile Meals program but that everyone involved sees the many ways people are blessed through the meal ministry.

“Everybody has been so good because we all agree that this ministry is important. We serve more than 100 people each week and we don’t want people to go without,” she said.

Cameron and her group of volunteers began baking King Cakes shortly after the New Year and will continue for the next month or so.

During a recent baking session, Cameron rolled out the dough for a King Cake, while volunteers like Donna Bassham and Norene Tinsley took cakes out of the oven.

Janet Fryar drizzled white icing over a cake that had cooled while Wilma Hendon sprinkled an already-iced caked with colored sugar in Mardi Gras hues of green, purple and gold.

Cameron said the group makes sure each cake comes with some Mardi Gras beads, a short flier about the history of King Cakes and, of course, a baby.

The plastic trinket in the form a baby — representing the Christ child — is typically hidden inside the treat, and the person who finds it is dubbed king or queen for the day and may be obligated to hold a festive gathering, according to tradition.

Volunteer Bassham said the bakers don’t want to harm anyone who might unknowingly swallow or bite into the baby trinket so each cake comes with the baby on top.

Looking on as the bakers settled into their routine, Perceful smiled. She said the fundraiser is a fun way to start the New Year with the church’s new members.

“I think it’s been a good fit. They are a wonderful group and we’re thrilled to have them,” she said.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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