A couple of years ago a friend of mine sent me a King Cake from Rao’s Bakery in Beaumont, Texas around the time of Mardi Gras. Beneath the colorful and sugary purple, gold and green icing was a soft and indulgent pastry dough with a surprise center filling of cream cheese and strawberry. The cake was adorned with a collection of Mardi Gras beads and a shiny plastic baby along with the story of Mardi Gras traditions.
I’ll never forget that first taste of Rao’s King Cake or the experience of opening such an exciting surprise. When I had a chance to visit Beaumont, Rao’s was on the top of my list. The bakery is a Beaumont staple, not just for their quality pastries or the fact that they’ve been in business since 1941, but because Rao’s serves up a dose of social comfort that is unmatched even in their products that are shipped across the country.
Rao’s specializes in decorative pastries, specialty cakes, gelato and it is the morning stop for many Beaumont regulars. During my visit I had the privilege to break bread with owner Jake Tortorice who has owned Rao’s since 1998. He bought it from the previous owners who established a tradition of fine quality pastries that people would travel long distances for just to enjoy. Jake has built on that tradition as evidenced by the creative billboards along Texas highways and the regular tour buses that pull through town just to make a stop at Rao’s for goods to-go.
Jake brought me a sampling of items to go with my premium blend coffee because delicious coffee and pastries just go together. My cinnamon roll looked as picturesque as a print ad for baked goods and it made me truly understand the phrase ‘melt in your mouth.’ That’s because the roll was so soft with a fresh drizzle of warm glaze icing that it actually melted in my mouth. Jake sent me away with a collection of homemade iced sugar cookies that were meant to last in my freezer, but they never made it past a week. There’s something so addictively indulgent in Rao’s pastries that you just can’t help yourself, yet you feel pleased at the decision to take just one more bite.
While the pastries and the warm welcome at Rao’s are all part of the appeal, the company is most known for its Kings Cakes that are made around the time of Mardi Gras each year. Rao’s turns out thousands of King Cakes – big ones, little ones, strawberry crème cheese, blueberry cream cheese and even a chocolate option called the Voodoo.
Rao’s is so focused on your experience when you eat their pastries that Jake personally quality tests the shipped cakes regularly to make sure they arrive fresh and are visually pleasing with all of the accoutrements that make the excitement of opening such a gift so much fun. Rao’s is a must-experience if you plan to visit Beaumont, Texas or if you plan to be anywhere near the southeast region. In the meantime, you can get your Rao’s fix by ordering online at raosbakery.com.
For information on attractions and things to do in Beaumont visit the Beaumont CVB.