Oh my, are those the sweet lumps of a bead-hungry parade-goer? No, they are Paczki (PUNCH-key), the plump Polish donuts that will magically turn you into one if you eat too many of them. They are eaten year round but are scarfed up especially on Fat Tuesday as the decadent parcels they are before the days of Lent. They are filled with jam, and the ones seen here are filled with cherry and plum (the real stuff, not a matte-finish polymer goo).
I researched king cakes again this year, an oval braided ring-shaped cake with garishly bright decorations in the Mardi Gras colors green, gold, and purple. I am interested in the community spirit of it. King cakes are shared in groups like most cakes and there is a trinket hidden in its crumb, usually a baby (representing the baby Jesus). Whoever gets this piece assumes responsibility for the next gathering and cake. It used to be that the trinkets were baked-in porcelain figures or penny-dolls, but these days liability requires most to have a plastic baby inserted after baking. I would love to see some of those old ceramic ones.
Perhaps there are king cakes to be had somewhere in New York, but there are definitly paczki. I found these at the tiny Polish bakery Rzeszowska on Manhattan Ave. in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Watch out for these hard sugar figurine-weapons that are starting to be prominently displayed. Come Easter, they can be unwrapped and flung to inflict pointy, adorable springtime traditionalism.