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A royal idea: From king cakes to shrimp vol-au-vent, Dianna Hankey helps the good times roll


Dianna Hankey of New Hope shows one of her homemade king cakes she takes orders for and delivers. The former owner of The British Pantry makes a wide variety of dinner items, desserts, breads and specialties, including wedding cakes.

Dianna Hankey of New Hope shows one of her homemade king cakes she takes orders for and delivers. The former owner of The British Pantry makes a wide variety of dinner items, desserts, breads and specialties, including wedding cakes.
Photo by: Kelly Tippett


Dianna rolls her sweet bread dough into long sections she’ll fill with cream cheese, then braid together, to form a king cake.

Dianna rolls her sweet bread dough into long sections she’ll fill with cream cheese, then braid together, to form a king cake.
Photo by: Kelly Tippett



Jan Swoope



No Mardi Gras celebration would be complete without a king cake. But, there are cakes, and then there are Dianna Hankey''s cakes. The British expatriate''s fresh, sweet bread pastry is plump with luscious cream cheese filling, brown sugar, cinnamon, sugary icing and colorful sprinkles. And those are the "plain ones." 


Hankey is the former proprietor of The British Pantry in New Hope, a thriving business she closed in anticipation of her husband''s expected transfer from Columbus Air Force Base. Fate intervened, however, and Columbus is still fortunate to have the Hankeys.  


Dianna, who now works from her home, earned a degree in catering and catering management in her native England. She''s lived in America since 1989 and in Columbus since 1999.  


"Making a king cake from start to finish is a four-hour event for me, because I make everything from scratch," she explained in her charmingly accented voice. Her Carnival cakes, which each feed about 15 people, have become popular for businesses to give as gifts to clients. One customer ordered 20 for Mardi Gras 2010. 


"Last year I did about 50 total, so you can imagine," she smiled. "Some days I''m in the kitchen 15 hours." 




Fit for a king 


After making the dough, Dianna rolls it out into three long sections, filling each section with cream cheese, brown sugar and cinnamon. After sealing the edges, she braids the sections together, forming a circle. After baking and cooling, each cake gets the royal treatment with sweet icing and sprinkles in Mardi Gras colors -- gold (for power), green (for faith) and purple (for justice). 


Oh, and she doesn''t forget to add the traditional trinket. In this case, a small plastic baby signifying good luck to the person who ends up with that piece of cake. In New Orleans, where Mardi Gras celebrations are a way of life, finding the trinket usually means you host the next Carnival party, too. 


"Some people really like different fillings in their king cake," said Dianna, who has a variety of ways to make the pastry unique, including using hazelnuts and chocolate, and adding flavors with strawberries or blueberries.  


An added bonus is that Dianna delivers to most locations in and near Columbus at no extra charge. 


Actually, she makes -- and delivers -- everything from rigatoni or quiche to petit fours and wedding cakes on a regular basis.  


Her "special of the week" may be, as it is this week, shepherd''s pie, fresh rolls and chocolate cheese cake brownies, all for $20, delivered. Or perhaps a customer needs a groom''s cake, a homemade apple pie, sausage rolls, chocolate covered strawberries or green olive bread.  


Maybe your child at the Mississippi School for Math and Science is homesick and could use a pick-me-up. Or your elegant occasion needs something special, such as the puff pastry appetizer, shrimp vol-au-vent. Dianna proficiently handles it all; her culinary repertoire is extensive and always expanding. 


"I love to create new things. People love food, and they love something different. I like to give my customers a variety of things that maybe that haven''t tried before, or maybe something from another country," said the energetic cook who grows her own herbs and seeks out fresh ingredients. 


That energy is a necessary commodity. The week before school let out for Christmas, she made 84 apple pies. At Valentine''s, it was "crazy in there all day." And king cake orders are flowing in. But the reward of taking care of her customers feeds Dianna''s culinary passion. 


"I love it, I love it; it''s brilliant for me. It''s about making my customer happy and producing a good product," she said. "That''s exactly what I want." 


When March 8, Fat Tuesday, arrives celebrate with a king cake, or perhaps one of the Mardi Gras-ready recipes in today''s pages. However you do it, find a way to, as they''ll be saying in New Orleans, "laissez le bon temps rouler" -- let the good times roll.  


(Editor''s note: Dianna Hankey may be contacted at 662-240-0226 for more information about items available.) 






Serves: Eight 




6 cups water 


2 teaspoons salt 


1 1/2 cups grits 


1/2 cup butter 


Three eggs, well beaten 


16 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese 


Two to three cloves garlic, finely minced 


Cayenne pepper to taste 




  • Bring water and salt to a rolling boil; gradually stir in grits with fork. Cook, stirring constantly, until all water is absorbed. Stir in butter a tablespoon at a time; stir in the beaten eggs, working quickly so eggs will not cook before thoroughly blended into the grits, then stir in the shredded cheese, garlic and a little cayenne pepper.  


  • Put into a greased 2 1/2-quart casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour and 15 to 20 minutes.








Makes four to five dozen 




One envelope active dry yeast 


1 1/2 cups warm water (approx. 105 degrees) 


1/2 cup granulated sugar 


1 teaspoon salt 


Two eggs, beaten 


1 cup evaporated milk 


7 cups all-purpose flour 


1/4 cup shortening, softened 


Oil for deep frying 


Powdered sugar 




  • In large bowl, sprinkle yeast over the warm water; stir to dissolve and let stand for five minutes. Add sugar, salt, beaten eggs and evaporated milk. Whisk or use electric mixer to blend thoroughly.  


  • Add 4 cups of the flour; beat until smooth. Add shortening; gradually blend in remaining flour. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least four hours or overnight.  


  • Roll out on floured board to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 2 1/2 to 3-inch squares. Deep fry at 360 degrees for two to three minutes until lightly browned on both sides.  


  • Drain on paper towels and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Serve hot with coffee.  


    (Dough can be cut and frozen, separated in container with waxed paper.)









Cook time: 40 minutes 


Serves four 




Two cans red kidney beans (15 ounces each) 


Three slices bacon 


One large onion, chopped 


1/2 cup chopped celery 


One small bell pepper, chopped 


2 tablespoons chopped parsley 


1/2 cup chopped green onions, with tops 


2 tablespoons ketchup 


1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 


One jar (2 ounces) chopped pimiento 


One can (8 ounces) tomato paste 


1 teaspoon chili powder 


1/2 pound Polish sausage, sliced, if desired 




  • Fry bacon and crumble into kidney beans. Sauté vegetables in the bacon drippings.  


  • Cook until vegetables are wilted. Add beans and remaining ingredients.  


  • Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve over rice.


Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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Reader Comments

Article Comment vicshepardnrs commented at 3/8/2011 2:49:00 AM:

This is wonderful.Thank you for taking effort in posting the article.


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