Cake consumption in my childhood home revolved around the classic Jewish bakery triumvirate – Ebinger’s, Sara Lee, and Entenmanns.
While I don’t come from a family of bakers, I do come from a family who loves their cakes. And danish, doughnuts and coffee rings.
My mother Betty was a devotee of the mid-century culinary school of Quick & Ez Does It. This is why most of our baked goods came out of boxes and not the oven.
Ebinger’s Bakery The Best In Baking
Whether coming or going bringing dessert to a family occasion was always a cake purchased from a bakery in a box.
For years that meant only Ebingers the storied holy grail of Brooklyn bakeries that vanished in 1972. For a former Brooklynite like Betty, Ebinger’s cake in the pale green box with brown crosshatching tied with red and white string (the string always saved later to be put in a junk drawer ) was the gold standard.
Their heavenly black-out cake the rich chocolate layer cake, named for the wartime blackouts, filled with dark chocolate pudding, frosted with dark fudge, and dusted with chocolate cake crumbs was legendary and no competitor could come close.
Watching the female clerks box a cake in the shop was a marvel. No one could do it faster than those speed demons forever known as “Ebinger girls” despite the fact these women were likely in their 70s.
Cakes For the Masses -Trust Your Own Good Taste
But the other two cake mavens were the real day to day dessert workhorses
While there was always a buttery Sara Lee pound cake in the family freezer, a delicious dessert that could be defrosted in a few hours in case of unexpected guests, a supermarket fresh Entenmanns was always at the ready.
Two or three of those familiar white and blue rectangular box’s with the recognizable cursive “Entenmann’s” logo saying “originated 1898” and a drawing of an old-fashioned horse and delivery wagon could always be found on my parent’s Formica kitchen table.
Inside the cardboard box inevitably rested a well-used knife that stayed there until the cake itself was finished and the last of the chocolate frosting licked off the utensil.
Looking through the cellophane window allowed you to preview what kind of delectable cake or cookie lay in the box whetting your appetite. That simple innovation of a see-through cake box invented by Martha Entenmann in 1959 distinguished Entenmann’s from its competitors on the supermarket shelves.
For many years Entenmann’s was New York’s own, a metro area institution until an enterprising Charles Entenmann the grandson of the man who founded the company as a small bakery in Brooklyn turned his family’s Bay Shore Long Island bakery into a national brand of boxed cakes and deserts.
In fact, it was Charles who was responsible for getting those always fresh tasting crumb cakes, coffee rings, apple turnovers, and chocolate cake with fudge frosting, into the supermarkets and into your bellies.
Which is why when the recent death of Charles Entenmann was revealed online this past week, a flood of memories were shared on social media. The very name conjures up so many feelings.
Just like Ebingers, Entenmanns started as a little corner bakery in Brooklyn in 1898 by a German immigrant delivering rolls and bread.
But in 1905, for health reasons William Entenmann moved the company’s factory to Bay Shore, Long Island. Charles Entenmann along with his brothers and mother expanded the business across the region following the 1951 death of his father. They then phased out bread delivery routes becoming a wholesale operation supplying baked cakes and pies to grocers on Long Island.
There was a time when the only way to enjoy cake was either baking your own or going to a bakery. Ebinger’s like most bakeries relied on daily freshness. Cakes were handmade for a 24-hour shelf life, which by the 1960s couldn’t be reconciled with the economic realities of modern life.
While Ebinger’s demise is often attributed to the growth of the suburbs as people fled Brooklyn for Long Island and the realities of mass production, Entenmanns owed its success to that very phenomenon and their ability to produce consistent quality products through automation.
The expansion of suburbs and the growth of supermarkets catapulted Entenmanns and their cakes jumped off the shelf.
Everybody’s Got a Favorite
Today that Entenmann’s tradition continues in my home though it is my husband Hersh who is the fan.
Along with the glazed little donut holes known as “pop’ems,” there is always a box of Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookies in my house. Those impossibly soft cookies studded with semi-sweet -never-milk chocolate-chips washed down by a tall glass of cold milk is a nightly ritual for him. To truly transport Hersh back to his childhood, an addition of Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup is added to the creamy beverage to make rich chocolate milk to wash down the cookies.
Happily, Entenmanns continues to make sweet memories. And the very best raspberry Danish Twist with white icing.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.