As journalist Lauren J. Mapp grew up in Massachusetts, visits from family members were intertwined with Entenmann’s treats like coffee cake, chocolate-covered donuts, and raspberry Danish twists. If enough people were in town or “seriously” craving sweets, the spread would sometimes include all three.
“Almost every time my Uncle Ron came to visit me from Vermont, he brought one of those chocolate fudge frosting cakes,” Mapp recalled. “After a while we had established a strong association between him and the cakes, so we wrote a song about it – and by ‘we’, I’m pretty sure it was just my uncle who wrote it – and we just sang every time he came.”
The song’s lyrics were simply a continuous loop of “Uncle Ronnie’s big one / He’s bringing us chocolate cake!” At some point, Uncle Ronnie was hoping to transition into “He makes us chocolate cake.”
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“But he literally never baked a cake,” Mapp said. “I just picked up Entenmann’s cake every time.”
When Uncle Ronnie’s wife Donna died, Mapp was unable to travel across the country for the funeral. So she sent her mother some money and asked her to bring Uncle Ronnie one of those chocolate cakes from Entenmann.
There’s something about the Entenmann candy brand that evokes comfort and nostalgia among Americans like Mapp. The bakery behind the nationally beloved brand began in 1898 in Brooklyn. Founder William Entenmann was a German immigrant whose early door-to-door delivery routes (of which Frank Sinatra was a customer in the 1950s, receiving a weekly coffee cake) extended to the placement of premium grocery stores across the country.
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Charles Entenmann, William’s grandson and the last of three brothers involved in the family business, died on Tuesday aged 92. In an interview with The New York Times in 1976, he said the family business survived competition because “we stuck to quality and developed ways to control quality.
He added, “The two millionth piece of cake not only has to be good, it has to be as good as the first.”
This consistency has allowed Entenmann’s baked goods, of which there are more than 100 varieties ranging from cakes to donuts, to become an integral part of family traditions. Some of the baked goods were, to borrow a line from comedian Sebastian Maniscalco’s 2012 stand-up special “What’s Wrong with People?”, corporate-only. However, others were cornerstones of childhood snacks and celebrations.
Kurt Suchman, who lives in Seattle, remembers marble bread cake with a swirl of moist chocolate and yellow cake being constantly available in their house growing up.
“I associate Entenmann with my childhood, primarily, and growing up,” they said. “It was such a pleasure to go to the Entenmann outlet near my home and see rows of baked goods.”
Cincinnati’s Sarah Morgan similarly associates Entenmann with growing up.
“Every childhood birthday, my parents would put the candles in the chocolate-covered yellow cake donuts for my brother and me,” she said. “By the time we passed 18, there was a huge fire hazard and we had to make piles and get creative. But it’s a tradition I plan to do for my kids. in the future.”
For New Yorker Seth Friederman, the taste of Entenmann’s chocolate-glazed donuts is a reminder that his father has returned to live with him and his brother. From age nine until Friederman moved out at age 18, there was a box of these donuts in the fridge.
“Then when I visited, there was often a box of Danish cheese or donuts,” Friederman said. “He was the only person I know who kept these donuts in the fridge. It made their texture more solid and the chocolate not at all messy, even on a hot day.”
Friederman suspects his father’s parents also ate these donuts in the 1930s and 1940s at their home in Garfield, NJ
“They meant something special to him,” Friederman said. “He had them with coffee – and always a little smile.”
After more than a century of activity, the brand created by William Entenmann is still integrating into the American family fabric. Writer Sarah Walker Cannon remembers spending summers in Connecticut, where she and her family would try every variety of coffee cake, one by one, on weekends.
“These days, I’m the adult in the house,” she said, “and Entenmann’s products are still part of my family.”
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