Friday, February 3, 2012

Memories of Drake's Cakes

Hostess is in bankruptcy -- that's the news that spread throughout the media.  Even Brian Williams announced the Twinkie emergency on the NBC Nightly News.  Sure, I'm concerned about Hostess, although I generally prefer their cupcakes and other chocolate covered treats over the traditional Twinkies.  But, frankly, I'm more concerned that the possible demise of the venerable Hostess empire would bring down another brand that only recently became entwined into their corporate structure.

I speak of Drake's Cakes.  Some of you will know the name, others will not, but Drake's Cakes is loved by those of us who grew up in the east.  While Hostess had the Ding Dong, Drake's had the Ring Ding.  Hostess had the Ho-Ho, Drake's had the Yodel.  Hostess had a big fruit pie, Drakes had a package of two, sugar glazed squares of fruit pie dreaminess.  Yes, the Drake's Apple Pie is my favorite: a 400+ calorie package of sweet memories wrapped in a paper sleeve.  I know they're not good for me, but when I taste them, I feel good. I think of an earlier time.

Years ago, on Route 46 in New Jersey somewhere between Denville and Mountain Lakes, there was a Drake's thrift bakery.  This was when the Drake's company was owned by the Borden people. My mom would take me shopping there and we would search for bargains on boxes of snack cakes, each marked by a broad swipe of a magic marker, the color of which would indicate the discount price.  Baskets of individually wrapped cakes would be sold in bulk lots of 10.  And sure, we would also buy some bread.  They sold bread there, too.

We had a large freezer in the basement, so the impending expiration dates never scared away my mom.  And, in my house, in those days before we all thought about what we were eating, the snacks never stayed around all that long anyway.  For me, Drake's Cakes will always make me think of those days in the 1970's and early eighties.  

In 1984 I left for Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, or in snack cake geography, I suppose it was in Hostess or Little Debbie territory. I know we had access to Pop-Tarts.  I'm pretty sure there weren't any Drake's Cakes in the Dominick's grocery store (soon after I arrived there was no Dominick's grocery store either, as it was torn down to make way for a Northwestern research complex).

Shortly after my arrival, I received a large package from my parents.  In it was a little piece of home.  Actually, there were a lot of pieces of home - in the form of Drake's Cakes.  Apple Pies, Ring Dings, Yodels, Coffee Cakes, Yankee Doodles Sunny Doodles, you name it.  Our Norwegian-inspired modern oak dormitory bunk beds had two drawers side-by-side beneath the bottom bunk.  Mine was filled with snack cakes, which I happily shared with my new friends.  I know this may seem like some sappy commercial, but these Drake's cakes and pies were both a link to my past, and a way to make friends for the future.  It was like my parents thought they were smuggling in a carton of cigarettes into prison and I could use the contraband like cash.

A few years ago, the Drake's brand was bought by Hostess, which surprised me when I first saw the two logos side by side on an Apple Pie.  

I always imagined the two bakeries at war - to see them on the same package was like the thought of seeing Dave and Jay hosting a new version of "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes" together.  But, I unwrapped the paper and took a bite and the pie tasted the same.  It tasted just like it did in 1984 in the two-blue suite lounge in East Fairchild Hall at Northwestern University, only this time, I paid full retail price.  

When I heard about Hostess filing for bankruptcy, I picked up a box of pies to take another trip back to school.  The Drake's name, once again, is emblazoned on the box by itself, the Hostess name appearing only in fine print on the box.

I guess other Drake's loyalists had similar reactions seeing the dual logo.

Hostess people, if you read this, I hope your restructuring is successful. Do whatever you need to do, just save Drake's cakes. It's the closest thing I know to time travel.


  1. Always love the Drake's fruit pies commercials that had doowop feel.

  2. I hope Drake's stay around. They are one of a small group of treats from the 70's and 80's that are still around. I might have to buy a box and keep it as a souvenir (after I eat the goods ofcourse)!