Drake's is a baking company in New Jersey owned by the Interstate Bakeries Corporation that makes cakes such as Yodels, Devil Dogs, Yankee Doodles, Sunny Doodles, Ring Dings, Funny Bones, and coffee cakes. Drake's is located in Wayne, New Jersey. Their mascot is a smiling duck, wearing a chef's hat and neckerchief, holding a spoon.
Origin and history
The company's founder, Newman E. Drake baked his first pound cake in Brooklyn in 1888 and sold them by the slice. Popularity increased, and soon, a whole line of cakes was produced, and the company's operations eventually spread to 13 states, from Maine to the Washington, DC area, and also Florida. This remote presence was because of the many people from the north who retired and moved to Florida; especially Jews. Drake's were at one time perhaps the only kosher cakes on the market; as most other bakers used lard (rendered hog fat), and even beef tallow, (even though beef itself is kosher, fat is still forbidden under kosher laws). In New York City and New England, Drake's became perhaps the most popular snack cake, rivaling national brand Hostess. In New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania they also rival that area's popular Tastykake brand. However, they remained largely unknown outside of these areas. They were, however, made known across the country by TV talk show host Rosie O'Donnell's expressed fondness for them; she served the cakes to her audience members. At one point in the past, a legal conflict erupted, when Hostess began producing a cake that looked like Drake's popular "Ring Dings", and even named it "Ding Dongs". Hostess ended up having to change the name of this cake to "Big Wheels" in areas in which Drake's cakes were sold.
By the 1980s, Drake Bakeries was owned by the huge Borden food company, along with Cracker Jacks and Wise Potato chips. In 1987, Borden sold the company to Ralston Purina, which owned ITT Continental Baking Company, makers of rival Hostess Cakes and Wonder Bread. This created a virtual monopoly in some areas, and it soon broke up. However, while this union lasted, Hostess was able to use the "Ding Dongs" name in the formerly restricted areas, but when the union was dissolved, instead of restoring the "Big wheels" moniker, Hostess compromised with a new "King Dons" trademark for the affected areas. In the mean time, Drake's celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1988, by producing the world's largest Ring Ding cake.
Drake's changed hands a couple of times afterwards, and was eventually picked up by the Canadian company Culinar. Among the highlights of this period, in the 1990s, was the introduction of a pastry called "Pick 'M Ups", which after taking on the Drake's label, became the only Drake's brand product to contain animal fats! A frosted chocolate cupcake that looked like Hostess' popular product, with a white icing swirl also appeared under the Drake's label, though Drake's never produced such an item on their own, and their own cupcakes were substantially different (see below).
Drake's was finally sold in 1998 to Interstate Bakeries Corporation, which by then had bought ITT/CBC, thus taking ownership of Hostess and Wonder. This time, the resultant monopoly was not overturned, and as other companies such as Little Debbie had expanded a great deal, it was not as much of a monopoly as it would have been before. Now, in the New York City area; Drake's and Hostess operations have combined, sharing the same trucks, delivery routes and store racks. Some Hostess cakes such as Twinkies and Ding Dongs (whose name is permanently restored) in the northeast are now even produced at the Drake bakery, and bear a kosher logo in those areas!
Throughout its history, Drake's Cakes have attempted to expand to other areas, either through third party distribution deals, or shipping frozen cakes to far away areas, as was being done for Florida. But expansion seemed to be difficult. They were reported to have been sold in southeastern Virginia around early 1984, but by the end of that year, they were nowhere to be found in that area. In 1989, Drake's could be found as far away as Southern California, through a deal with a local distributor for the Von's supermarket chain. But the distributor soon died, and the distribution ceased. Not too long afterwards, distribution in the established Maryland and DC areas folded. Expansion plans continue, and Drakes were reported to be distributed or at least experimenting in various areas of the South (such as Georgia) and West. Yet, as of fall, 2005, the IBC operations in Orlando, Florida have discontinued carrying the products, and it is reported that this is occurring over "90% of Florida" due to poor sales; even in the thrift stores. While Drake Bakeries had long sold in that state under their own operations; apparently, the huge IBC corporation feels that they are not profitable compared to its other popular brands.
A couple of the possible reasons why expansion and sales are so difficult is for one thing, in many areas outside the northeast, the cakes are sold in "family packs" in large supermarkets only, and not individually in local corner stores. And even with this limited availability, many people are reported to have not liked them. They have a unique and distinct devil's food cake consistency, which is somewhat drier, when compared to most other widespread brands such as Hostess and Dolly Madison. The yellow ("golden") cakes also have a very distinctive taste. This is very tasty to people familiar with it, but those not familiar tend not to be able to get themselves to like it. So it appears that the products may be destined to remain primarily a Northeastern novelty.
Most popular products
- Devil Dogs: a devil's food creme sandwich whose wafers have rounded edges making the cake somewhat resemble a hot dog.
- Yankee Doodles: chocolate cupcakes baked and sold in paper baking cups. Unlike most other snack cupcakes on the market, there is no icing, and the hole through which the creme filling was inserted is clearly visible in the risen center.
- Sunny Doodles: yellow cake version of the Yankee Doodles
- Ring Dings: Chocolate frosted hockey puck shaped chocolate cake with creme filling. Another version is filled with custard and labeled "Boston Creme Pies".
- Yodels: Chocolate frosted creme filled Swiss roll. Drake's also from time to time offers a non-frosted version, simply called "Swiss Roll". These are usually larger and sold as one in a single wrapping or four in a family pack, but for a while in the past, they too were sold as two smaller cakes in a single wrapping.
- Funny Bones: Similar to the Yodels, but with squared off edges and corners rather than being a cylindrical roll, and filled with peanut butter flavored creme.
- Fruit Pies: These are unique among snack pies, in not containing lard (which is often used to make the crust more flaky), and in having two (half-sized) square shaped pies in a pack, instead of a single rectangular pie, as most other brands do.
- Coffee Cake Junior: A large single round crumb cake. Family packs contain smaller ones.
For a time in the 80's, Drake's also produced a line of imitation Twinkies, but filled with strawberry, banana, or chocolate creme, as well as vanilla. They were originally called "Shortcakes", but later (when only the plain vanilla were being produced), renamed "Zoinks!" (as in the popular cry of Shaggy, from the Scooby Doo cartoon, though there was apparently no official connection), before being discontinued for good. However, as was stated above, Drake's currently produces the real Twinkies for Hostess, as well as the Ding Dongs and a couple of others in the areas where the operations are consolidated. Drake's also distributes some third party products, however most of these, such as the honey buns and donuts, have been converted to the Hostess brand. For a brief period, a Hostess logo replaced the Drake logo on the other wise unchanged Drake label. Then, it was altogether replaced with a Hostess label.
Drake's in pop culture
In addition to being served to audience members of The Rosie O'Donnell Show in the late 1990s, Drake's cakes (specifically, coffee cake) were featured on the hit sitcom Seinfeld in the 1992 episode, "The Suicide".