Thank You, Mr. Entenmann, for the Nicest Cake of My Life

Charles Entenmann was the center of our daily lives. And a fixture of my Long Island, New York childhood.

March 10, 2022
Photo by Ty Mecham

With additional reporting contributed by Naomi Tomky.

Like many food stories, this one is essentially about my mother. And icing.

In my childhood kitchen, you were certain to find a few things: my mother, coffee, cigarettes, and a box of Entenmann’s cake on top of the toaster oven. No greater joy (or disappointment) could come than seeing a new box and walking up to it to discover what my mother had bought today: Would it be a good day, and I’d be peeling the thick layer of fudge off the golden yellow cake? Or would it be utter disappointment to find that she had bought a raspberry twist for herself and I’d have to cut around the center to eat the soft, doughy, undercooked goodness covered in white glaze that only Long Island can do so well?

This might explain why I immediately felt like a member of my family died when Charles Entenmann, the patriarch of the Entenmann’s family, passed away recently at age 92. In truth, before writing this piece, I knew nothing about the man (and please don’t tell me any more than I’ve shared here, because I am not likely to survive another disappointment). But he was the center of our daily lives. And a fixture of my Long Island, New York childhood.

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“You are sweeter than any Entenmanns cake!”
— IloveLife

Entenmann and his brothers joined his mother in taking over their grandfather’s bakery in 1951 and ran it until 1978, when they sold it after eight decades of family ownership. But in between, they revolutionized the baked goods business, switching from home delivery to supermarket shelves, and inventing that clear window in bakery boxes to tempt customers, tripling the size of the bakery’s Long Island campus to keep up with the demand.

Yes, Entenmann’s was a Long Island thing. It was a reminder of Brooklyn, where my family originally had the crumb cake (OK, I know a little about the Entenmann’s story), out to the more prosperous Long Island where you had to have a car and you didn’t walk to the corner bakery for a single cake; instead, you drove to the Entenmann’s outlet or the supermarket to buy more than one, because you could afford it and you had the counter space.

My mother, just like your mother, lived in a world where neighbors did just stop by unannounced (ours, an Italian woman named Maria from Brooklyn, who used to open our front door without knocking and scream “SUSIE!” up the stairs. No one called my mother Susie, but she fed Maria cake and coffee anyway). She also lived in a world where feelings were better left distracted, and a nice piece of cake (or plate of pasta or bowl of soup or crispy piece of toast) solved it all. In fairness, she also really liked to have something sweet with her afternoon coffee and cigarette—she'd never eat lunch and she needed some push to get the energy to make us all dinner.

Nobody in the family had any concerns about serving these boxed masterpieces. Everyone loved an Entenmann’s. Nor was there ever a concern about leaving a knife in the box—someone was coming soon to cut a little sliver anyway—just don’t forget it and throw it out! We easily held onto only half the butter knives from the silverware in our house of six, because someone had left them in the box at various points.

I was never far from an Entenmann’s. Even at my first reporting job, where I was sent to cover an event happening at their North Fork Long Island horse farm, aptly called The Big E Farm. After selling the business—for today’s equivalent of nearly a billion dollars—Entenmann continued to invent, turning his brilliant mind from selling coffee cake to cold fusion (limitless energy) and medical advances (wound-sealing technology). This also kept Charles and his family close. It never occurred to me that this treat was originally hyper-regional, until I went to college and my Midwestern roommates discovered it.

See, if you come from Long Island, that peek-a-boo window is part of you. You cut school to get an iced tea (not that kind—a real one, made with powder, duh) and a box of Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookies, and hang out in the parking lot eating and drinking them while you were supposed to be at gym class. In your college dorm room, you quickly learn the art of leaving the "breakfast strip"—where each roommate picks a side and eats straight from the box until they feel ill, leaving a solid slice down the center that's cut in half and shared over coffee the next day. And during peak COVID, when everyone is making banana bread, you try very hard to replicate the no-longer made Entenmann’s banana crunch cake (well, if you're me, anyway, probably because you're missing your mother and trying hard to not to feel the feelings).

In the end, I found that the thing that came the closest was Ina Garten’s Old-Fashioned Banana Cake—but then again, she is also just a girl who lives on Long Island, and knows a nice piece of cake when she sees one.

Did you grow up eating Entenmann's baked goods? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Stacey Rivera

Written by: Stacey Rivera


susan H. April 3, 2022
I love everything about this! I lived in a neighborhood where the ladies came around, without knocking and yelled for my mom: "Loy!" .....yes, her name was Loyola! And I grew up on Entenman's and even now, 6 decades later, I know that anything that comes out of one of those boxes will be supersweet and really good. Thank you for these memories. PS. All my classmates used to have to pass my house on the way to school and they would come in without knocking and sit on the sofa and wait for me and my sister and brother quietly while my mother yelled at each of us to get out of the one bathroom because "your sister (or brother) will be late for school." Such early morning theater! Cheers to Entenman's ....
julie March 25, 2022
Hi Stacey is there a recipe for the crumb cake? I am always looking for a new best ….
ziffyk March 23, 2022
I grew up in Brighton Beach. Just past the corner where Brighton Beach Ave turns into Coney Island Ave there was an Ebinger's. Every day my mother would get off the BMT from work and head for Ebinger's. For the person who didn't quite remember the boxes, they were pistachio with chocolate stripes. The box was enough to make your mouth water. Every day Mom bought a half blackout cake, a half cheese cake and a fruit danish. I can taste them now, as I write this. If you had ever been lucky enough to eat an Ebinger's pastry, you would know that all Ebinger's and Entemanns had in common was the "E." I remember Mrs. Stahl's knishes, Barton's chocolates....but most of all, I remember the taste of Ebinger's cakes. I live in California, but some NY entrepreneur should try to buy the rights to Ebinger's and restart that business. Entire generations have grown up without that taste on their tongues.
w226MLW March 23, 2022
My mouth waters thinking about Ebingers Blackout cake
James R. April 3, 2022
Loved Ebinger’s!
Can’t find any recipes!
Kristen M. March 22, 2022
Thank you for this, Stacey. I was lucky to grow up with Entenmann's in California, too, and for my mom and me it was mostly about the chocolate donuts, with that amazing waxy-crunchy hole where the excess glaze gathers. Also Svenhard's pastries, which my grandmother microwaved with extra butter, but I liked cold and sticky.
Sbarbash March 22, 2022
I grew up in Bay Shore and went to school with Charles Entenmann’s children. Charles and his brothers William and Robert were extraordinarily generous philanthropists.
Charles Entenmann never wanted to be honored for his philanthropy. Some people want to see their name on a building….not Charles. What an extraordinary man.
And, by the way, apparently he didn’t like sweets! Haha!
MaryBeth C. March 20, 2022
I grew up on Entenmann! Absolutely heartbroken when I couldn't find it in IN,CA,AL,and TX. San Antonio gets a little bit but not much more than donuts (no complaints here).
I'm going "home" to NJ in May, and on my way to my sister's house I'm stopping at Shop-Rite and clearing the shelves of every E box in the place. Can't wait!
gtmoore00 March 22, 2022
Hi there, I live in SA, there's a HEB at Wurzbach and I10 that has an Entenmann's display at the end of the freezer section. I know for sure they have the coffee cake, I've bought one before!
MaryBeth C. March 25, 2022
Thank you! I love in Marion but will make it a day trip!!!
Sonya Z. March 20, 2022
My Dad had a nickname for so many people, including Entenman’s. My Mom had to buy him his chocolate covered donuts from “Erlachman’s.” He shared, but we knew better than to open the box before he did. Fond memories.
Kaitlin G. March 20, 2022
Loved Entenmann's crumb cake, my granny rose always had it with her Lipton's tea. Either that or those delicious Stella D'Oro anisette cookies. I miss everything :(
Joyce M. March 20, 2022
My father had Entenmanns crumb cake for breakfast with his coffee every single day of his life. I can’t see a crumb cake without thinking of him. I’ve found good crumb cake at Publix but it is still not the same. They also had the best hot cross buns during Lent.
Joan March 20, 2022
After being born and raised in Ohio, I moved to Ft Lee, NJ when I married. It was then I discovered Entemann’s . My kids grew up with the chocolate covered donuts always on the counter, and hubs the crumb coffee cake. Many years later we discovered B and W Bakery on Main St. in Hackensack, NJ. Their crumb cake’s topping is at least a third of the cake! When coming to visit us now in Florida, my kids always bring two for us to enjoy.. check their website on Google. Known as the home of the HEAVY coffee cake. The Best.
James R. March 20, 2022
I love Entenmanns but my favorite was Ebinger’s: their butter cake was unmatched. When my aunt would visit from Brooklyn she’d bring one and my father and I would attack. We’d eat half of it immediately, then on the next day half of the remainder and so on; eating by halves until there was a tiny piece which needed to be dunked in coffee to be successfully consumed.
Chuck K. March 20, 2022
Ebingers Blackout Cake brought home after HS with a glass of milk was to die for.
Joyce M. March 20, 2022
Ebingers cinnamon bread was the best! I used to bring a loaf to my high school lunch table every Friday. My friends were entrusted to bring the peanut butter and jelly. Great memories!
Ginamarie F. March 20, 2022
This hit me right in the feels and has me crying in my coffee on a Sunday morning. Especially the part about leaving the butter knife in the box. Just wish I had a slice of Entenmann's coffee cake to go with it.
melly March 20, 2022
I grew up on Long Island and whenever my mother brought home one of their crumb cakes (which was often) my sister and I ate all the crumb topping off and left the cake part for everyone else to eat. We got in A LOT of trouble for that one!
slradke March 20, 2022
Oh…for me, it was always about those chocolate covered donuts.
OM March 20, 2022
Thanks for the Entenmann memories Stacey. I grew up in Brooklyn and my mom always had the ready to go delicious coffee cake. I miss her, the Brooklyn of yesterday and delicious cake right-now as I sit in my Miami home sipping my Sunday morning coffee.
Lisa A. March 20, 2022
My mother worked at one of the Entenmann's outlets when I was young, where they sold past date goods. With 11 children to feed, my mom would often bring home goodies that were deemed "too old to sell". To us, those treats were like manna from heaven!
Sharon R. March 20, 2022
I still remember when Entenmanns started showing up in our Publix in Miami in the late 70s (I think). Everything was so good. I especially loved the chocolate cake with white frosting and chocolate crumbs sprinkled on top.

But for my husband and I the chocolate frosted doughnuts are the best. Entenmanns has changed hands a couple of times at least over the years and the doughnuts have varied in taste and quality, but that is our thing together. I remember picking a box up at Ralph's in Laguna Beach and takin them back to our hotel room to snack on while eating a movie -- the best!

For one of Entenmanns' anniversaries several years ago they offered Beanie Baby-like chocolate doughnuts with white-gloved arms if you sent in some box tops and money. I have two of them and they sit on a small chair in my home office.
Meredith L. March 20, 2022
Entenmanns was a staple breakfast food in our house. Crumb-topped donuts at least once a week—usually every Thursday morning, after Mom had done her mid-week Wednesday shopping trip. A sugary breakfast after the hot fudge sundaes she picked up at Carvel for Wednesday night’s dessert -‘Wednesday is Sundae at Carvel’. My all-time favorites were the cheese crumb babka (oh, how I wish I could find a recipe for that!) and the ultimate crumb cake. My brother’s favorite was definitely the cream-filled chocolate chip crumb bake referenced by other readers!
Leah March 14, 2022
Yes, we grew up on LI with Entenmanns. But, first we grew up in Brooklyn with Ebingers. Ebingers of the iconic Blackout Cake. The two things of Entenmanns we could never eat were the chocolate cake and the chocolate chip cookies. Far better to have Ebingers and make our own cookies from the recipe on the Nestles chips bag. Other than those two, we were Entenmanns all the way; especially the doughnuts.
Rachel L. March 14, 2022
I remember in the late 70s Ebinger's was still sold pre-packaged but most of the stores were closed? I know I had their blackout cake - I think they were in a green box? My mother definitely remembers the actual bakeries nearby in Brooklyn!
Chuck K. March 20, 2022
I would bring home an bringers blackout cake from HS and mom and I would have a slice! To die for.
Chuck K. March 20, 2022
w226MLW March 13, 2022
Yes, I ate Entenmanns, but frankly it didn’t hold a candle to Ebingers cakes.
Freebeans March 14, 2022
I think this article was more about paying homage to the founder who just passed away rather then who had the best cake. Also Entenmanns was something that everyone could find in their supermarket and it brought bake fond memories for peoples. It probable is more about the surrounding memories.