Sunday, May 11, 2008

Piece of Cake

Every family has their ways of celebrating. In mine it has always involved cake. Just about every time our family gets together there is a cake present. We usually take a picture of it. One time my scrapbooking friends noticed that most of the pages in the album I was working on featured a cake in some way, they thought that was so funny and started calling me Mindy-cakes. We celebrate every birthday, with cake. There's always a bunny cake on Easter. When I was a baby my first cake had my face on it. I can remember my Grandparents often showing up at our house with a white box containing a torte cake from the bakery, layers stacked high with fruit filling in between. When my kids came along and we had to deal with their allergies, that just meant that more cakes had to be home-made with egg replacer and soymilk. I have made a cake in the shape of a car, a caterpillar, a baseball and a music note, to name a few.

For mother's day this year we obtained what is generally acknowledged to be the "mother" of all cakes, the very best one of all: Sanders Bumpy Cake. For those of you who don't know, Sander's is local to Michigan, it used to consist of little shops all around in mainstreets and malls, where you could go and buy fancy candies, or sit at the counter and get a hot-fudge cream puff, or a sundae in one of these special stainless steel cups lined with a paper cone...or buy a bumpy cake. Well the company was sold out a few years ago but they have kept the name alive by offering a few of the products for sale in grocery stores, such as that fudge (straight from the jar with a spoon, baby) and the cakes.

The box for our Mother's Day cake said "Original" in the lower left corner, but in the upper right it said: Now Even Better! What? How can you improve on perfection? We tasted the cake, it had all the elements, cake part, white bumps, fudgy frosting...but....nowhere near like the original. You used to be able to peel off that fudgy frosting. The bumps were higher, the cake moister, this just wasn't that good. It wasn't the kind of good where you would sneak to the empty pan and scape off every last bit of the "edges" that were left stuck there, and snarl at any unsuspecting just-married-into-the-family who might make moves to dispose of the box before it had been licked clean. (Not that I would ever have done that, y'know) It just wasn't that good. So our party conversation centered around the woes of the decline of the bumpy cake, and therefore the decline of Western Civilization and the world as we know it.

Then my younger sister, Marie Antoinette, sighed heavily and proclaimed with despair: "Now I have to find a new favorite cake!" Things are already looking pretty bad in the state of Michigan, with $4 gas, the auto industry in the tank, home prices free falling, the great lakes drying up, and now THIS.

So I ask you, dear readers, in this time of need, to recommend a new favorite cake. And while you're at it, tell me what YOU do when you gather with your extended family members, if not to gather around a sugary confection, and sing to it, take pictures of it, eat it and talk about it. Drink beer and watch sports? I can't even imagine.

Please help, leave a comment about your fav cake:


kid_curry said...

I am probably the only native Detroiter that hates bumpy cake. Bluck! I do, however I absolutely adore German Chocolate cake. Super Yum!

Joe and I were so excited to find out we had both had the same cake for the past however many years on our birthdays. We had to get married, of course.

As for family traditions . . . there's only a few and they all center around my Aunt Ann. Here's one.

Every Christmas she makes these Santa Claus cut-out cookies. They are always decorated the exactly same way: red icing hat with white icing trim, white beard and blue eyes. I've learned to steer clear of them. She uses royal icing and dabs on the eyes with a pastry bag leaving little points that, I'm sure, will puncture through the roof of someone's mouth some Christmas, ruining their day. It won't be me.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mindy- (first- poor Aunt Ann of kid curry-- thinking everyone is waiting for (razor sharp) Santa cookies). The bumpy cakes were OK to me in the past, but I had other favorites- especially the Sander's buttercream frosted yellow cake with crushed walnuts on the sides- quality long-gone if there are still imitators. I have a suggestion: there are bakeries around the area, like Gelio's Italian Bakery on 14 Mile and Hayes, that usually have chocolate bumpy cakes for sale, and certainly would take special orders, and I hear that Gelio's cake is great- can't remember ever having it, tho. Maybe we should try the bakery imitators to see if it is a closer match than the "new/improved" Sanders cake. Also- my in-laws decided to have birthday cakes just for the kids, and maybe a cake for the adults twice a year with birthday people for the half-year listed on it. They don't eat a lot of cake like Dorothy Binno. Good blog on cake! Aunt Chris

MomForThree said...

My Mom and I used to have lunch at the Sanders in Oakland Mall. Sometimes we would skip over the tuna melts and get right to the ice cream sundaes and cream puffs. Great Times.

Mindy said...

I wrote a letter to the customer service person at Sanders:
The box for the bumpy cake says: Now even better. It was perfect before.
Now it is not as good. What changed and why?
There must not be much to do in the customer service department of a confectionary company, because moments later I got this reply:

Subject: Re: Bumpy Cake Question

Hi Mindy,
Thank you for your email. The "Now Even Better" you see on the Bumpy Cake box is to signify that we have changed the batter to a moister recipe since we had many complaints in the past about the cakes being too dry. Unfortunately, when changing the batter it appears the bakery is having a difficult time keeping the icing and "bumps" consistent. This has been addressed by our production team and all future cakes should have the thick "fudgy" icing and an extra "bump" (4 instead of 3). I hope you'll purchase another one in the future and feel free to let us know your comments once you've tried it. We thank you for being a loyal customer.

Michele Keibler
Customer Service
I thought this was good news! So I sent it to my sisters to cheer them up. Here is Mary Beth's response:

Subject: Re: Bumpy Cake Question

I think the note below is a poor attempt to explain the giant blunder of changing the bumpy cake recipe! My guess is that they tried to make it cheaper! The cake was is now so moist that the one of the bumps falls off and they all got smaller? Do they think we just came out of the oven yesterday?

I think they've had a rebellion on their hands and are now instead of eating chocolate bumpy cake they are eating "crow."



And Becky agreed:

Good One! You are right - they just made that cake cheaper and then are marketing it with the Sanders logos. We were tricked into buying it twice!

Some day we will have to purchase another one to see if it is any good, but for now, the search is still on for a new favorite cake.

Jenny said...

I wanted to let you know that there is a Sanders store in Birmingham, I've had a bumpy cake from there and it was everything I remember it to be. However, my favorite cake is still a Sanders cake but the round yellow cake with nuts on the edges. My grandma used to bring me one every year on my birthday.
And when my family gets together we play games. Mostly card games that my aunts make up rules for as the game goes along. I was a kid but I still knew they were changing the rules everytime I played... But we also played lots of Eurchre to the real rules, they even bought a book of Hoyle.... Crazy family of mine.

Nancy USA said...

Well, we don't have either cake out here in California!

I LOVE bumpy cake! But had totally forgot about the other with the nuts on it! I LOVE that one too!

We never could have (afford) either at our house growing up. I didn't try them until I was "grown up". Like 19 or 20! haha

Nice Blog Mindy!

I have a lot more reading to do!

Rebecca Binno Savage said...

I finally read your blog on the Bumpy Cake imitator! I reminded Mindy that there were many times at our house that the frosting was eaten off the bumpy cake, and just the cake was left in the box. Quite the frustrating moment!

Favorite cake is probably the homemade German Chocolate that mom makes. But the canned German Cake frosting is also very good!

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU! I am so glad other people are feeling this way. It is now May 2009 and the cake still is not the same. I grew up having this cake on every birthday. I would look forward to my grandmother bringing it over after dinner. For awhile I couldn't find the cake with Sander's closing and Morley taking over. Later when I was able to find it again I thought something seemed different but it wasn't bad enough to keep me from buying it for special occasions. Maybe that's when people started complaining about the dryness of the cake. Recently however, I have had enough. I would say my last few cake purchases have been a terrible disappointment. My children just brought it for my Mother's Day dinner dessert and it still is not the same. The cake is dry and tasteless. The bumpy filling looks funny, not smooth like I remember it and it tastes different too. Don't even get me started on whatever that chocolate topping is. I no longer look forward to having one. I feel it's a rip off now. The packages still have the 'now even better' on it, but it isn't. It is sad to lose something that was a loved classic to so many people. But it's even sadder that people try to replace it with a cheaper version.

Anonymous said...

Wow, being out of Michigan since 1984 I didn't know of the selling of our beloved Sanders. We too had the yellow cake with the nutted sides for all birthdays. But, my favorite was the bumpy cake. On a resent reunion, someone from MI brought down a couple bumpy cakes. I was so excited to introduce my kids to it, but as already posted by many, was a disappointment to say the least. I thought maybe my memory was play'n tricks on me!