Drake's was a baking company in Wayne, New Jersey, United States, owned by Hostess Brands, which made snack cakes such as Ring Dings, Yodels, Devil Dogs, Yankee Doodles, Sunny Doodles, Funny Bones, and coffee cake. Their mascot is a smiling duck holding a spoon and wearing a chef's hat and neckerchief. Drake's ceased operations in November 2012, when Hostess Brands shut down all its plants.
At their peak, Drake's bakery operations spread to thirteen states. In New York City and New England, Drake's popularity came to rival national brand Hostess. In New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, Drake's cakes compete head-to-head with that area's popular Tastykake brand.
Largely unknown outside of these areas until the 1990s, the Drake's product line received national exposure on the sitcom Seinfeld, most notably the episode "The Suicide" in 1992. Later in 1990s television talk show host Rosie O'Donnell professed a fondness for them, sharing the cakes with her audience members on The Rosie O'Donnell Show. Drake's coffee cake is mentioned in the movie A Bronx Tale, where a gang member's nickname is coffee cake because of his face's resemblance to the snack.
By the late 1960s, the resulting Drake Bakeries was owned by the huge Borden food company, along with Cracker Jack 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, soon overturned. While the union lasted, Hostess was able to use the name Ding Dong for its Ring Ding clone in formerly restricted areas; when dissolved, instead of restoring the product's original Big Wheels moniker, Hostess compromised with a new "King Dons" trademark for the affected areas. During this period, Drake's celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1988, and Steve Gratzel, head of Drake's research and development department, produced the world's largest Ring Ding cake. Drake's was soon sold off to management.
For a time in the 1980s, Drake's produced a line of imitation Twinkies, including versions filled with strawberry, banana, or chocolate creme. They were originally called Shortcakes. Later, when only the plain vanilla Twinkie-clone was being produced, they were renamed Zoinks!, before the line was discontinued for good.
Drake's was acquired by the Canadian company Culinar in 1991. Among the highlights of this period was the introduction of a pastry called "Pick 'M Ups", which became the only Drake's brand product to contain animal fats. A frosted chocolate cupcake that looked like Hostess' signature CupCake with a white icing swirl also appeared under the Drake's label, though Drake's never produced such an item on their own. In 1994 Culinar also initiated a drastic restructuring and optimization of the company-owned routes, which enabled Drakes to become profitable by 1997.
In 1998 Drake's was sold by Culinar, Inc., to Interstate Bakeries Corporation, which had previously acquired ITT/CBC and its Hostess and Wonder brands. The resultant market concentration was not overturned, because other companies such as Little Debbie avoided it, having sufficiently expanded market share since the previous monopoly arbitration. In the New York City area Drake's and Hostess operations were combined, sharing the same trucks, delivery routes, and store racks. Some Hostess cakes distributed in the Northeast, such as Twinkies and Ding Dongs, were produced at the Drake's bakery and bore a kosher certification symbol in those areas.
A leveraged buyout by Ripplewood Holdings of Interstate Bakeries Corporation in 2009 left the company with a remarkably heavy debt load. The new owners rechristened the company as "Hostess Brands" and moved the headquarters to Irving, with the operations center in Kansas City, Missouri. Managers underfunded the pension plan as the struggled to manage the debt and further provoked workers by tripling the compensation of top executives after union employees accepted cuts. On November 16, 2012, the Hostess Brand company announced plans shut down and to liquidate all assets.
Throughout its history, Drake's Cakes have attempted to expand to other areas, either through third-party distribution deals, or shipping frozen cakes to distant areas, such as Florida.
This remote presence reflected the preferences of many Drake's consumers from the north who had relocated to that retirement haven. Reinforcing this brand loyalty was the distinction that Drake's were at one time one of the very few (if not the only) kosher snack cakes on the market, eschewing lard (forbidden under kosher laws outright) and tallow (prohibited in conjunction with dairy products commonly used in baking).
By 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 failed, and the arrangement ceased. Not long afterwords, distribution in the established Maryland and Washington, D.C., areas folded. In the Fall of 2005 IBC operations in Orlando, Florida discontinued carrying the products.
- Ring Dings
- Chocolate frosted hockey puck shaped chocolate cakes with vanilla creme filling. Another version is filled with custard and labeled Boston Creme Pies. Originally sold one per package (4" Diameter, .5" high) and also in a yellow cake / milk chocolate frosted variation.
- 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, in the past sold as two smaller cakes in a single wrapping. Similar to Hostess HoHos. In the 1970s, Drake's offered an all-vanilla version of this cake called "Snodels".
- Creme Cups
- Chocolate frosted chocolate cupcakes with creme filling. Discontinued c. 1980.
- Devil Dogs
- An unfrosted devil's food cake sandwich with vanilla creme with round edged cake wafers resembling 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. The cake is not as dense as Devil Dogs but similar in appearance and taste.
- Sunny Doodles
- Yellow cake (vanilla) version of Yankee Doodles
- Funny Bones
- Rectangular chocolate cakes filled with peanut butter flavored creme and covered with milk chocolate frosting.
- Fruit Pies
- Offered in apple, cherry and chocolate, these pies are unique among their niche in having two half-sized square shaped pies in a pack instead of a single rectangular pie, and in not containing lard. Originally called Fruit Doodles.
- Coffee Cake Junior A single serving-sized round crumb cake. Family packs contain smaller ones.
- Pick 'Em Ups
- A flaky pastry filled with flavored jelly (raspberry or strawberry) and cream, topped with sugar. Drake's has since discontinued this product.
- Buried Treasures
- Chocolate enrobed golden yellow cake with caramel filling. Drake's has since discontinued this product.