Drake's is a snack cake brand that was previously a baking company in Brooklyn, New York and later Wayne, New Jersey, United States, now owned by McKee Foods, It 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 briefly ceased operations in November 2012 for 10 months, when then owner Hostess Brands shut down all its plants.[dated info]
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. In 2010 episode 12 of Fringe, Dr. Walter Bishop came across a box of Devil Dogs he had stashed years earlier at the campus law library.
The company's founder, Newman E. Drake (d.1930), baked his first pound cake in Brooklyn, New York, in 1888 after visiting an English bakery. In 1896, he opened his first bakery, the Drake Baking Company in Brooklyn, which sold his pound cakes by the slice or by the pound, and the recipe would be famous in a few years. In 1900, it became known as the Drake Brothers Bakery, when his brother Charles joined. They began using horse-drawn carriages for deliveries. By 1913, the name was Drake Bakeries Incorporated, though "Drake Brothers Bakery" continued to be used.
Soon a whole line of cakes began to be added. Coffee Cakes were added in 1916, Devil Dogs in 1923, Ring Dings in 1958, Yodels in 1963.
By the late 1960s, Drake Bakeries was owned by the huge Borden food company, along with Cracker Jack and Wise Potato Chips. In 1970, the manufacturing and executive offices moved from Brooklyn to Wayne, NJ. 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 blocked by the government. 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. This product returned to shelves in late September, 2013.
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 its own. In 1994 Culinar also initiated a drastic restructuring and optimization of the company-owned sales 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 blocked, because other companies such as Little Debbie had sufficiently expanded market share since the previous monopoly arbitration. In the New York City area Drake's and Hostess operations were combined, so that they shared 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 market 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, Texas while maintaining the operations center in Kansas City, Missouri. Managers underfunded the pension plan as the company struggled to manage its debt, and further provoked union workers by tripling the compensation of top executives after employees had accepted wage cuts. On November 16, 2012, the Hostess Brand company announced plans shut down and to liquidate all assets.
On September 23, 2013, McKee brought Drake's Yodels, Devil Dogs, Ring Dings and Coffee Cakes back to store shelves in the northeastern United States. However, the company has not indicated at the time interest in bringing back these products to other areas of the U.S., nor in bringing back the fan favorites Yankee Doodles, Sunny Doodles, or Funny Bones. According to Mike Gloekler, director of communications at McKee Foods, Funny Bones are a challenge because of the inclusion of peanut butter, which raises food allergen cross-contamination risks in manufacturing facilities. “It’s not cost effective to run alongside our current equipment,” he said. “That product almost needs its own dedicated line,” as is the case with existing Little Debbie peanut butter products which use different equipment than cakes. Instead, several Little Debbie products also began to be distributed under the Drake's brand, such as Honey Buns, Blueberry Muffins, Banana Nut Muffins and Danish Pastries. Little Debbie Cloud Cakes were rebranded as the new Zoinks (which look very similar to Hostess' Twinkies).
Throughout its history, Drake's Cakes has 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 afterwards, distribution in the established Maryland and Washington, D.C., areas folded. Under Hostess, Drake's began to be distributed in different places across the country. Now under McKee ownership, they have returned only to the original eleven northeast states (excluding even longtime mainstay Florida) for the time being.
- Ring Dings
- Chocolate frosted hockey puck shaped chocolate cakes with vanilla creme filling. Another version was 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. Similar to Hostess Ho Hos. Drake's also from time to time offered a non-frosted version, simply called Swiss Roll. These were usually larger and sold as one in a single wrapping or four in a family pack, abut times sold as two smaller cakes in a single wrapping.
- Devil Dogs
- An unfrosted devil's food cake sandwich with vanilla creme with round edged cake wafers resembling a hot dog.
- Coffee Cake Junior
- A single serving-sized round crumb cake. Family packs contain smaller ones.
- Funny Bones
- Rectangular chocolate cakes filled with peanut butter flavored creme and covered with chocolate frosting.
- 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
- Fruit Pies
- Offered in apple, cherry and chocolate, these pies were 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.
- A yellow sponge cake similar in appearance to a Hostess Twinkie. Previously called "Shortcakes".
- Pick 'Em Ups
- A flaky pastry filled with flavored jelly (raspberry or strawberry) and cream, topped with sugar. Discontinued when Culinar sold off Drake's.
- All-vanilla version of Yodels that was popular in the 1970s.
- Creme Cups
- Chocolate frosted cupcakes of either devils food or yellow cake shaped like a truncated cone, with creme filling. Discontinued c. 1980.
- Buried Treasures
- Chocolate enrobed golden yellow cake with caramel filling. Drake's has since discontinued this product.
- [dead link]
- "Drake's Cakes: History". Drakescake.com. 1988-04-08. Retrieved 2013-10-27.
- "Hostess Blames Union For Bankruptcy After Tripling CEO's Pay". ThinkProgress. 2012-11-16. Retrieved 2013-10-27.
- [dead link]
- "McKee completes purchase of Drake’s Cakes from bankrupt Hostess". timesfreepress.com. Retrieved 2013-10-27.
- "McKee sees Drakes snack cakes increasing footprint". Food Business News. Retrieved 2013-10-27.
- "SNODELS - Reviews & Brand Information - BORDEN, INC. Columbus, OH - Serial Number: 72383543". Trademarkia.com. Retrieved 2013-10-27.