We all have happy places in our lives (both actual places and our mind ones). In my lifetime, there has been one place that even the mere mention of its name can take me to a happy place. That is Hough Bakeries.
Lionel Archibald Pile founded Hough Bakery in Cleveland, Ohio in 1903. Archie, as he was called, bought an existing bakery on the brink of closing and turned it into an incredibly successful business.
As his sons grew up, they too joined the business. Arthur, Lawrence, Kenneth and Robbie continued the traditions their father began, starting with the very best cakes EVER! It is hard to describe them. Is ‘perfect’ too vague?
It was their White Cake that always did me in and ever since I was a little girl, I have longed for one more piece. The White Cake was at all birthday parties and weddings. Name an occasion and Hough delivered.
I believe it was a yolk-free cake, as the color would change ever so slightly if the yolks were used. The moistness of the cake allowed the bites to almost dissolve in my mouth and the icing was heavenly. Not too thick or sweet, but just the right combination of bliss.
They also had Coconut Bars that were out of this world. They were made of a white cake, the batter not too different from their White Cake recipe. The cake was baked in a rectangular pan, cooled and frozen long enough to be able slice into rectangles without crumbling. The rectangular pieces were rolled in chocolate and then desiccated coconut (usually sold in natural food and/or health food stores).
A fun tidbit I found out while trying desperately to search for the Hough Bakeries (they changed the name from Hough Bakery in 1952) Coconut Bar recipe is that the cake itself was originally named the Lamington Cake after Baron Lamington who was the governor of Queensland between 1895 and 1901. I know, I know, great news. I found the history, but not the recipe! There was one recipe on Uncle Phaedrus that claimed to be Hough’s recipe, but sadly it was not even close. Don’t worry, I won’t give up.
Hough Bakeries closed its doors for good in 1992 (the Pile brothers sold it before this time). The company did not modernize its operations and was not able to meet the price-cutting of its competitors. One day they were there, putting smiles on thousands and thousands of faces (and pounds on waistlines), and then they were gone for good.
Are you now wondering why I am teasing you with the most delicious cakes ever when you can’t have them? It is because there is now a way to buy Hough Bakeries Cakes. Archie Garner worked for Hough Bakeries for 25 years as a pastry chef and baker. Two years after Hough Bakeries closed its doors, Archie’s Lakeshore Bakery opened theirs. Just walking into Archie’s sent me back decades. The heavenly aroma of an old fashioned bakery just can’t be compared to walking up to the Publix bakery counter and taking a whiff.
Joshua, Nathaniel and I were heading back to Florida after participating in the Komen 3-Day for the Cure 60 mile walk. Giddy doesn’t describe how I felt when I saw the Hough Bakeries bags and stickers. Archie could not have been lovelier. I asked (begged) to know how he gets the cakes so moist and delicious. Archie smiled and told us that while he would not share too much, he would let us in on a little secret. He uses a little bit of liquid sugar, which is something he mixes in the back. I asked if it is a simple syrup and he told me no. I’m stumped, as other options available today were not around when the recipes were originally formulated.
This leaves me with only one option. Buy them! Archie does ship his cakes, but they are very pricey to send. I inquired about shipping a dozen Coconut Bars to Florida. $18 for the bars. Extremely reasonable. Then I called Cynthia at the UPS store Archie’s told me contact. Cynthia explained that Archie’s charges $30 to bring the cakes to her. Once shipping and delivery were included, my $18 Coconut Bars were going to cost over $115. I think I will beg a friend to bring me some instead!
I do not feel too badly though, as I had ordered a cake and coconut bars to bring home when I was in Cleveland. I was over the moon excited to have the Hough Bakeries sticker applied to the boxes, which were then placed into a Hough Bakeries plastic bag. I may not be able to replicate these cakes at home, but it is nice to know that they are available when I need a fix.
When you get the chance, look up Archie’s Lakeshore Bakery on Facebook. When you have a really special occasion, keep them in mind. You will not be disappointed.
My happy place is indeed a VERY happy place!