A sticky Popsicle on a summer day, a cotton candy cloud from the fair, a bag of salty popcorn at the movie theatre—some foods are imbued with a sense of place and meaning. For Winnipegers, there is perhaps no greater example of this than a log cake from Jeanne’s Bakery.
While coveted for its shortbread cookie base, signature icing, and Belgian chocolate shavings, the appeal of Jeanne’s cake goes beyond its ingredients. These log cakes have become beacons of nostalgia, having been at the heart of birthday celebrations for more than 80 years.
In fact, the recipe has not changed since the bakery was established in 1936 by Achille van Landeghem, who named the store after his wife, Jeanne (pronounced not like the denim pant, but the spirit in Aladdin’s lamp). The bakery was passed down for three generations until 2003, when the family put it up for sale, and Jerry Penner, the current owner, took over. “It was a little bit scary at first,” says Penner. “I’ve been working in baking for 40 years, and I’d never come across a product with that kind of an emotional attachment.”
While coveted for its shortbread cookie base, signature icing, and Belgian chocolate shavings, the appeal of Jeanne’s cake goes beyond its ingredients.
The initial days were not without their hiccups. During the first month, Penner introduced a coupon for a discount on the cakes, much to the displeasure of the locals. “They were indignant,” he says. “Customers came in and they threw the coupon on the counter and said, ‘Jeanne’s doesn’t need a coupon!’ ”
It is this kind of loyalty and love for Jeanne’s cakes that has pushed the bakery to expand beyond Manitoba, as Winnipeg ex-pats find themselves across Canada and still craving the sweet nostalgia of a Jeanne’s log cake. Penner has heard countless stories of people who have gone to great lengths to get them—including someone who flew a log cake all the way to New York City for a birthday party. “I recently discovered that Jeanne’s has literally never done any advertising,” says Penner. “All of this growth has come organically.”
Though Jeanne’s Bakery has had its share of famous customers—including King George and Queen Elizabeth, Jennifer Lopez, and Goldie Hawn—its enduring legacy comes from the loyal Winnipegers who have, decade after decade, continued to mark special occasions with a slice of Jeanne’s cake.
Jeanne’s Bakery, 931 Notre Dame Ave, Winnipeg, MB.
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