It’s a sad day in the baked goods aisles of grocery stores the nation over. Word is trickling out that Charles Entenmann, the entrepreneur who helped turn his family’s bakery business, Entenmann’s, into an iconic household brand, died last month at age 92.
For those unaware, Entenmann’s story is a quintessentially American one. The family business was founded by Charles’s grandfather, William, in Brooklyn, New York, in 1898. An immigrant from Germany, William would deliver freshly baked goods door to door out of his horse-drawn wagon. The bakery relocated to Bay Shore, Long Island, in the early 1900s. But roughly half a century later, Charles—alongside his mother and two brothers—decided to start selling the bakery’s specialties to supermarkets. The rest, as they say, was history. Entenmann’s went on to earn loyal fans with its impossibly soft mini chocolate chip cookies, crumbly coffee cake, and classic chocolate glazed donuts, which could all be tantalizingly glimpsed through Entenmann’s iconic see-through packaging. It's now owned by Bimbo Bakeries USA.
News of Charles’s passing has hit particularly hard at Delish, where so many staffers have powerful memories of Entenmann’s products. I count myself among them: Entenmann's chocolate chip cookies will forever have a hold over my brain's flavor receptors. They were a mainstay of my childhood synagogue's oneg—which is basically a little party with food and drink after a Shabbat service—and I'd always make a beeline for the faux silver platter piled high with those impossibly soft little cookies studded with milk chocolate. I’d eat three or four in rapid succession, unable to stop myself.
For Delish Senior Food Producer June Xie, picking out an Entenmann’s treat at her local grocery is a particularly special memory from childhood. “I went through a fudgy chocolate cake phase, a Little Bites phase, but that oddly plasticky, cocoa shell of the frosted mini chocolate donuts is probably my forever love,” Xie recalled. “My parents loved the cheese Danish, but my mom’s favorite was the strangely pudding-like deluxe French cheesecake,” she added. As far as Delish can tell, this delicacy appears to have been discontinued—but there’s seemingly a rabid fanbase eager to bring them back. “She used to love eating it semi-frozen,” Xie mused.
Meanwhile, it was the chocolate fudge cake that did the trick for Delish Assistant Food Editor Justin Sullivan. “My best friend growing up without fail would always have a chocolate fudge cake on the kitchen table and it was truly the thing I looked forward to most about going to his house,” he recalled. “More than even hanging out with him was cutting my own slice of that iconic cake.”
Delish Digital Food Producer Camille Lowder, on the other hand, swears by Entenmann’s Powdered Pop’ettes, petite donuts encrusted in airy powdered sugar. “You have to eat them either delicately and sort of leaning forward away from your body, or shove them whole into your mouth as quickly as possible to avoid getting powdered sugar everywhere,” Lowder recollected dreamily.
“We used to slam them on the bus on the way to swim meets in high school—let’s not talk about my questionable ability to be athletic after eating miniature cake,” she continued. Not that scarfing down Pop’ettes was risk-free. “Heaven forbid you laughed while eating one, disaster. Good times.”
For others on the Delish team, Entenmann’s products came to symbolize major life moments. “When I moved to New York, I Iearned to love the iconic black and white cookies,” said Director of Content Operations Lindsey Ramsey. “I tried many versions and the quality varied so widely from place to place. I experienced it all. And then one day, on a whim I saw the Entenmann’s version at the grocery store and grabbed a box.”
It was love at first bite. “They are the perfect size, so soft, iced to perfection and just delightfully artificial in every way,” she swooned. “I buy them on the regular even though I know better. They are truly addictive.”
Why do Entenmann’s baked goods resonate so deeply with people? Maybe it’s that they’re so wonderfully consistent, which strangely has the power to turn a simple cookie into a time machine. Consider Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookie, which the company has been churning out since 1974. It tastes much the same now as it did then. How many products can say the same?
There’s also arguably something different—more intimate, perhaps—about products from the grocery store that we take into our own homes. At home, they’re part of the backdrop for life’s most important moments, and as a result forever become entwined with the emotion of those times. We have a feeling that Charles Entenmann knew that.
Philip Swift, Delish’s senior post-production supervisor, perhaps sums up our collective love of Entenmann’s best. “Any variation of the chocolate donut is a flawless execution of an antidepressant in sweet treat form,” Swift swore. “Are you feeling down? Walk into any grocery store, bodega, deli, or drug store,” he advised. “There is the glory that is the Entenmann's chocolate donut, ready to cheer you up.”