Chilling Out with the New Orleans Layer Cake
NEW ORLEANS IS A CITY DRAPED IN AN INVISIBLE CLOAK OF HUMIDITY, one that flourishes at a cultural rhythm as slow as the ambled pace of the streetcar. The hum of the engine lets you know it’s going to be a while until you get to the street you desire. Or even Desire Street.
In the peak of summer time, sno-balls (the Southern doppelganger to Northern sno-cones; shaved ice that gets doused in sugary substances) are friendly guardians to guide you through each sweat-blessed afternoon. Your neighbours can be found on their porches in a stake out for cooler climates, accompanied by a chilled decoy in the form of iced down bourbon. Dogs are too lazy to howl. You might even fall asleep to the soothing lullaby of the air-conditioning unit next door, or give in to heat exhaustion, Blanche DuBois style. All of this is to say that finding energy can be desolate, unless you quicken the tempo by locating the nearest slice of doberge cake.
Dogs are too lazy to howl. You might even fall asleep to the soothing lullaby of the air-conditioning unit next door, or give in to heat exhaustion.
Say it, slowly. “Dough-bash.” You see, Alabama has the layer cake, known to trump even the tallest of beehives through an intimidating tower of 15 cassette tape thick cakes, broken up by slopes of icing. Georgia knows the lane cake, a sugary dipped paean to southern households: a fluffy substance filled with egg whites and a confetti of ground pecans, coconut and raisins, boozed up on local hooch. When it comes to the New Orleans confectionery heritage, doberge is a completely different species altogether.
IT BEGAN AS AN IMPROVISATIONAL RIFF ON THE 128 YEAR OLD AUSTRIAN / HUNGARIAN “DOBOS TORT”, a five layer sponge cake teeming with chocolate butter cream and thin caramel slices. Doberge went off the rails and into a valley of thin, moist cake layers, broken up by chocolate or lemon pudding, with chocolate, caramel, or lemon icing. If you ask locals about the history behind doberge, they’ll tell you Miss Beulah Ledner, also known as the “doberge queen”, invented it. Miss Ledner started baking up doberge during the depression to help with her family’s financial strains, opening up a bakery in 1933. She figured that by throwing in a Francophile “berge” on the name, it would give it that Louisiana twang.
When it comes to the New Orleans confectionery heritage, doberge is a completely different species altogether.
Recently, there’s been a game changer who’s cutting the lemon curd out of the frame and sauntering into uncharted territories. Enter Debbie Does Doberge (500 S. Telemachus Street, New Orleans, 70119) a cake store named after the 1970s porn flick starring Bambi Woods and her band of Texas cowgirls. Dreamed up by owner Charlotte McGeehee and her boyfriend and business partner, Charles Mary, Debbie Does Doberge initiates a new era of guilty pleasures. Blueberry pancake, red velvet Elvis (red velvet cake layers with peanut butter banana pudding and peanut butter bacon icing), king cake, root beer float... Start to finish, a doberge takes 24 hours to craft. Charlotte begins by baking a cake, delicately cutting it into thin layers, carnally topping each layer with pudding, placing a giant slather of butter cream filling between each section, then dousing the entire cake body in icing until no bare cake remains.
If you find yourself in New Orleans on a hot afternoon, grab a do-bite, throw down a blanket, and eat in the shade below an oak tree draped in Spanish moss along the levee, preferably far away from a hungry pack of cheerleaders.