A monthly pursuit of answers to eternal questions
EUGENIA UHL PHOTOGRAPH, TOP; PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY ALBERT LEDNER, INSET
I don’t know if this qualifies as an “eternal” question or not, but have you or any of your readers heard of a bakery from the 1960s called Beulah Ledner? She had the best doberge cake ever. Nothing on the Northshore or south shore beats it.
Is there still a bakery around that makes a good authentic doberge with the thin layers?
Wow, two questions about doberge cakes. That is like having an extra slice – which is what I like to do, especially when there’s one of those half-and-half chocolate and lemon cakes.
I remember Beulah Ledner’s magnificent doberge cakes and am not surprised her creations remain, a generation after her death, the standard by which the decadent layer cake is still judged. After all, it was Beulah Ledner who created the uniquely New Orleans dessert.
The rich multi-layer doberge cake is a variation on a rich Hungarian dessert, Dobostorta, which Hungarian confectioner C. József Dobos (1847-1924) created in the mid-1880s for the National Exposition at Budapest.
It was Ledner’s intent to create a lighter version of the cream-rich caramel-topped layer cake that would be more suitable to New Orleans’ hot and humid climate. Instead of thin layers of sponge cake alternated with layers of butter cream, Ledner substituted alternating layers of custard and butter cake. Ledner realized that a French-sounding name could help her Hungarian-inspired cake sound as if it originated in old New Orleans, so she coined the word “doberge” and a new local tradition was born.
The daughter of a renowned German baker and hostler, St. Rose native Beulah Levy Ledner initially sold cakes from her home in order to help ends meet during the Great Depression. Moving to Lowerline Street in 1933, the successful baker converted her home’s basement into a tearoom that proved quite popular with students and faculty from nearby Newcomb College and Tulane University. Following her mother’s death in ’37, Ledner briefly operated a bakery at 920 Canal St., but quickly moved to larger quarters at 2721 S. Claiborne Ave., where it remained for the next nine years.
If you enjoyed tinned doberge, I strongly suggest you see how fresh doberge stacks up against the packaged stuff you remember. The cake is widely available but you may wish to begin your search at Gambino’s or Maurice French Pastries. Both bakeries have Web sites and offer mail order.
Of course, you could always try to make your own doberge. In 1987, Beulah Ledner’s daughter, Maxine Wolchansky, published Let’s Bake with Beulah Ledner: A Legendary New Orleans Lady. Now out of print but available at public libraries, the book includes the recipe for “Doberge Cake.”
In 1946, upon doctors’ advice following a major health crisis, Beulah Ledner closed her business, selling both her recipes and the business name “Mrs. Charles Ledner” to Gambino’s Bakery. Unable to stay idle for long, the acclaimed baker founded Beulah Ledner, Inc. and opened a bakery in a renovated grocery at 2513 Metairie Road. When the successful bakery outgrew its home, Beulah’s son created a new one. A noted architect, Albert Ledner designed his mother’s new bakery located at 3501 Hessmer Ave. The building now houses Maurice French Pastries.
As a teenager in the late 1960s, I enjoyed going to Hopper’s. Hopper’s was located on Veterans Boulevard in Metairie and was a drive-in-type restaurant. Their menu included delicious ice cream treats and sandwiches. It was such a fun place to go for fast food.
Was it the only one to exist in the New Orleans area? Any recollection of this drive-in restaurant?
Hopper’s Drive-Inn was a franchise that began in Baton Rouge. The first location opened on Scenic Highway during the late 1940s. Initially a family-run ice cream shop, Hopper’s soon expanded its menu to include hot dogs, hamburgers and fries. More locations followed, first in Baton Rouge and later in Jefferson Parish suburbs near New Orleans.
A total of four locations operated in Jefferson Parish from the early 1960s to the mid-’70s. In the early ’60s, Warren Soulier managed Hopper’s Drive at 8101 Airline Highway while Cecil Wesley managed Hopper’s Jefferson, Inc., at 1315 Jefferson Highway. By the late ’60s, another Hopper’s Drive-Inn location had been added at 3005 Veterans Blvd. A fourth location, at 4933 Veterans Blvd., was in operation by late ’70. Two years later, only the Jefferson Highway location remained but it, too, soon ceased operation.
I have always been impressed with your ability to ferret out obscure and remote information, so possibly you know the answer to this question:
Why is it that TV commercials are always so much louder than the basic TV programs’ sound level?
I prefer to answer questions with a specific local or regional connection but you asked nicely so I’ll make a rare exception. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that televised commercials are always louder than the shows they accompany but broadcast audio volumes can vary and those variances, although annoying to some listeners, are neither illegal nor regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC regulates broadcast frequencies and tells stations how much power they may use to broadcast their signals but it doesn’t dictate or regulate audio volume. In most cases, the broadcasts we watch are comprised of material from multiple sources. For instance, a station’s news program may have commercials that were created by advertising agencies and independent production houses that bought airtime but aren’t otherwise connected with the broadcasting station. In part because equipment and production values can vary considerably from one program source to another, audio levels can fluctuate. It is also important to note that individual sensitivity to loudness and certain frequencies can vary as well, so a sound that may annoy one person might not bother somebody else.
If you notice a commercial or program with unusually loud, faint or distorted audio, the best thing to do is to contact the station that broadcast the signal. Be as specific as possible. Note the date and time when the problem occurred and be sure to indicate the program name or, if a commercial, the sponsor’s name or name of the product or service being advertised. Or, better yet — press the “mute” button on the remote.