We celebrated my friend Glenys’ birthday on Tuesday in the gazebo in her backyard. My friend Debbie had purchased a cake from Jeanne’s Bakery for the occasion. Glenys told us cakes from Jeanne’s Bakery had been a tradition for birthdays in her family since she was a child.
Turns out Glenys’ family isn’t the only one for whom Jeanne’s cakes were a tradition as I discovered when I listened to a podcast about the bakery. Jeanne’s cakes are iconic to Winnipeggers and there are hundreds of families who wouldn’t think of celebrating a special occasion without one of Jeanne’s cakes.
The bakery was founded by Flemish immigrants Achille and Jeanne Van Landeghem in 1938. It remained in their family for 80 years till the Van Landeghem’s grandson Donald sold the bakery to Jerry Penner in 2003 after Donald’s brother and business partner Alan died of a heart attack.
What Jerry realized after he bought Jeanne’s Bakery was that he hadn’t only bought a bakery he had bought a part of Winnipeg history. He said it really struck home when a woman came into the bakery needing a cake for her mother’s funeral. She had flown all the way from Vancouver to get the cake because her Mom had requested they serve Jeanne’s cake at her memorial service. The daughter told Jerry a cake from Jeanne’s was more than a cake- it was a memory.
Jerry has the recipe for Jeanne’s cakes in his safety deposit box and uses it to make the 1500-2000 cakes they bake and ice a week. Jeanne’s Cakes certainly have their critics. The podcast I listened to interviews Free Press food writer Alison Gillmor. The only thing she can find to praise about the cakes is the chocolate curls that cover their sides. But despite some negative reviews the cakes continue to have legions of fans.
My friends and I hadn’t seen each other in person for more than five months because of the pandemic so we drank a toast to being together again and a toast to our friend’s birthday. We made some great memories eating Glenys’ birthday Jeanne’s cake.