Kitchn Love Letters

The $4 Store-Bought Dessert My Grandma Has Been Serving for 30 Years

published Dec 6, 2023
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Frozen food aisle of grocery store
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I grew up the oldest of five children, and we had birthday cakes many times throughout the year. Our grandparents lived about an hour north of my siblings and me, and we often looked forward to visiting them, as they lived along a lake in northern Pennsylvania. Some of the best parts weren’t just boating, fishing, and having more freedom than we did at home. Our dinners — birthday-themed or not — would often end with Pepperidge Farm layer cakes. 

My grandparents always made sure they had one in their freezer ready to thaw and serve my four siblings (and occasionally cousins).

Credit: Kate Oczypok

What’s So Great About Pepperidge Farm Classic Coconut Layer Cake?

Pepperidge Farm cakes come in six different flavors: coconut, lemon, chocolate fudge stripe, golden, confetti vanilla, and chocolate fudge. My favorite is the Classic Coconut Layer Cake. The square-shaped coconut cake is three layers, with a creamy vanilla frosting and coconut shreds on top.

Credit: Kate Oczypok

My husband and I, wondering how our childhood memories would stack up against our adult palates, recently bought a cake to taste test (he too had grown up occasionally eating the cakes). We set the cake out on our counter for an hour or so and waited (im)patiently for the cake to thaw. (You can also thaw it in the fridge for three hours or by the slice for 20 minutes.) We each cut ourselves a slice and grabbed our forks.

Credit: Kate Oczypok

The coconut cake’s simplicity is what makes it so delicious. It thaws uniformly. The vanilla frosting is light and there’s just enough to balance out the moist cake, which is flavorful without leaning into the artificial. The coconut shreds are sprinkled generously on top, and don’t get soggy either. Each bite was just as good as it was in the ‘90s. 

Credit: Kate Oczypok

What made it extra special was the fact that every bite reminded me of my grandfather, who passed away in 2015. My grandmother, who is 94, still recalls the Pepperidge Farm cakes at their home on the lake fondly.

Credit: Kate Oczypok

The only thing that surprised my husband and me was the size of the cake. We both couldn’t believe how much smaller they looked. We chalked it up to the rising cost of supplies, but perhaps it was because we are both fully grown adults and no longer little kids — our portions have also grown from our pre-K and elementary school days.

Credit: Kate Oczypok

They’re a great item to have in your freezer for unexpected company, particularly as the holidays fast approach. Although the package says it serves eight, if you are having more than four to six people with big appetites, it might be worth picking up two cakes. I often find them on sale at my neighborhood grocer and even slightly less online. 

They pair well with a coffee, hot chocolate, or cold glass of milk on the side.

Buy: Pepperidge Farm Classic Coconut Layer Cake, $4.24 for 19.6 ounces at Walmart

What grocery dessert has your family been buying for decades? Tell us about it in the comments below.