When chatting with food lovers of a certain age in Shreveport-Bossier, it doesn’t take long for someone to bring up a dessert that drove Shreveporters wild in the 60s and 70s. Though more than 40 years have passed since the heyday of Chef Shorty Lenard’s legendary black forest cake, local food lovers still get misty-eyed about it and internet forums still break out in the occasional argument about it. Lenard passed away in 2003, after a long and (from what I’ve read) at times tumultuous career cooking at places like The Shreveport Club and Shreveport Country Club.
I can’t tell you how many times an older food lover from Shreveport-Bossier has given me a knowing smile or a clap on the back, saying something to the effect of: “It’s just too bad that you came along too late to taste Shorty Lenard’s black forest cake.” Recently, while doing some research, I found an insanely complicated recipe for “The Shreveport Club’s Black Forest Cake” in a cookbook called A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport published by the Junior League of Shreveport in 1978. The huge recipe seemed like something that an at-home cook would be crazy to try, and consisted mainly of detailed instructions outlining how to not screw up when baking sensitive meringue discs. I figured, this has to be the famous black forest cake.
Recently, I met up with Sopan “T.K.” Tike of Lilah’s Bakery in Highland. Tired of hearing about this incredible cake that I’d never be able to taste, I asked Tike (who has had a fantastic career himself, cooking at places like The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai) if he’d recreate the cake for me. As it turns out, I’m not the first person to ask. Each year, Tike says, he fills a handful of orders for this cake, mostly placed by former customers of the late, great Shorty Lenard. From start to finish, the cakes take Tike 19 hours, so he asks for as much advance notice as possible. He also advises customers that the cake should really be consumed on the day that it is made. Customers looking to order one can contact Lilah’s Bakery at (318) 676-1407. I’ve also been told that several other local bakeries can produce the cake upon request.
So, how did it taste? Incredible. So much about tasting this cake for the first time was a joy for me, after having read so much about it. It’s actually not really a black forest cake at all, in my opinion, it is a dacquoise cake decorated in the style of a black forest cake, made special by delicate layers of almond and hazelnut meringue.
This cake will be served at an event celebrating local food legends, 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015 at Robinson Film Center in downtown Shreveport. The evening will feature short films about (and tastings of) several local foods. Watch this blog for more details.
A note from blog author Chris Jay: I am presently creating a short documentary film about Chef Shorty Lenard’s black forest cake. If you worked with Lenard or have special insight into this cake, and would be willing to tape a brief interview on the subject, please call me at (318) 429-0658.
this cake was also made about ten years ago at a bakery called the Cake House which is no longer in business. I enjoyed it at many a wedding in that decade! It def is one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten!
You know he worked at Harrah’s (now Sam’s) in the 90’s along with one of his son’s. He has many children who might be able to corroborate the cake recipe for you. Thanks for the heads up regarding the Robinson event in Sept.
V. Denise Lenard
MAY 18, 2015 AT 4:45 PM
What a great read! This is interesting…“SAVORING A SLICE OF SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER’S CULINARY HISTORY.” The ‘Black Forest Cake’ to which we are familiar is Shorty Lenard’s very own, individual creation which has become a part of Shreveport’s history. It is a concoction of layers of delicate meringues, whipped cream, and rich chocolate. It literally “melts in your mouth!”
In this blog, we see a photograph of Sopan “T.K.” Tike of Lilah’s Bakery who has put his very own “spin” on ‘my father’s cake’. Shorty would be fine with that as he encouraged others to develop their own style. However, Shorty Lenard’s creation has no semblance to the original cake known to Germany as…”Black Forest Cherry Tart.”
Shorty’s recipe does appear in “A Cook’s Tour,” which is a collection of recipes compiled by the Junior League of Shreveport. Shorty’s “Black Forest Cake” was “invented” by him during his employment at the Shreveport Club. Therefore, the club, not Shorty received ‘credit’ for what was to become one of the most talked about and sought after desserts in our area and beyond!
This blog refers to Shorty as having “…a long and (from what I’ve read) at times a tumultuous career cooking at places like The Shreveport Club and Shreveport Country Club.” Believe me, that is a very small “slice of the story!”
After years of working as a Chef for numerous establishments, Shorty decided to embark on a new journey and open a restaurant he could call his own. Our family was thrilled, yet a bit nervous about this change.
With little capital and much muscle, we pulled together and opened the first “Shorty Lenard’s Restaurant” which was located on Pierremont Road and within a five mile radius of many of dad’s loyal fans who seemed more excited than we were to be “at their back door.” It was a neighborhood restaurant. There was no need to advertise as the business grew due to “word of mouth”. We were always busy and so thankful for our patrons.
After several years of being in business, we moved to the renovated “Reglin Plantation.” It was beautiful. I have some photos and will be happy to share them with you.
Dad was driven…focused…and eager to please. He always wanted a window overlooking the dining room so his patrons could see him. This was dad’s way of letting everyone know he was there for them. Shorty was a very generous man who always invited his patrons into his kitchen. Some patrons would knock on the window just to say “hi,” while others would ask Shorty to prepare one of his famous entrees in accordance with a special diet to which they had to adhere. He understood the importance of customer service. He would accommodate everyone.
When you dined at “Shorty Lenard’s” you were given the option of returning an entree if you did not like how it was prepared. As a result of this and other kind gestures, business thrived. People became comfortable dining at “Shorty Lenard’s. Some patrons interested in the craft would actually spend time with Shorty in his kitchen learning how to prepare one of his delicacies. I think people were surprised that he was so approachable. Initially timid, dad became more comfortable through the years and began greeting the crowd as they dined. Everyone loved to see Shorty at work, preparing their meal and it was a special treat to have him leave his kitchen, enter the dining room to greet his patrons.
For a while, Shorty’s sons worked with him in his kitchen(s) when he opened his own establishments. Initially, I managed the dining room. Later, I would have my opportunity to work in the kitchen where I prepared pies for our special Sunday Lunch.
I know you have been in touch with my brother, Keith Lenard, a very gifted Chef who not only learned the craft alongside dad, but who possesses formal education in Culinary Arts. It is unfortunate that we lost Cliff in 1997. In addition to being an extremely talented chef, he knew wine. Cliff was responsible for teaching me much about management and accounting skills.
I am so looking forward to the Robinson event! You reported that “This cake will be served at an event celebrating local food legends, 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015 at Robinson Film Center in downtown Shreveport.” Please contact me as I will be happy to provide you more information and better insight about Shorty Lenard, his Black Forest Cake…my version(s) of the Black Forest Cake…and a wealth of other fabulous creations by my father. I have photos…many, many photos of dad’s fabulous works of art!
Shorty Lenard and Black Forest Cake are synonymous; however, the Black Forest Cake should not be the only thing he is remembered for. For example, he excelled in the creation of many majestic ice carvings and numerous savory entrees with delectable sauces. Presentation was exquisite.
One more thing…..Today, as a result of Shorty’s generosity, several establishments remain in business.
My family and I enjoyed many special events prepared by Shorty Lenard and loved dining in all of his restaurants. When I moved to Atlanta in 1986, I often boasted that I would put some of the chefs in Shreveport up against chefs in New York. For a small town, we were blessed with many talented chefs and Shorty Lenard was way up on my list. I will be checking my Shreveport Cookbooks for his Black Forest Cake – it was incredible!
Where is the recipe???
We made a Youtube video about where you can find the recipe. You can check it out here: https://youtu.be/g3mEcLq793Y
If you’re just interested in the recipe and not its history, just skip to the last 30 seconds or so.