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.