A Much-Beloved Cake Returns to Toast the Season
By Hope Nelson, special to Edible DC
Some sweets are simply synonymous with the holiday season. Peppermint bark? Check. Fruitcake? Well, yes, against our collective better judgment.
Around Alexandria, there’s another sweet treat that always finds its way to the dessert table around Christmastime: Shuman’s jelly cake.
Served at Shuman’s Bakery for more than 100 years, the cake (and its recipe) disappeared from the city when the bakery closed its doors in 2004. But in 2010, a new generation of the Shuman family resurrected the business – and the jelly cake – by opening an online store, and business has been booming ever since.
The resurrected Shuman’s started innocently enough – by some conversations over the dinner table, said Shuman’s Patrick Hagan.
“We started a Facebook page, and before you knew it, we had 100 or more Facebook fans, so we thought we’d look into it a little more in terms of restarting it as a family business,” Hagan said. “… We started up in November 2010. There was immediate response, and it’s grown every year since.”
The jelly cake, often cut into small diamonds for serving, is deceptive in its delicate appearance. But don’t let its short stature fool you – this treat packs a flavorful punch. Shuman’s jelly cake is created from three layers of pound cake, bound together with layers of red currant jelly in between. Topped with powdered sugar, many holiday-party hosts have found it’s a show-stopper during the festivities.
“I think it looks like Christmas, for one thing, to a lot of people. Some people have called and said they decorate the jelly cake with holly,” Hagan said.
And this time of year, the jelly cakes are moving through the bakery like, well, hotcakes. “We do as many as 100 a day” during peak season, Hagan says, and the final product is shipped far and wide. Shuman’s offers free delivery around Alexandria and ships worldwide – the bakery has had orders from almost every state, plus Ireland, Germany, and Afghanistan, just to name a few.
Have a hankering for a jelly cake? The folks at Shuman’s will be working up until 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve to ensure you get your fix. To order, give them a call at 703-683-1876 or check out their website at https://www.shumansbakery.com.
Hope Nelson is a tofu-loving food writer who's happiest in the kitchen (or watching college football). She lives in Alexandria, Va., with her husband, Mike, and their cat, Lucky Abigail. Check out her food blog at www.kitchenrecessionista.com or email her any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.