A Family Tradition Born And Carried On in Jackson, Michigan: Bill Knapp’s Cake
If you have never had a Bill Knapp's cake, you are missing out on the most moist, creamy, delicious, chocolatey adventure of your life. However, it could be the memories and the history behind this iconic Michigan-made cake that makes it even more sweet.
It all started when my mom and her siblings were children. Every year for their birthdays, their grandma and then their aunt, would take them to Bill Knapp's, the restaurant, in Jackson.
They would always have a Bill Knapp's cake for their birthdays and when my mom had me and my sisters, that tradition carried on.
Every year, for as long as I can remember, one of the most important parts of celebrating someone's birthday was figuring out how, where and when the cake would be making its appearance.
Sometimes my aunt would bring it, sometimes it was my mom and as us kids got older, now we are added to the mix of people that track down this delectable delicacy and bring it home for a birthday.
Now, it's the only cake my sister, who doesn't like sweets, will eat. That says something right there.
History of Bill Knapp's in Jackson
According to MLive, the Bill Knapp's chain of restaurants was created by Clinton B. "Bill" Knapp in Battle Creek in 1948.
After opening up seven other locations of the restaurant in Michigan, MLive reports "Jacksonians were delighted in December 1959 when construction of their very own Bill Knapp's started..."
Business was booming, so much so that the original Bill Knapp's location was proving to be a bit small, so they moved down the street to open a new location that would better serve more customers in the spring of 1980.
By then, MLive says, Bill Knapp's had expanded to a total of 46 restaurants between Michigan, Ohio and Indiana combined. However, in the late 80's and into the 90's other restaurants came and by the time the chain had reached 60 locations, business began to dwindle.
Though various efforts to "shake up" their image, mishaps with the Michigan health department at other locations (not Jackson), and struggling with other challenges over the years, MLive says "the company filed for federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2002."
Just three months after filing, the Jackson location and 28 others closed their doors, pretty abruptly.
Where You Can Still Find the Cakes
Despite closing their sit-down restaurants, you can still purchase Bill Knapp's bakery items at various grocery stores, like the ever popular chocolate birthday cakes, thanks to Awrey's Bakery purchasing the rights to make the cakes with the original recipe.
You can order the cakes online using the Bill Knapp's website if you are struggling to find them in stores. However, the grocery store we have always had the most luck finding them in Jackson each year is actually various Country Market stores!
While it may seem strange to have an emotional attachment to cake...actually, this is America, no it's not...I digress.
These cakes are far more than just a delicious combination of creamy, chocolatey goodness. They represent decades of love and tradition for many here in Jackson, in Michigan and in the Midwest.
Another iconic cake, born right here in Michigan, is the Bumpy Cake! Check out some history here: