The Great Challah Caper

The owners of Crossroads Delicatessen have heard the complaints about how the It Takes The Cake challahs that Crossroads is now baking is not the same as it used to be. They are trying, but they say that a true replication will be hard to accomplish.

“Bakers are like chefs; they will tweak recipes here and there over time and not write it down,” said Scott Hill, chef and part-owner of Crossroads. “Tim, our younger brother with close to 40 years of experience as a baker, has taken the recipe we got and tweaked it in his way to match people’s memories of the past. But it’s pretty impossible to do.”

It Takes The Cake abruptly closed on Thursday, June 9, leaving many regular challah buyers bewildered at why their beloved bakery went out of business and what they were going to each Shabbat. For that week, Crossroads had agreed to bake the challahs that It Takes The Cake had prepared in the bakery – right down to the braiding. Crossroads baked them at It Takes The Cake, bagged them up, and brought them to Crossroads for people who had pre-ordered them to pick up.

“Perception is an interesting phenomenon,” said Norman Pink, a partner at Crossroads.

Since then, Scott Hill says that Crossroads is doing the best they can.

“His process is lost,” he said of It Takes The Cake’s last owners. “We’re setting out to bake the best we can, with a large percentage of the recipe based on his. But we have different bakers baking it.”

Said Kevin Hill, Scott’s brother and the general manager of Crossroads: “We’re using different equipment than he did. We’ve gone from making 50 to 75 challahs to more than 200. The temperature of the kitchen is different. The humidity is different. It’s chemistry.”

The iconic sign still hangs above the It Takes The Cake storefront.

The iconic sign still hangs above the It Takes The Cake storefront.

It Takes The Cake was opened in 1998 by Doll and Jack Laboe. Doll Laboe worked at the Lincoln Del bakery before her and Jack became co-owners of Rainbow’s End in St. Louis Park. They then opened It Takes The Cake, and sold it in June of 2010.

“Everyone loved Doll and Jack,” Scott Hill said. “Doll was an extremely talented baker and decorator. That place was built on her reputation.”

However, the Hills pointed out, that the challah recipe that that the Laboes left when they sold the bakery stopped being their recipe when the new owners took it over.

“As a chef, I understand people’s passion for food,” Scott Hill said. “People want the feelings they want to remember.”

To the best of the Pink’s and the Hills knowledge, there is no plans right now for It Takes The Cake to reopen, or for Crossroads to operate it as their bakehouse.

“If someone was to reopen it,” Scott Hill said, “Then their challah would be different, too.”