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Vocal Point: Money cake stands for time past

The owners of Spokane’s Old National Bank celebrated the 25th anniversary of their purchase of the bank with a jubilee in 1927.

The Davenport Hotel chefs designed and baked a cake for the celebration: a giant replica of the bank building in downtown Spokane. The cake included the detailed exterior of the building, flag poles and even street lamps on the sidewalk.

Ingredients used: 2,300 eggs, 250 pounds of butter, 525 pounds of sugar, 260 pounds of flour and three pints of essence of fresh almond for flavoring. Also baked into the cake were several “silver coins and gold pieces.”

The cake weighed 1,100 pounds and was “the largest cake made in America, if not the largest in the world,” according to a letter sent from the Davenport Hotel to the Sperry Flour Co. The cake was as tall as the chefs who made it.

The Nov. 1, 1927, issue of the Spokane Daily Chronicle newspaper displayed a large invitation to all the citizens of Spokane to visit the bank, at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Stevens Street, to have a piece of the “money cake.” The cake was served to the public (coins and all) at a Saturday night celebration inside the bank’s downtown lobby.

That same edition of the Chronicle showed a photo of a Spokane physician, Dr. Joseph Aspray, taking an X-ray of one of the cake’s layers to determine if the bits of silver and gold were actually inside. Some thorough investigative journalism?

Nowadays my bank gives me hard rock candy at the teller’s window and an increase in fees and credit card rates when I am away from the window. Technically, customers are supposed to help themselves to the hard rock candy only if they are making a deposit. I always feel guilty when sneaking candy while I am taking a withdrawal.

The Davenport cake bakers built a framework out of wood before loading on the cake to resemble the Old National Bank Building whose twin towers stood as the most recognized land mark in downtown Spokane. The Paulson Building stood a bit taller but the bank stole the spotlight with its giant green “ONB” illuminated letters at the top of the structure.

Time has passed. The Old National Bank’s name has changed, it’s now U.S. Bank. And there will probably never be another “money cake” give-away by any bank, anywhere.

Most bank customers would probably be happy to pay a “money cake fee” rather than an account-maintenance-fee, debit card fee or ATM withdrawal fee, if every 25 years the bank served up a cake with gold and silver coins baked inside. I have cake eating skills that would make me a big money winner.

More of Darin Krogh’s stories are available at hillyardbay.com.


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