Watch: The story behind the cake Tom Cruise has been sending to pals for years
By Suzy Byrne
According to Rosie O’Donnell, the official start to the Christmas season is when she gets her holiday gift from “Tommy” — known to the rest of us as Tom Cruise.
For about a decade, the action star has gifted friends, co-stars and TV show hosts a signature item: the White Chocolate Coconut Bundt Cake from Doan’s Bakery, a small, family-run business in Woodland Hills, California.
Those who are on his gift list all seem to rave about it — like Jimmy Fallon calling it “unbelievable,” Kirsten Dunst saying it’s “one of the best cakes I've ever had,” Henry Cavill describing it as “the most decadent, the most amazing” cake and Barbara Walters digging into it on The View — and try to remain on the superstar’s “nice” list for the next year.
While speaking about his cake gifting in 2018, Cruise said doesn’t consume sugar when he’s training for his high-profile movie roles, which is pretty much all the time, so “I send [cakes to everyone... and I wait for the calls,” from recipients to hear how good the cakes are. “I’m like: Tell me about it.”
Yahoo Entertainment spoke with Eric Doan, who runs Doan’s Bakery with his mother Karen, about the celebrity-coveted, mouth-watering culinary creation and what makes it so good.
“The funny thing is, we’ve been doing that cake for a quarter of a century,” Doan says of the culinary concoction — a coconut bundt cake with chunks of sweet white chocolate, layers of cheese frosting and dusted with toasted coconut flakes — that his mom, now 78, started making when the business opened in 1984.
“It’s just a unique cake that we dreamt up 25 years ago and we’ve always done it for different cafes, restaurants and caterers,” as they are largely a wholesale business.
On the bakery’s own website, there’s no photo of the delicious looking dessert or mention of it being the “the Cruise cake,” what Dunst, who appeared in Interview With the Vampire with Cruise in 1994, calls it, or “Tom Cruise deliciousness,” the name given to it by Cobie Smulders, who worked with Cruise on 2016’s Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. It’s merely listed among the 30 or so cakes they regularly sell from their store or via wholesale. (They also do custom cakes, including this one for Jennifer Lopez’s twins’ 5th birthdays.)
“Over the years of Odin Productions gifting it,” referring to Cruise’s business through which the orders are placed, “it’s taken on that moniker of the ‘Tom Cruise cake,’ if you will,” but they don’t advertise it that way. In fact, as Doan explains, their first famous customer who enjoyed the cake “was probably Diane Keaton, if you want to know the truth.”
As the story goes, Keaton and Cruise’s then-wife Katie Holmes, who has a notorious sweet tooth, were filming the 2008 movie Mad Money in Shreveport, Louisiana. Both women claimed to know the best place to get a cake, so each one flew in their selection — Keaton’s from Doan’s Bakery — with Cruise doing a taste test to pick the winner, which was the coconut bundt cake that he’s now been gifting longer than that particular marriage lasted.
“That is true,” Doan says of the infamous cake showdown story. “Diane had been a fan of that cake for quite a while” before Cruise made it famous.
Just some of the celebrities raving about the “Tom Cruise cake,” a nickname bestowed upon it by Dunst:
One thing Doan wants customers to know is that when they come into his shop to buy the 10-inch cake, which is about $50 (approximately £37) is that the fancy gift wrapping treatment — O’Donnell’s boasted a shiny reindeer ornament this year — is done by Cruise’s team.
“That’s an important point. I’ve had people order that cake in the past who were expecting it to come like that,” he says. “That’s all Tom’s crew. Basically, every year I receive gift boxes from [Tom’s team]. Then they take the cake to a secondary location and they spruce it all up,” with the fancy wrapping.
Team Tom does its own distribution as well, shipping it to stars around the globe. Funny story: Graham Norton didn’t even know he was on Cruise’s gift list — his staff had been secretly eating it — until Renée Zellweger, Cruise’s Jerry Maguire talked about getting the cake on his show.
Smulders, who told Fallon she never wants to fall off Cruise’s cake list, said she keeps the bundt frozen and chips away at it slowly from December until March — and Doan approves that method of making it last — with some advice.
“I’ve never freezed it myself at the bakery — because we go through so many of them! — but my understanding is that it freezes very well. You just want to make sure you wrap it up airtight. I mean, we also do wedding cakes and so freezing it is not unlike how some couples freeze the top layer until their first anniversary.”
And believe it or not, neither of the Doans has ever met Cruise, whose team buys a few hundred cakes over the holiday season — and more throughout the year. (Cruise gifted Corden a cake the day the late-night host emceed the Grammys and Corden joked he barely fit in his suit that night.)
“We’ve only dealt with his people and everyone has been super sweet,” Doan says. “When he was still living in Beverly Hills, we would bring them a bunch of desserts” for their Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations, “as a thank you.” But Los Angeles is no longer Cruise’s home base.
It’s been a tough year for small businesses and Doan’s is no different.
Read more: Top Gun 2 didn’t use a green screen
“This year has been a really rough ride,” says Doan. “In March and April, we wondered if we were even going to be able to stay open,” as all the businesses they sold wholesale to shuttered amid the pandemic. “Now, I’m spun like a top,” as November and December, typically his busiest months, keep them busy. The saving grace was upping the frequency in which they ship it on Goldbelly — which, opposite of Doan’s website, isn’t as shy about playing up the Cruise angle — and Doan says it’s “honestly is one of the things that kept us alive” during the pandemic.
Though even that hasn’t been without challenges for the mother and son shop. Shipping requires special insulated bags and each box contains six pounds of dry ice. Just as they got into the groove shipping their cakes, suddenly they found themselves in a dry ice shortage — as it’s being used for vaccines.
But beyond this chaotic and stressful year, the bakery owner credits Cruise and his Odin Productions team for more than a decade of loyalty.
“There were years they kept us in business,” he says — and hopefully many more to come.
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