When I think of Burbank, California, only two places come to mind: the original Bobs Big Boy and Martinos Bakery. The latter interests me quite a bit more, although I do have fond childhood memories of eating double-deckers at the Ventura, CaliforniaBig Boy. I almost cried when it became a Carrows.
There's something about Martinos Bakery that has kept customers coming back for over three-quarters of a century. My guess for its success? One thing: Martinos tea cakes. Actually, the first time Ive physically stepped in to the bakery was last week, but I had seen, tasted and savored Martinos tea cakes long before. My mother grew up in Burbank, and her siblings and my grandparents have boasted about Martinos tea cakes for as long as I can remember. Hence, I was born and grew up hearing about these wondrous little pastries. As my family resided in Venturaand then in the San FranciscoBayarea, members of our extended family would visit the bakery whenever they were in the vicinity of Burbank. And the tea cakes, in dozens, would beautifully withstand the ride up the I-5 into Northern California.
This luxury didn't grace us all that often. Actually, I only distinctly remember twice having the privilege of savoring a tea cake or two. But the tea cakes are legendary. Now that I have relocated to North Hollywood, Burbank's next door neighbor, I had to visit Martino's for myself.
My first visit was driven by a deep craving and a defined focus: I wanted some tea cakes. As my boyfriend Dan and I stepped through the bakery doors, I expected to be directed toward the tea cakes, either by some enormous sign (perhaps flashing and neon) or by some divine force awakened from family members past visits, guiding me to gluttony. Well, there was no sign. I felt nervous and a bit unsure as I scanned the large bakery cases. Pies, tarts, breads, muffins, danishes, rolls, pinwheels, cookies, turnovers.
I dont see them, do you? I asked Dan, who has once enjoyed the ceremonial consumption of the traveled tea cake (so he knows what they look like). I could tell he was thinking the same thing: Where are they?
Just then, I faintly overheard another bakery customer, blah, blah, blah, tea cakes, blah, blah Reassured, I shrugged off my preconceived notion of tea cake arrogance, and walked up to the register and asked the nice woman behind the counter for some tea cakes, please. She asked me to specify how many, but I didnt know. I was nervous that they only came in certain numbers and I didnt know what to say. Would she reprimand me for asking for, say, five? Was there a specific tea-cake code phrase or language I had to know? I didnt know the drill.
I shook myself out of it, and asked her for a half dozen. She reached behind her to the stacks of white bakery boxes, and I understood; the tea cakes are packaged in either half- or one-dozen increments for efficiency, due to popular demand. I knew it, and it made me smile. We paid about $3 (what a deal) and somehow managed to survive the 5 minute drive home without diving in.
The tea cakes resemble cupcakes but in a rectangular shape. They are perfect in size and texture for eating more than one. One tea cake can easily be devoured in three to four large bites, similar in size to perhaps a Twinkie, but shorter and fatter. (Please forgive me for the poor example, and in absolutely no other way can we compare Martinos tea cakes to commercially processed cream-filled torpedoes.)
Two components complete the Martinos tea cake: the icing and the cake itself. When combined into the final product, the two components become one, singing in harmonious deliciousness. The icing is sort of maple-like in flavor and is quite sweet, lending only one thin layer to achieve perfect balance with the not-as-sweet cake beneath. The cake itself is moist without being gluey, buttery without being greasy, and light enough to consume more than one; you can see the little airy pockets of a bitten-into tea cake.
Dan and I ate five of the six with two glasses of cold milk. We had to save one, perhaps as homage to a family tradition, but mostly just to enjoy later that day.
Martinos Bakery is located at 335 N. Victory Blvd. in Burbank, California. They are open Monday through Friday from to on Sunday. The tea cakes are made fresh daily from the same recipe created by the original owners over 50 years ago.