Local company bakes cakes with a kick

If you don’t know any better, the jar looks perfectly harmless.

In fact, the crystal-clear substance within it could easily be mistaken as water – until you unscrew the lid and take a big whiff. That’s when the telltale fumes of 100-proof, mountain-made Ole Smoky’s White Lightnin’ moonshine knocks you to the ground.

But take a bit of the stuff and incorporate it into a chocolate-chip cake, and you’ve got gold. That’s exactly what Tennessee Moonshine Cake owners Ann Dickerson and Bill Zack did more than a year ago, and their homegrown business is still going strong.

“Sometimes we have to persuade people, but once they taste it they are converted,” laughed Dickerson from the company’s home inside the Business Development Center on Cherokee Boulevard. “We couldn’t be happier. We’re having a blast.”

A nearby oven glowed as it baked 24 lemon-flavored cakes. Soon, a new oven would be installed that can bake 96 cakes at one time, Dickerson said. The increased capacity is a good thing. The couple sells hundreds of cakes to around 30 retailers each week in chocolate chip, lemon and blueberry varieties.

Dickerson grew up on Signal Mountain, and the couple lives there today, but they didn’t get the inspiration for the business from any bootlegging ancestors. The idea for their moonshine cakes was actually born while they ran a sugar-cookie business.

“We were looking for something that is uniquely Tennessee,” explained Dickerson. “We thought, ‘[Moonshine] is so hot right now and people are so fascinated. Why don’t we try a cake?’”

So Zack, a former sous chef, tried. It took him months and a lot of experimenting to perfect the recipe. Dickerson laughed as she recalled beginning batches with way too much moonshine.

Eventually, though, Zack got it just right.

Today, Tennessee Moonshine Cakes can be found locally at Whole Foods, Chanticleer Inn, Enzo’s Market, Good World Goods, Honest Charley’s Speed Shop and Pruett’s Signal Mountain Market, as well as in seven other states.

Find out more at tnmoonshinecakes.com.