Deconstructing the Cake Shake from SquareBurger

Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.
Cake Shake SquareBurger Stephen Starr
The Cake Shake
Carolyn Wyman

In the pantheon of Philly drinks, it ranks up there with fish house punch, the Citywide and Rocky's raw-egg breakfast.

Consisting of two Tastykake Krimpet butterscotch cupcakes blended with milk and caramel syrup and topped with whipped cream, the Cake Shake was the big hit of SquareBurger's menu when the Stephen Starr burger stand opened in the Franklin Square kiddy park in summer 2009.

SquareBurger has been called Starr's Philadelphia take on Danny Meyer's New York park-born Shake Shack. And you might assume the Cake Shake was based on Shake Shack's namesake frozen custard drinks. But Shane Cash, who helped develop the menu for SquareBurger when he worked for Starr, says the Cake Shake was actually inspired by the Twinkie Boy, a shake that debuted at chef Laurent Tourondel's BLT Burger in Greenwich Village in 2006 and that grew to be so important to the eventual BLT Burger chain that it became the subject of a courtroom custody battle after Tourondel and business partner Jimmy Haber split in 2010.

"While we were brainstorming ideas, somebody said, 'There's a Twinkie shake that's really popular in New York,'" Cash recalls. Cash's mind immediately went to Philadelphia's own sponge cake treat. Given Starr's interest in local ingredients and SquareBurger's location in a popular historic park, it was a plus that a Tastykake shake "shouted Philadelphia," says Cash.

Except for the brand and number of namesake cakes (the Cake Shake contains two cakes to the Twinkie Boy's one because "Krimpets are smaller," Cash explains), the original Cake Shake pretty much mimicked the Twinkie Boy recipe. That explains the puzzle of its caramel answer to butterscotch syrup. SquareBurger switched from ice cream to frozen custard, including in its shakes, in 2012. "It's richer," SquareBurger executive chef Jason Goodman explains. As if the Cake Shake needed that.

GET IT: $5.50 at SquareBurger, Franklin Square, 200 Sixth St., 215-629-4026,

• 3 scoops vanilla ice cream or
frozen custard
• 2 Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets, broken up
• 3/4 cup milk
• 2 tablespoons caramel or butterscotch sauce or syrup
• Whipped cream
Put ice cream, Krim­pets, milk and 1 tablespo­on of the sauce into a blender and pro­cess to de­sired smoothness/chunkiness. Squirt or driz­zle the rest of the caramel sauce along the in­ner edge of a large clear glass or cup so that it drips down in an attractive way. Pour the shake into the glass. Top with whipped cream. Serves 1.

Editor's Note: This is the first article in a new City Paper column called Staples, which is dedicated to signature dishes at Philadelphia establishments. If you have a suggestion for an item with an interesting story, email it to Carolyn Wyman at

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