Ever since Tennessee passed a law to legalize moonshine—eliminating the need for anyone to process white lightning by the “the light of the moon”—moonshine fever has spread like wildfire as new distilleries have cropped up across the state.
By Jen Jeffrey
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In a smart business move, one local couple is capitalizing on the movement with a new, Chattanooga-made product. Tennessee Moonshine Cakes, made in Chattanooga’s Business Development Center (BDC), is the brainchild of Bill Zack and Ann Dickerson. “We were just looking for something ‘uniquely Tennessee.’ When we realized the law had been passed, we thought about it for a while, experimented, and then came up with the cakes,” says Ann, who grew up on Signal Mountain.
The husband and wife team made their business debut in 2011 with Chattanooga Cookie Company, a wholesale bakery known for sugar cookies topped with corporate designs and logos. A year later, they began experimenting with moonshine cookies. “We just kept coming up with ideas in our heads and thought, ‘We tried it in the cookies—let’s try cake!’ And the cake was much better. People are crazy about it,” Ann says.
A former chef, Bill came up with the recipe from scratch. The cake batter is made with 100 proof White Lightnin’ made by Gatlinburg-based Ole Smokey Tennessee Moonshine. The distinct alcohol flavor bakes out, but the couple puts it right back into the cakes with a white lightning glaze. Currently, the company offers three flavors: Lemon, Chocolate Chip, and Blueberry.
“Nobody else out there is doing what we are doing,” Ann says. “There are people making products with whiskey, but of course, moonshine is different—it isn’t aged and there is just this cool thing about moonshine that people are very drawn to. It has a very different taste.”
Just what does White Lightnin’ taste like? “Um… fire? It tastes like fire… yep,” Ann says, chuckling.
Ann and Bill frequently attend markets and festivals with their tasty cakes. You can usually find them manning a booth at the Chattanooga Market on Sundays, luring in passerbys with plates of delicious samples. “People are always kind of surprised. They love it because it is very moist and the moonshine is a nice complement to the cake instead of overwhelming it.”
The couple also distributes cakes to retailers across eight states. Right now, they sell about 1,000 each month, but they expect that number to grow as they add retailers. Here in town, Tennessee Moonshine Cakes are carried in Enzo’s Market, Good World Goods, Honest Charley’s, and Pruett’s Signal Mountain Market.
As their business takes off, Ann and Bill say they want to keep expanding and even possibly get in with a major retailer.
For right now, they are staying on their feet nearly seven days a week with all the demands of the growing business. Ann says it doesn’t seem like work when people are so excited about the product. “It beats having to work for someone else, and we are having so much fun!”