It's really easy for Linda Davis to tell if her customers were raised in the Yakima Valley based solely on their reaction to her lunch menu.

Monday is Zombie Day.

And if you went to school in the Valley, you know exactly what that means.

If you don't, Davis will soon set you straight.

Her shop, Shorty's Sweets, Treats 'N Cakes at 115 N. Third St. in downtown Yakima, may be the only kitchen outside of a school district making the school lunch favorites.

But Shorty's didn't set out to be a lunch spot.

Davis opened Shorty's in June at the urging of her husband, T.J. Davis. She took the four levels of Wilton Method cake decorating courses at the Cake Decorator's Shoppe and was busy making cakes for her friends and family. She had so many orders, she said she was staying up until 3 a.m. making cakes, then getting up at 8:30 a.m. to go to her job at Yakima Vision Center and take care of her kids.

"My husband said, 'You just need to do this,'" she said. When the storefront on Third Street became available - it used to be home to the Committee for Downtown Yakima - Davis quit her job and went into business for herself.

Since then, she's focused on her custom cakes and selling freshly baked doughnuts, cupcakes, cookies and premade pies, whole and by the slice.

Making Cheese Zombies was never part of the plan.

"People kept coming in and wanting lunch," Davis said. So she started offering ham and turkey sandwiches as a quick meal for customers from nearby businesses, and baked potatoes on Tuesday. And then her husband suggested - or perhaps, insisted - she start making Cheese Zombies.

Davis starts her Zombies about 9 a.m. on Monday mornings to be ready for lunch at 11:30. Making a tray takes about two hours, and she only makes four dozen each week. Customers can choose from the traditional Zombie - which is sort of like a grilled cheese sandwich, but made with a bread dough - or a "Meaty Zombie," which includes a slice of ham. And of course, you can get a cup of Campbell's tomato soup.

"People tell me it's better than the school district's," Davis said of her recipe.

On a recent Monday, Zombie-lover Sandy Anderson of Yakima was excited to get a Cheese Zombie.

"Last time I had a Cheese Zombie, my kids were in grade school, and I used to go down and eat with them sometimes," Anderson said. "One of the guys from work came down here to get a doughnut ... and he said something about Zombies and I thought, 'Oh man, that sounds good.' So I had to come and get a Zombie. And it looks awesome."

Davis said the lunchtime crowd on Zombie day has gotten big enough that she had to hire an employee, Christian Robert, to help meet orders. Sometimes the trays of Zombies are sold out before she even gets them out of the oven, but customers are welcome to call and place their order ahead of time.

Zombies start at $3.50, or $5 with soup. Cupcakes and doughnuts range in price from 50 cents to $4 for a jumbo, filled cupcake.

This recipe for Cheese Zombies is reportedly the original recipe from the Grandview School District. It makes a very large sheet of zombies.

Original Cheese Zombies

23/4 tablespoons active dry yeast

3/4 cup water, warmed to 110 degrees

61/2 cups all purpose or bread flour

1/3 cup noninstant nonfat dry milk or 3/4 cup instant nonfat dry milk plus 7 tablespoons granulated sugar

7 tablespoons vegetable oil

11/2 cups water (at 68 degrees)

11/4 pounds American cheese, sliced

1/2 tablespoon melted butter or margarine (optional)

For best results, have all ingredients and utensils at room temperature (except water, where noted).

Dissolve dry yeast in warm water. Let stand four to five minutes.

Place flour, dry milk, sugar and salt in mixing bowl. Using a dough hook, blend on low speed about 2 minutes.

Add oil and blend on low speed 2 more minutes.

Add water and continue blending for another minute.

Add dissolved yeast and mix on low speed 2 minutes.

Knead dough on medium speed for 8 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic.

Divide dough into two equal pieces and place in warm area (about 90 degrees) for 45 to 60 minutes.

Use a lightly oiled half-sheet pan (17 3/4"x12 7/8"x1") and evenly stretch one dough ball on pan. Put sliced cheese evenly on top of first layer of dough. Take second dough ball and stretch evenly on the top.

Place in a warm area (about 90 degrees) until double in size, 30 to 50 minutes.

Bake until lightly brown, 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes in conventional oven; 350 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes in convection oven.

Optional: Brush lightly with melted butter while warm.

• News producer TJ Mullinax contributed to this report.

• Savannah Tranchell can be reached at 509-577-7752 or stranchell@yakimaherald.com.

About Cheese Zombies

A Cheese Zombie is sort of like a grilled cheese sandwich, except with bread dough. They are baked in large sheets, with slices of cheddar cheese baked between layers of dough.

The origin of the Cheese Zombie is the stuff of legends in the Yakima Valley. According to a 2005 article by James Joyce III in the Yakima Herald-Republic, the Zombie was created by M.J. Sabinish, a cook for the former Broadway-Stanton School District, which merged with the Yakima School District in the mid-'60s. According to son Mike Sabinish, who was a baker at Garfield Elementary at the time, they were invented at least around 1959.

But according to a recent obituary, the Cheese Zombie was invented by Dorothy Lucille (Pelley) Finch of Grandview, who died May 25. Finch was the School Food Service Supervisor for the Grandview School District starting in 1956, the obituary said. She was credited with helping create the national school breakfast program and serving on a legislative committee for the American School Food Association.

Sadly, I have been unable to locate any of Finch's survivors to get more of that story.

Regardless of origins, Zombies have a statewide following and are served in Yakima schools to this day.

The origin of the name may be more unknown than the original creator. "We always have them on Halloween," said the cook manager at Garfield, Cindy Herring, in the 2005 article. Or maybe the name has something to do with the color.

My horror-film loving husband and I came up with a new theory, based on what new Zombie chef Linda Davis told us about her process. It takes two hours for her to make her Zombies, because there is yeast in the dough.

Just like the undead, Cheese Zombies need time to rise.

Do you have a favorite memory of Cheese Zombies? Share it on our food blog, yakimaherald.com/blogs/appetite.

About Cheese Zombies

A Cheese Zombie is sort of like a grilled cheese sandwich, except with bread dough. They are baked in large sheets, with slices of cheddar cheese baked between layers of dough.

The origin of the Cheese Zombie is the stuff of legends in the Yakima Valley. According to a 2005 article by James Joyce III in the Yakima Herald-Republic, the Zombie was created by M.J. Sabinish, a cook for the former Broadway-Stanton School District, which merged with the Yakima School District in the mid-'60s. According to son Mike Sabinish, who was a baker at Garfield Elementary at the time, they were invented at least around 1959.

But according to a recent obituary, the Cheese Zombie was invented by Dorothy Lucille (Pelley) Finch of Grandview, who died May 25. Finch was the School Food Service Supervisor for the Grandview School District starting in 1956, the obituary said. She was credited with helping create the national school breakfast program and serving on a legislative committee for the American School Food Association.

Sadly, I have been unable to locate any of Finch's survivors to get more of that story.

Regardless of origins, Zombies have a statewide following and are served in Yakima schools to this day.

The origin of the name may be more unknown than the original creator. "We always have them on Halloween," said the cook manager at Garfield, Cindy Herring, in the 2005 article. Or maybe the name has something to do with the color.

My horror-film loving husband and I came up with a new theory, based on what new Zombie chef Linda Davis told us about her process. It takes two hours for her to make her Zombies, because there is yeast in the dough.

Just like the undead, Cheese Zombies need time to rise.

Do you have a favorite memory of Cheese Zombies? Share it on our food blog, yakimaherald.com/blogs/appetite.

- Savannah Tranchell

Shorty's Sweets, Treats 'N Cakes

• 115 N Third St., Yakima

• 509-469-9845

• Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday by appointment

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