Kathryn Kates, who played the ‘Seinfeld’ babka purveyor, dies at 73

Kates, who died of lung cancer, also appeared in “Law and Order,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “The Many Saints of Newark” the “Sopranos” prequel movie.

 Kathryn Kates was known for her role as the bakery clerk who perpetually disappointed Jerry Seinfeld. (photo credit: SCREENSHOT FROM YOUTUBE/JTA)
Kathryn Kates was known for her role as the bakery clerk who perpetually disappointed Jerry Seinfeld.
(photo credit: SCREENSHOT FROM YOUTUBE/JTA)

When it came to babka, actress Kathryn Kates, who died last month at 73, preferred chocolate, according to The New York Times.

But when Jerry and Elaine finally got to her bakery counter on Seinfeld, the only babka Kates had to offer was cinnamon. And that was a problem.

“There’s chocolate and there’s cinnamon,” Kates says in the famous episode “The Dinner Party” to a disappointed Elaine after selling the last chocolate babka to the previous customer. Elaine calls cinnamon the “lesser babka,” to which Jerry replies with an impassioned retort.

“Cinnamon takes a backseat to no babka!” Jerry declares as Kates looks on, framed by shelves of fluffy challah.

The babka bit wouldn’t be Kates’ last appearance as the gatekeeper of Jewish New York culinary classics on the sitcom.

PAMPOENMOES (PUMPKIN BABKA) (credit: MICHAEL SMITH)PAMPOENMOES (PUMPKIN BABKA) (credit: MICHAEL SMITH)

She made another appearance as the bakery clerk in a later season in which she sells the last loaf of marble rye bread to an older woman ahead of Jerry in line. When Jerry incredulously asks if there is really no more marble rye, Kates responds as Jerry desperately offers to pay the older woman $50 for the $6 loaf. When she refuses his offer, he steals the loaf and runs off.

Kates, who died of lung cancer according to the Times, also appeared in Law and Order, Orange Is the New Black and The Many Saints of Newark the Sopranos prequel movie.

Kates’ mother, Sylvia Kates, was also an actress who played a classic New Yorker role in a scene opposite Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel in the 1967 film version of The Producers. The elder Kates plays an older woman who lives on the first floor of an apartment building and proclaims herself the building’s “concierge,” determining who gets in and out of the door.

“Who do you want? No one gets in the building unless I know who they want, I’m the concierge,” she says, leaning out the window in curlers and a hair net. “My husband used to be the concierge but he’s dead. Now I’m the concierge.”