My Father

The Baker

Starting at Broughton in the 1940s

Thank you to Alex Dow who sent these memories of his father's business as a baker, mainly around Broughton

Alex wrote:

The Baker

"My late father was a baker and confectioner.  He learned his trade as an Improver at Lambert's Bakehouse at Broughton Point. He then worked for many years at Kerr's on the corner of Bread Street and Earl Grey Street.

Post-WW2, he was offered the position of Decorating Instructor at the School of Baking just opening up in Broughton Street, later on Castlehill; but turned it down as this would have been too much strain on his eyes. Instead, he went to Mack's on Causewayside, followed by a short time at Crawford's Bakery just at the bottom of Bellevue Road, so not far to walk.

His last five years were in the University Staff Club in Chambers Street, where he had a very enjoyable time, producing a large variety of cakes etc, in small quantities, to satisfy the gourmets of the "Uni". My brother was Chief Technician of Pharmacology at that time, so was a Club member."

Working Hours

"During World War II, my father started work at about 2am to 4am, on Monday to Friday mornings, finishing at about 2pm.  There were no night buses or trams, so he walked to work in the blackout, occasionally getting a lift along Princes Street in the Fenton Barns milk lorry.

On Friday evenings he would start work at about 10pm and work until about mid-day Saturday, so that he could bake wedding cakes, generally for local girls. 

The weddings were usually on a Saturday morning, with the receptions in a local hotel in the afternoon"

Wedding Cakes

"The bride had to supply the main ingredients for the cake, saved over several months from the 'rations', although on one occasion at least, the more exotic items such as nuts were purchased in Canada by the bride's father, a Captain on a Ben Line boat, he brought back sufficient for about 10 cakes."

Delivering the Cake

"To arrange for the cake to be delivered to the hotel,  we would contact Mr Scott just along Bellevue Road and he would arrive at our house about 9am, with his green Hudson Terraplane.

-  I would come out first, with the small top storey,

my older brother next, with the middle storey,

-  my mother with the large bottom storey on its stand.

Mr Scott would be the last, with a bag containing decorations, piping bags full of icing for quick repairs and the pillars for holding up the middle and top storeys. He also closed and locked our front door.

We would embark in the seemingly enormous Hudson Terraplane and set off to the hotel, frequently the NB or Caley."

At the Hotel

"We would  build up the cake on the main table at the hotel.

After the Reception, the top tier was often sealed away in a tin, for opening and cutting after the birth of the first child

One complete, three-tier cake was exported to Australia, don't ask me how, probably another Ben Line boat; and about 1949, we received a slice from the top storey after the birth and christening of the first child."

Christmas 1944

"Christmas 1944 was memorable in our house. Former PoWs were being liberated and sent home as the Allies advanced into Germany.

So many families were welcoming the repatriated servicemen and wanted special "Welcome Home" Christmas cakes.

About one week before that Christmas, there were about 120 cakes weighing one to two pounds each in our house, from the fully-finished in the sitting-room at the front, to those that had just gone into the oven at the
 A glorious smell!"

The cakes were mixed in my old baby's enameled bath, up to about 25 pounds weight of mix at a time. My father also made black bun at home every year, the main mix having to sit in front of the fire for several hours for the yeast to work."

Our Dining Table

We had a dining table specially made by St Cuthbert's, with the usual folding leaves of the period, normally to accommodate extra diners; but in this case, the inside faces were left unvarnished etc, to give a working surface.

Over the years, this became covered in stains, from the cochineal colouring, particularly."

Mixing the Cake

My father would rest the bottom edge of the bath on the table, crooking it up in his left arm; and would blend and beat the mixture with his right hand. I tried it a few times in later years; but didn't have the strength or action to do it. His hand helped to soften the butter or margarine without melting it, folding in of the flour and separately beaten (fresh, dried or flaked) egg was more controlled, as with the fruit; and produced a very good cake.

He preferred the reconstituted flaked egg (from China) to the corresponding dried powder egg (from Canada). The reconstituted dried egg was better left to mature for 24 hours before using; but still was not as good as the flaked which could be used almost immediately. This flaked egg only became available later in the war. The dried egg as with most powders, required very careful mixing and beating to avoid or smooth out any lumps."

Cake Raffle

A special cake he produced about 1940, was raffled at a fete in the grounds of Bellevue (Drummond) School, in aid of the Spitfire Fund.  It was the only cake for which he used a particular colour of icing on in his career.  I am not sure whether it was blue or green.

A photo of the cake appeared in the 'Edinburgh Evening News'."

Alex Dow, Fife, Scotland:   September 8, 2006


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