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
"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
Bread Street and Earl Grey Street.
Post-WW2, he was offered the
position of Decorating Instructor at the School of Baking just opening
Broughton Street, later on Castlehill; but turned it down as this
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
bottom of Bellevue Road, so not far to walk.
His last five years were in the University Staff Club in Chambers
where he had a very enjoyable time, producing a large variety of
in small quantities, to satisfy the gourmets of the "Uni". My
brother was Chief Technician of Pharmacology at that time, so was a
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
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"
"The bride had to supply the
ingredients for the cake, saved over several months from the 'rations', although
occasion at least, the more exotic items such as nuts were purchased
Canada by the bride's father, a Captain on a Ben Line boat, he
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
he would arrive at our house about 9am, with his green
I would come out first, with the small top storey,
my older brother
with the middle storey,
my mother with the large bottom storey on
Mr Scott would be the last, with a bag containing decorations,
full of icing for quick repairs and the pillars for holding up the
and top storeys. He also closed and locked our front door.
We would embark in the seemingly enormous Hudson Terraplane and set
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
probably another Ben Line boat; and about 1949, we received a slice
top storey after the birth and christening of the first child."
"Christmas 1944 was memorable in our house. Former PoWs were being
and sent home as the Allies advanced into Germany.
So many families
welcoming the repatriated servicemen and wanted special "Welcome
About one week before that Christmas, there were about 120 cakes
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
back. A glorious smell!"
The cakes were mixed in my old baby's enameled bath, up to about 25
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
leaves of the period, normally to accommodate extra diners; but in
case, the inside faces were left unvarnished etc, to give a working
Over the years, this became covered in stains, from the cochineal
Mixing the Cake
My father would rest the bottom edge of the bath on the table, crooking it
his left arm; and would blend and beat the mixture with his right
tried it a few times in later years; but didn't have the strength or
to do it. His hand helped to soften the butter or margarine without
it, folding in of the flour and separately beaten (fresh, dried or
egg was more controlled, as with the fruit; and produced a very good
He preferred the reconstituted flaked egg (from China) to the
dried powder egg (from Canada). The reconstituted dried egg was
to mature for 24 hours before using; but still was not as good as
which could be used almost immediately. This flaked egg only became
available later in the war. The dried egg as with most powders,
very careful mixing and beating to avoid or smooth out any lumps."
A special cake he produced about 1940, was raffled at a fete in the
of Bellevue (Drummond) School, in aid of the Spitfire Fund. It was
cake for which he used a particular colour of icing on in his career. I
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