IT WOULDN’T be Christmas in most Dewsbury households if a piece of Spice Cake with a piece of cheese wasn’t offered to every guest who crossed the threshold at this time of year.
I know in our house this was always the case because my mother insisted on it, and even the insurance man, the coal man, the milkman and the window cleaner got a piece.
And, if they were lucky, they were even able to snatch a kiss under the mistletoe from one or other of my five sisters who might have been unfortunate enough to be in the house at the time.
There were many such Christmas traditions which were important when I was a child which no longer exist, like the annual visit from Santa to J&Bs, Dewsbury’s famous departmental store, a picture of which is shown above.
I chose this photograph to accompany my recipe for Spice Cake in my book - Dewsbury in Food and Photos - because J&B’s was synonymous with Christmas to many Dewsbury people.
Most people of my generation will remember J&Bs with great joy because as children we queued outside in our hundreds to see Santa Claus arriving on his sleigh three or four weeks before Christmas.
This particular Dewsbury store was much bigger than Marks and Spencer’s and it was a shop which moved from one part of the town to the other as it expanded throughout its long history.
The shop opened in Dewsbury in 1904 and no-one could ever have dreamed that such a successful business would ever close down – but, like so many other stores in Dewsbury, it did.
THE firm was founded by Mr and Mrs James Johnson who took over the business from Messrs C W Bunning and they brought into the firm a partner by the name of Mr N Balmford, and that is how the firm became J&B’s.
It was known as the Busy Corner and over the years moved to various parts of the town, ending up in a four-storey building on the corner of Corporation Street, as shown in the photograph.
This was a store which believed in advertising and always had the biggest and most prominent adverts in the Reporter, sometimes whole pages, and it was also widely advertised on all the trams in the early days.
Its slogan was, ‘If you need it, J&B’s can supply it’, and it certainly lived up to this, and also its other motto - which was ‘Value for money with the utmost of courtesy’.
Another motto was, ‘Bargains for the Multitude!’ and J&B’s was one store which didn’t offer credit.
In one advertisement it asked potential customers, ‘If you have only so much to spend, make sure you are careful you spend it to the best advantage’.
The advert went on: “We undertake to save you many a penny in rigging out yourself and your little folks if you rig them out at our stores and be HONESTLY dealt with in every way. Cash mind, no credit whatever, but if you haven’t the money at the time, and you see something you like, J&B will put it aside for you if you – fasten it.”
DEWSBURY’S famous departmental store really did sell everything and it had a department for everything.
It sold all the latest fashions – even in smaller items like gloves, and it was proud to declare that its kid gloves were made to fit not split, and if they did split, customers were asked to take them back and they would see what they could do.
Its kid gloves were lined in silk and sold for 2/6d a pair. It also sold much less expensive gloves for ‘shopping in’ priced 2d.
But its most famous gloves were called Edna and Alarm gloves which were made of beautiful suede fabrics with gold and silver dome fasteners.
Here is a list of its 12 departments – jackets, hats, hosiery, gloves, corsets and underclothing, silks, drapery and household goods, haberdashery, dress goods and blouse materials, jackets, lace and children’s wear.
SOME people refer to Spice Cake as Christmas cake but in our house it was always Spice Cake, baked in loaf tins with no marzipan or icing on it and was always served with cheese.
This recipe is an old family one passed down through my husband’s family and I think it came originally from a cook who worked in the canteen at Petmar’s Carpets in Bradford Road, Batley.
It is a recipe which has been used for well over 60 years and has now been passed down to me, but until last year I had never made it.
It was auntie Margaret who always made them for all the family every Christmas and has been doing so for nearly 50 years.
The recipe has been adjusted over the years to suit family tastes, and in this recipe there is no mixed peel or mixed spice because none of us like them. But you can add them, of course, and you can also add nuts as well.
If you wish to try it here is the recipe but I’m sure it is too late to make one for this year seeing as this kind of cake tastes better if left for a few days.
You will need:
11 oz self raising flour,
11 oz butter, softened,
10 oz soft brown sugar,
1lb stoned raisins,
6 oz glace cherries,
4oz ground almonds,
Half teaspoon nutmeg,
Miniature bottle of brandy.
Soak all the fruit overnight in a bowl and pour a miniature bottle of brandy over it.
Cream butter and sugar and add the dry ingredients, mixing in one egg at a time and adding the fruit by hand.
Place in two 1lb loaf tins which have been lined with greaseproof paper and bake in a slow oven - gas mark 2 - for about an hour, more if you think it needs it.
Keep checking because it is a case of trial and error with this kind of cake and depending on your oven it can get over browned on top..
If you see this happening towards the end of cooking time, cut a piece of cardboard the same shape and size of the tin and place on top.
May I take this opportunity to wish readers a very happy Christmas.