Thursday, 25 August 2011

Showboats

Do you remember Kunzle Showboat cakes?  They were small chocolate shells in various shapes which were filled with sponge cake, topped with butter cream in pale shades of pink, lemon, green, vanilla, coffee etc.

My mother and I had a hidden vice regarding Showboats, which I have never divulged before.  If it was my birthday, or hers, she would buy four, and we would secretly enjoy them before the boys and my father came home.  I would be allowed to make the first choice, but it was so difficult to choose.  It all felt very naughty but nice.

About 8 years ago, Sarah Kennedy (radio and TV presenter) had a campaign to bring back Showboats, and eventually Waitrose Supermarket began selling them. However, somehow, they just did not seem to be the same, and the experiment only lasted months.

H and I actually met the grandson of the founder of Kunzle cakes and became very good friends.  We learnt that his grandfather, Christian, had founded the very successful cake, and eventually restaurant business in 1902.  He had come over from Switzerland at the age of 17 and worked for his uncle in his pastry cook business in Oxford.  He then went to work in the kitchens at the House of Commons, Westminster.  Eventually he returned to Switzerland where he raised enough money to establish the beginnings of his very prosperous business in Birmingham. 

He was a generous benefactor and in 1935 established a home for Sick People in Davos, Switzerland in his uncle’s old house.  Local Birmingham sick children and the infirm had holidays in the fresh alpine air.  The clean air and altitude was particularly helpful to children with lung disease.

Two years before he died in 1954, he generously gave his home and grounds to the people of Birmingham.  It is now a park and recreation ground.

The business continued after his death under his son Ernest, and then by our friend, his grandson, George.  However, George was an academic, and he eventually sold out the business to Lyons cakes.



P.S Henceforth Hubby will be known as H.  I don't know why I coined that term for him.  It is not one that I would use  when talking to him or referring to him, indeed, we always use our christian names.  Somehow it just doesn't sum him up. He is a serious academic kind of person with very strong principles of right and wrong. However, he does have a great sense of fun, is extremely generous, and is wonderful with the grandchildren, who think that he is the best thing ever.

6 comments:

  1. Wonderful roaming: what a story, from your surreptitious cake enjoyment to the donation of parkland in Birmingham. What a shame the recipe for the Kunzle cakes has been forever lost...

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  2. The founder, Christian Kunzle, was certainly in the genre of the charitable Victorian/Edwardian philanathropist.

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  3. Hello Rosemary:
    Neither of us is able to recall Kunzle cakes although the name does seem familiar and, most likely, we had them as children. Rather in the same way, we have such fond memories of Fuller's Walnut Cake, again something which has been lost to all time. How fascinating to have known the grandson of the Kunzle empire and what an interesting, and very charitable, history.

    And, dear Rosemary, does H contribute to your blog. And what does he think of your writing it? We are most intrigued!

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  4. Dear Jane & Lance - H cannot remember them either, I think that they were a luxury treat.
    No, H does not contribute to the blog, however, he does look at it. He is busy scribbling away at his life story, at the request of our sons. I have just asked him what he thinks of my blog, and he said he thinks it is great!!! - so thanks for getting me to question him.
    Perhaps I can ask you a question in return. Do you write your blog and comments together, individually, or a bit of both?

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  5. Hello Rosemary [again]:
    Surprising as it may seem, the entire blog is a joint effort although replies to comments are done by whoever is free at that particular moment. But otherwise everything is done together with each of us exercising strict quality control on the other!!

    We are delighted that H thinks your blog 'great'. So do we.

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  6. Jane and Lance that is really interesting to know the blog is a joint effort. You work really well together.

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