Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The disappearing cake shops

Plenty has been written about the increasing tendency towards obesity in developed countries, including Australia, so we can do without labouring the point with statistics here. But, I ask myself (I do that a lot, particularly when I find one of life's mysteries), whatever happened to all the fabulous cake shops we used to have right here in Brisbane? My memories are replete with cake shops, seemingly all over Brisbane, their displays filled with of all sorts of scrum-yumminess (I know there's no such word, I made it up just now!) from napoleons to fruit cakes to custard buns. Has the increase in fast food outlets like the pizza, fried chicken and hamburger chains more than made up for the loss of the cake stores in the avoirdupois dilemma? Anyone who has read Hugh Lunn's book about growing up in Brisbane, "Over the top with Jim", will know that Lunn's dad Fred had a cake shop at Annerley Junction, and there was another just a couple of blocks further down Ipswich Rd. I know there was also a good one at the Gabba, right where we used to catch the trolley-bus to my aunt's place at Norman Park, and I think there was also one at Stones Corner. It seemed that every suburb had its own cake shop or bakery. And as for the city, well there was selection aplenty. The Shingle Inn in Edward St, my mum's favourite. Adams Cakes in the Brisbane Arcade. Here's a photo of the staff at one of the Adam's shops - they were scattered all over the place - that was taken in about 1938.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #10342)

I think that George E Adams Rich Cakes originated in Sydney, but there was no State of Origin sentiment about cakes. Take a look at the front display cabinet from their Brisbane Arcade store, absolutely jam-packed (sorry!) with tasty goodies, and tell me where you can see that sort of thing now. Just click on the photo if you need to examine this bounty more closely :-)

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #52161)

Of course, there are coffee shops everywhere now, but to my mind they all seem to serve the same generic carrot cake and muffins. The Shingle Inn still exists in a couple of locations, but I hear that they no longer have the same selection of mouth-watering delicacies that used to have women queuing up. When I worked in the city, a birthday or similar celebration meant a trip to the Shingle Inn to buy a cake for your colleagues to share at morning tea. I wonder what happens now? In France, you don't have to walk too far to see a patisserie, and the French are reputed to have a healthier diet than we do. It must be because they still value cooking at home, and generally abhor the fast food chains.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

As for the Brisbane Arcade (see photo above) which was built on the site of the former residence of Patrick Mayne and still is property of the estate of his children, it is still a stylish place for specialty shops, but no cake shop. It's a shame really.

Click here for a Google Map.


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  1. Hi Photo fanatic. I totally agree with you on this one!! I used to enjoy many school holidays with my grandfather at the shingle inn, just down the road from his office in the city. There really is not anywhere that makes 'proper' cakes anymore (that don't cost an arm or a leg). What has the world come to?

  2. This is a really good post. I think so too, the uniformity of fastfood has taken over. In 2007 I was in Paris. St. Lazare was my hunting ground. Patisseries and bakeries abounded with mouthwatering goodies. People bought wonderful, crispy bread not that foamstuff which is available from bread factories. Fortunately I have not seen any fast food outlets, so I am sure they are around as well. They have a tendency to invade the whole planet. I would not be surprised if there is already a big M carved into the moon!

  3. Does anyone remember the name of the cake shop which was located close to the old Prudential Building at North Quay, directly opposite the Treasury Building (casino) - around 1969? I can still taste their beautiful baked apples, encased in rich buttery pastry and coated in sugar.

  4. I think it may have been MacDonalds.

  5. An interesting little aside regarding George Adam's Cakes which I came across today is that the original George Adams cake factory in Costin Street, the Valley is still in existence, although it's certainly not a cake factory anymore – it's now The Tivoli! A photo of the original cake factory can be found on Picture Australia if you search for "Costin Street, Fortitude Valley".

    1. Adams were bought out by George Weston Foods after they purchased Websters. I spent one Christmas holiday (67 or 68?) at the Valley factory clearing out old records which had been stored over the top of a concrete "shed" inside the factory. Sadly I threw out more memorabilia than records, some of which were very old. The machines were still governed by belts which ran off drive wheels down the side of the building.

  6. Nathan - thanks for that information. Interesting to see that the building is still standing.

  7. This is an old post so please forgive me for commenting on it three years late!

    I had been looking at your blog, wondering if you'd done anything on the Shingle Inn. I didn't think to look under "cakes". =)

    I once worked at a law firm in Eagle Street. The tradition there was for one to throw one's own birthday morning tea and to provide sausage rolls and Shingle Inn cakes. I'm not sure how that one got started but since we all took our turn and birthdays came around pretty regularly, it worked out well for all.

    I also used to occasionally go there for lunch. They made excellent traditional foods and I loved the way you could be seated with anyone. I had some great conversations with older people who had a long tradition of dining at Shingle Inn.

    The cakes were incredible. Really something else. I have heard they have franchised but can't imagine it being the same.

    You haven't done a post on the old Coles cafeteria have you? That was my other favourite eatery.

  8. Hi trying to remember the cake shop in Queen Street Brisbane. Before Queen Street Mall. Right Hand side walking towards the Valley. Between George and Edward Street. Had the best cheesecakes. Does anyone know

  9. Also I'm trying to remember the cake shop in Adelaide St - opposite City Hall - but closer to George St.

  10. George Edward Adams is my father. Herbert Adams is my grandfather and Herbert adams again is my great grandfather. George died in 74 in Wollongong. But had lots of bakeries his father gave him. Adelaide being the main ones. Cake Alley came from their bakeries. I wish I had shares in his company now they just sold for $230million to a overseas company.

  11. My grandmother used to work at a cake shop in Toowong that was called "Goodes Cake Shop" she used to work there very early every morning from Indooroopilly. We (grandchildren) were born in the early 70's and lived in Cairns and every year an amazing cake would be sent up to us from my grandmother. I believe the cake shop was very well known and around for a very long time.

  12. My grandmother used to work at a cake shop in Toowong that was called "Goodes Cake Shop" she used to work there very early every morning from Indooroopilly. We (grandchildren) were born in the early 70's and lived in Cairns and every year an amazing cake would be sent up to us from my grandmother. I believe the cake shop was very well known and around for a very long time.


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