Sugar Cakes from Back in the Day
The further back into your childhood you get, the more unclear the memories. The ones I have around my single-digit birthdays include only flashes of images I piece together and from which try to make some sense. The images include part of the north side of Winston-Salem, as viewed from just barely over the dashboard of my family’s ’87 model dark green Chevrolet Caprice. The Caprice used to have a really bad backfire when you cut it off, so we affectionately named it the “green bomb.” Back to the story. We would make the long haul into town to get my birthday cake from Dewey’s Bakery; it was best part of my birthdays. I remember nervously waiting behind my mother’s legs as she would speak to the baker behind the counter and grab that white, thin cardboard box with the receipt taped to the top and the white length of string keeping it closed. I wasn’t allowed to open it because I had a bad habit of leaving cakes with fingerprint smears on the edges. Now back to the present. When I visited Dewey’s I expected to hear the history from a small bakery on the north side of town to a large corporation with several retail stores and a corporate office. But it turned out Dewey’s has been a large baking company in the Triad for over 50 years. It started as a humble concern on 4 th Street in Winston-Salem and has been passed down to the third generation. The first bakery burned to the ground in the late 1950s. Since then they have rebuilt Dewey’s bigger and better, at one time having locations in most of the Triad including Greensboro and Kernersville. The location in the north side of town, Indiana Street to be exact, turned into the Salem Baking Company as the area’s economy
worsened due to RJR shutting down factories in the area. Dewey’s did not want its customers traveling into a harsh section of town to visit them. Salem Baking Company is Dewey’s sister company that produces all of the boxed good they are famous for, such as the Moravian cookies. All of the goods behind the glass at the retail stores are, like any good bakery, baked in house in one of their two retail locations; Thruway Shopping Center, 262 S. Stratford Road, and 2820 Reynolda Road. Under the glass at the very front of the store you will find Dewey’s signature piece and according to Chuck Pruitte, the manager of the Thruway location, the best one to try. The sugar cake’s texture is what really wraps you into it. It is like a heavenly pillow with dark sugar crunching on top. As I indulged in the sugar cake outside of Dewey’s on one of their small tables, I looked up with my finger in my mouth, licking off the sugar.
I noticed the shoppers strolling past glancing at me. I realized I was pretty good advertisement for Dewey’s as I let out oohs and aahs with every little bite into the sugar cake. I made it look good. It was a taste that drew me back to the days when mom would come to the door with that white, thin cardboard box from Dewey’s, those rare occasions that were not my birthdays but times when she was on that side of town running errands. The box would be filled with sugar cake, white icing square cupcakes and, of course, one or two ‘clairs. The number of family members partaking in the treats never seemed to be an even ratio to the amount in the box, so the last few goodies always raised a bit of a fight. But each box made its own series of good, wholesome “Leave it to Beaver” family memories, no matter how vicious the battle of the last ‘clair got.
To comment on this story, e-mail Jesse Kiser at Jesse@yesweekly.com.