I OFTEN wonder what ever happened to some of those favourite sweets we enjoyed as children.

The Wagon Wheel the size of a manhole cover, the Fry’s Chocolate Cream with the different coloured fillings, the little bags of sugary coconut known as Spanish Gold?

They hold great memories for many of us cursed back then with a sweet tooth and a little pocket money.

A box of Terry’s Neapolitans, elegantly-wrapped miniature bricks of really great-tasting milk and dark chocolate flavoured with orange, coffee or mocha always sent me into incredibly happy memories of childhood Christmases in Dewsbury when, on one day of the holiday (probably Boxing Day, but I can’t be sure) our next-door-neighbours would hold a whist drive. I was way too young to play, but I distinctly remember the quiet back room filled with lace-covered gaming tables, upon which sat a perfect pack of playing cards, an ashtray (this was the 70s after all!) and a little stemmed cut-glass bowl of sweets.

Often Neapolitans were set out, but occasionally one would find a bowl of Liquorice Allsorts or Dolly Mixtures.

I was tasked with keeping these bowls filled for the card-players’ enjoyment, but I think rather more booze was consumed than anything else, leaving me to wander the tables, being charming and sweet whilst all the while pilfering vast amounts of delicious contraband.

One wonders why, when people eulogise so much about them, the companies saw fit to cease production on some of these much-loved treats.

Surely the chewy mint version of the Opal Fruit, the amazing Pacer, with its green stripes, sold really well?

Modern comedians of a certain age still make fun of those other entertainers who ask “whatever happened to Spangles?” thinking it a lazy comedic shortcut. But I’m actually interested! What did happen to Spangles?

They were lovely sweets, all sorts of fruity flavours, with a tongue-pleasing dimple on each side. I’m sure you all have your own particular favourite confection of yesteryear.

One of the sweeties I remember most vividly was the Rowntrees’ Cabana. Its light flickered briefly in the late 70s into the early 80s, but clearly the combination of soft coconut fondant with pieces of cherry, all wrapped in thick milk chocolate, was an acquired taste, and the bar soon disappeared from our shelves, never to be seen again.

Other popular bars, such as the Texan and my Dad’s particular favourite the Old Jamaica bar have occasionally been re-released, in the way classic albums return to record shops from time to time, but the Cabana stays firmly petrified in the amber of yesteryear. Or has it?

As luck would have it, I found an old magazine article, sent up from Suffolk by my mother-in-law, in which a great chocolatier, William Curley, gave recipes for versions of classic confectionery, such as Marathons (I can’t bring myself to call them by their modern name. Ugh!) and Jaffa Cakes.

One recipe was for a version of the famous Bounty bar, a lovely soft coconut fondant within a coating of milk chocolate, and instantly I made the mental leap and decided to make my own Cabana bar. It would live again!

So, let’s get chocolate-y, and remember, if you don’t like cherries, just leave them out. And I’ve used bitter chocolate, but you can of course use milk chocolate in the same quantity. Aprons on, time-travellers!

Oh, and by the way, our new café, T&Cake, is opening next week up in Almondbury, so do pop along for a cup of tea and a bun. We’d be delighted to see you.

Home-Made Cabana Bars

300g desiccated coconut

300ml coconut milk

80g unrefined golden caster sugar

600g white chocolate

150g dried cherries

1kg dark or milk chocolate

Pinch of Maldon salt


A suitable tray for freezing, greaseproof paper, a two-pronged skewer.

Heat the oven to 180°C / Gas 4. Spread the desiccated coconut evenly on a clean baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes until lightly toasted.

In a small pan, bring the coconut milk to the boil with the sugar and a pinch of salt. Pour the boiling milk over the white chocolate and whisk until completely smooth.

Tip in the toasted coconut and pour into a plastic tray to set overnight in a cool, dry place.

The next day, cut the coconut into bars about 8cm by 3cm, press dried cherries all the way along the top, and set them on a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Freeze for a couple of hours to allow them to firm up.

Melt the dark or milk chocolate in a bowl over gently simmering water and, using a skewer or small fork, gently dip the frozen bars into the chocolate, carefully shaking off the excess.

Let them cool on a fresh sheet of greaseproof paper. Allow the bars to set completely before eating. They are seriously addictive, so do be careful!