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Artifact of the Month: A Sweet Secret Recipe, Frazier Lewis Candy Box

Posted by on December 18, 2012

The Frazier Lewis candy box (unfortunately empty)

It’s that time of year when you want to indulge in something sweet, maybe something a little chocolate. How about a Victoria Cream? It was made with chocolate, rum, butter, a secret ingredient, and the best part–by accident.

I was looking around the MAH’s collection room, and opened a box full of candy boxes (unfortunately the candy inside had been long gone). One had “Frazier Lewis, Santa Cruz” embossed on it.

It was a simple design of gilded script regally stamped on a brown box, similar in shape to a block of chocolate. I smelled it, hoping for a whiff of sugary perfume that might have lingered from the precious morsels inside. There was nothing. But I bet the candy had been delicious.

James Frazier Lewis lived in Capitola in the early 20th century. His mom was Patty Reed, one of the young travelers of the ill-fated Donner Party. James didn’t set out to be a candy inventor, but sometimes greatness (or sweetness) happens when you’re not looking for it.

One day while in his Pacific Avenue candy store, James tried to save a batch of candy that was beginning to burn by adding more ingredients to cool down the mixture. The result was the Frazier Lewis Victoria Cream.

By 1915, this little candy, individually wrapped in plain brown paper and selling for a nickel, made James a very wealthy man. The Frazier Lewis Victoria Cream was one of the first modern day candy bars.

Even as pounds of the wonderful stuff were shipped all over the country, James guarded the recipe. Legend has it that he personally mixed his confidential concoction with two garden spades before letting his employees shape it into candy bars. I imagine no one got to lick the shovels.

The Victoria Cream candy bar was produced at the Frazier Lewis factory on East Cliff Drive until 1941. James Frazier Lewis died in 1943, and some say the candy recipe was lost forever.

I wonder what the secret in the recipe included. But then again, does it matter? What is certain is that one candy maker’s mishap made many people happy. Maybe life’s like a box of Victoria Creams. You might not figure out the recipe, but you don’t really care as long as it’s sweet.

  • Tearose

    I’m pretty sure the secret element was rum, and the rumor is that one of the men’s clubs has the recipe.