Thursday, May 28, 2009

Playbox Cookies

Does anyone remember Peek Frean's Playbox Cookies? As a kid these were my favourite. I thought the Canadian version was called "Toybox" cookies and the images weren't quite as ornate as these...maybe just simple musical intruments and such. But it was 30 or more years ago (yikes!) and now I'm not sure. Anyhow, I came across this old tin at a garage sale in Hawkesbury last Sunday. Does anyone remember these?

73 comments:

Marcia said...

I only wanted the pink ones. I seem to recall that Larry liked these too. And I think they only were rectangular... You were very, very little then (after all, you are soooo much younger than Larry and me)... and I think you got stuck with the yellow ones? It all rings a faint bell... xxoo

Lucy Ladham-Dyment said...

Yes, that is what my Mom kept her buttons in. Now, to find one.....

Jennifer Pearson Vanier said...

I have no memory of them but they sure look good. Why can't things be so colourful and inviting now?

frannie said...

Yes, I do remember a tin of these sent by my Scottish gran when I was about 8 years old...and that's more than 30 years ago! Way more. And yes, they were so good and so pretty.

Marcia said...

Another memory -- we used first to lick off the icing picture, and then the icing underneath and then eat the cookie. Do you remember that?

Ronna said...

Yeah, Marci I do sort of remember that. And as I recall they were rectangular in shape and Mom bought them in a paper package that was also rectangular and they sat side-by-side so no room for ovals. And don't you remember the images being simple things like drums and bugles? Not as elaborate as on this tin. Maybe the ones we had were made in Canada?

Jenny said...

Yes! And I can taste them now as I think about them. I must have been pretty young when I had them. Funny what we remember.

Sharon said...

Oh my, what memories. I remember them exactly. Even eating the icing when I normally don't go for any kind of icing. We had at least 2 tins in the house. Wonder where they are now... I can't believe my mother threw them out. She's still saving empty Country Crock margarine tubs and aluminum pie plates. Just in case....

Anonymous said...

I hadn't thought of them in years. I want some RIGHT NOW.

P.S. Love the latest issue!

Dusty

Billy Banana said...

I didn't get mine yet.

Susan Williamson said...

Wow, this post really brought back memories. Like Marcia, I used to love licking the icing off before demolishing the cookie.

dan said...

I am now officially embarking on a quest to re-create these biscuits, and found this posting as part of my initial forays into on-line resources. I think that's an antique box; my recollection from the 1970 in England was a more rectangular box. I was having a moment of reverie about them and wrote this a few weeks ago: http://www.chucklehut.org/index.php/site/ind/the_hard_dunk_a_love_that_never_fades/. If you've got an idea how to recreate them, please let me know - and I bet you'd make some great stencils for the icing, too!

dchatterton said...

I loved Playbox cookies as a child. I just tweeted on Twitter to ask Peek Frean to bring them back - maybe if enough people tweet or retweet this request, Peek Frean will listen. It worked with Cadbury and one of their products.

GJ said...

Likely the most vivid "food" memory of my childhood. I tried explaining Playbox to my wife who was a few years younger and thus missed out enjoying these wonderful cookies. Some years later she found an empty Playbox tin and gave it to me for my birthday. Removing the lid, the aroma of the cookies was still there! Now divorced, she has the tin, but I have the memories.

disa said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I can even taste them now. Our mother use to buy them for us off and on when as railway brats we lived in the various cities across Canada. Beth Bayley

Sandra said...

Hi I love Playbox cookies and have asked a few years ago for Peek Freans Canada to bring them back. The girl didn't know what I was talking about. Hopeless. Anyway a Fox's Party Ring cookie is very close. They are great. Make some plain cookies and cover them with Royal Icing and that should do it, or buy Fox's Party Rings from the UK.

Cathy said...

OMG!! Just found this site while researching info about the cookies for my novel - my brother and I used to sneak into the kitchen at 6 a.m. to eat these!!
So I'm not the only one with fond memories - and they really did exist :)

Anonymous said...

my mom used to buy "toy box" cookies at Woodwards Food Floor downtown Vancouver. I agree with blog above - I thought they were toy box not play box. The Cdn ones were very simple - white, yellow?, pink, chocolate - and quite small. I remember that they never tasted as good as they looked! (as in the pink was not strawberry, it was just hard icing, etc) But it would be fun to have cookies like that again. I always wondered how they "stencilled" the toy outline on to the cookie top. What kind of machine did that?

My fav cookie is Peak Freans digestive - and if it has to have choc on it, it would be the milk choc version

Anonymous said...

oh - i just had a flashback since posting my prev comment (directly above) -- the ones we bought at Woodwards in Vancouver were for sure Play Box (or Playbox) -- not "toy box" ... this seems odd how I remember but someone in our kid gang thought it was funny to call them play boy cookies - we all thought that was totally gaggingly funny and very risque(kid humor)

Anonymous said...

I still have and use a Playbox tin that I had as a kid. Man, how I used to love those!
Mom bought them at Dominion, in Toronto, Ontario.

Anonymous said...

It is so nice to see other people who remember and loved these cookies!I used to buy mine at Safeway in North Vancouver,BC. I have not seen them since the late 70's, but it sure would be nice if Peek Freans brought them back.Perhaps a petition ???

LearningtoFly said...

I also remember them being called ToyBox Cookies, but then that may just have been what we called them. They came in a rectangular package with a glossy, shiny paper wrapper. I can actually smell them when I look at the picture, and the icing was like no other cookie, good for licking off first before eating. I was raised in Toronto and I know my Mum bought them at the local grocery store there in the 1950s and into the 60s. I have no recollection of when I last saw them for sale in the stores. Nice memories. Thanks for posting the picture.

Jane said...

It's so interested to see this because I have often thought about Playbox Cookies and wondered if I had imagined them. I remember licking them until the picture went away and then scraping the rest of the hard icing off with my teeth. I don't think I cared too much about the cookie after that.:)

Anonymous said...

I still have a Playbox tin from around 1965, also one of my earliest and best food memories. Our friends visiting from Bermuda gave them to us. You're right, the designs were such things as bugles, drums, clowns, soldiers, clocks, ships, trucks, etc and the stencils were a little less intricate than the ones in the photo. The cookie shapes were round, square, and hexagonal ...with very pretty colours. I also wish Peek Frean's still sold them!

Rosemary said...

I love it! Yes, I remember them very well, and now that I've had a look at the box, I do recognize some of the designs on them. Like Marci and others have said, the whole fun was in licking off the icing first. What I wouldn't give to have one just one more time.

Babette said...

I can taste them now! A petition would be good. Meanwhile, I am sending the link to this blog to Peak Frean. I hope you don't mind. It's almost a petition already.

Genie said...

Mum's friends used to send these to us from England. I found some in a NYC grocery store in the late 70s; have not seen them since. Loved these and Iced Gems! Similar hard icing.

Anonymous said...

I miss these cookies like crazy! I would love to hear more stories about them. I remember having favorites, but I don't recall clearly what they were. I have a tin! But it has rocks in it :(

Anonymous said...

Only had these on special occasions like birthdays. That would have been in the mid 1960's. We use to buy them at Dominion in Scarborough.

Nancy Griffin said...

I would just love to find these cookies again. Has anyone had any luck getting them. Pete's Boutique in Halifax would be a great place to ask. That Pete knows everything

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness...I have asked so many people if they remember these cookies and no one did. I started thinking I imagined them! Ours were the plainer ones..pink, yellow, brown, with drums and soldiers etc. Thanks for clarifying that I'm not crazy LOL

Anonymous said...

I loved Playbox cookies as a child. I remember having them at my birthday parties. So glad to have found out other people remember them too because I too hadn't found anyone who remember them! Anyone heard if Peek Frean has ever come out with Playbox cookies again? I would love to get them for my daughter.

Cheryl

Tim said...

I still have a Peek Frean’s Playbox biscuit tin from around 1970 and would like to reproduce these biscuits! Any ideas how one could make a stencil of the figures let alone lay them on the first icing? Hmmm? The Peek Frean brand is owned in the UK by United Biscuits. Cheers, Tim

Anonymous said...

I do remember these great little treats. I have found some very similar.They are ring shaped, but do taste as good as the original playbox cookies. I got them in a little candy shop outside of Edmonton, in Alberta Can. They don't get them all the time so I scoop what ever I can get when they have them. Today the owner said she is going to check into the playbox cookies to see of the are still making them and will order some if so.
Sheryl

Anonymous said...

My Grandmother brought a light blue round tin of these cookies from London for us in the 70's then my mom would sometimes find them for us in Michigan where we grew up. I started a cookie business 20 years ago with Playbox cookies in mind. When I walk into our office when the ovens are on, it smells just like the tin of cookies! The cookies I make are larger and not sold in tins except at the holiday times and we don't stencil our designs, they are done by hand. www.omygoodness.com

Margaret said...

I remember them and my sister in Blenheim Ontario has a box I gave her as a gift ( with cookies of course) in the late 60s. Curiously enough, before seeing this blog I had sent an email to the Peek Frean Company (Kraft) to ask when was the last year they made them
and why they stopped. I received an answer from someone responsible for replies saying thank-you but they have no records of their past products. I don't believe that and am pushing for an answer. I agree we should do a petition to get them made again. How will we do it? Who wants to begin the process? Ronna? (I am in Canada by the way, New Brunswick)

Catharine Allen said...

Margaret, I a with you!!! I have been searching to find these cookies for years and of course I wont find them. If I ever find a tin I would feel gifted!!! I am going to write to the UK company and see why they cant give us more details and why they wont bring them back! Now as a grandmother, I truly believe my kids and my kids kids have been cheated! Mom made chicken rice soup (measel soup we called it), butterscotch pudding and playbox cookies for lunch almost every day. Gosh I miss those lunches and my mom. What great cookies; what great memories. Catharine Allen

Karin said...

I grew up in Montreal and my grandmother in Point Clair (Montreal suburb) always had Toybox cookies in the late 60's. I have only met one other person who has had them, she was my best friend in grade school. So, where is this petition? If this many of us still daydream about these cookies, I bet many, many more people would be interested.

Anonymous said...

My friend and I were in a British import store yesterday and we saw the Fox's Ring Cookies. We were both reminded of some colouful cookies we enjoyed as children back in the 1950's, but we couldn't remember what they were called. After some web browsing, I came across a photo of Playbox cookies and your blog.
I am all in favour of a petition to get these cookies back on store shelves. I know my three grandkids would love them just as much as I did!

Debbie said...

Loved them!!! I have such fond membories of eating Toybox Cookies as a kid. I don't remember them being in a tin, but in a rectangular package. My sister and I wanted the one with the cat image on it the most. When I remember them I can smell and taste them and am craving them like crazy. I don't know where my mother bought them, but we grew up in Welland, Ontario.

Anonymous said...

My siblings and I would each get a box of Playbox cookies (though we referred to them, much to our mom's horror, as Playboy cookies)in our stockings at Xmas. I think Mom got them at the local Red & White.

Anon said...

I remember my Auntie serving them to all us children at birthday parties and other special celebrations in the 1950s. My Auntie was a British war bride, and she recently passed away in her 90's. She always called us her "duckies". This was the only time I remember having these delightful cookies. I was especially entranced by the stencils.
So nice to find others who remember these cookies. We grew up in Edmonton, Alberta.

Anonymous said...

I tooooo loved these cookies! What I wouldnt give to have them again..I'm 52, grew up in Hamilton, Ontario & my Mom bought them weekly & we devoured them..I thought they were so pretty ...I can taste & smell them just looking at the pictures! I would love that tin although i dont believe thats how they were packaged here in Ontario...bring them back!!! best childhood memories those cookies..my Mom passed just over a year ago & these cookies make me think of her...she knew how much we loved them & made sure they were always in the house!

Anonymous said...

My Grandmother used to give these to us grandkids. I also remember them not being so inticate and also not so brightly colored. Wonder if Peak Frens still makes them??

Anonymous said...

I have this tin on a display shelf. We used to love them as kids 45-50 years ago!

Anonymous said...

My sister sent me this website. She and I grew up in Northern Ontario in the town of Haileybury and my mother bought us these cookies as a treat. We absolutely loved them and it brings back many memories to see them pictured on the tin box. We knew them as Playbox, not Toybox, cookies. I would love to be able to buy them for my grandchildren. Perhap we should all be contacing Peak Freans to encourage a re-issue of them, even just a onetime memorial edition for people like us.

Unknown said...

Maybe we need to do something on Facebook? See how many likes - or whatever it is one does to make things happen! Then send it on to Peak Freans. It's been 50 years since I had one, but I still crave them ;)

Maureen said...

Love reading these comments. I couldn't remember the name of them, but remember a lot of pink hard icing. I also remember a coffee cream cookie that Peak Freans made. You'd think with the popularity of coffee that they would bring them back too. I would buy both if they were available.

Goldielover said...

Would absolutely love to see these cookies brought back again. My Mum bought tins of them for special occasions like Christmas or birthdays in the 1960s. The tins had the various shapes of cookies. The packages only had the rectangular ones. I haven't seen them in the stores since about 1976. A number of people seem to remember the name as toy box cookies. I was always familiar with the name play box cookies, which is the name shown on the tins, but I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps there was some other company manufacturing a knock off. Haven't been able to find anything on line, though.

Anonymous said...


I wanted to know the same thing my two sons are now 51 and 44 and when we get together they still talk about these cookies that my mother would buy them. they loved them they said they where the best cookies ever and wished they could get some for their kids to try

Anonymous said...

I remember a line of PF cookies called Wedgewood which were like Playbox but were iced with a Wedgewood blue icing.

Smith Family Scotland said...

I have the same tin as in your photo. It must be from the early 60's because it says 'By appointment to the late King George VI on the tin lid. I don't remember what they tasted like, but they were a treat for the eyes!

Jacci said...

I do. It was my very favorite biscuit tin, because the biscuits were so colorful and pretty and I could line up the matching edges along the lid and base! We had one from England in the early-mid 1960's. I am sad that it was lost somehow when my mother moved house about 20 years ago.

Anonymous said...

This was the tin in Canada. The cookie were just as shown. This is an extremely rare tin. I found one and you are lucky to have done so. Hang onto it or price it well on ebay int'l. as you'll get lots of offers. Good luck! PS: Makes a great button box!

Anonymous said...

Peak Freans Playbox cookies were sold in Canada under that name...I totally remember them from the 1970s. They were in a rectangular box and the cookies were square. I recall the alphabet letters, the horn, and the drum. They were my favorite cookies! I was so sad when they were discontinued. Fox's Mini Party Rings will give you the texture and the hard icing glaze of the Playbox Cookies, but sadly, not the flavor...

Mary Joyce said...

I grew up in Ottawa, and near Montreal. I don't remember the name, but I remembered they were Peek Freans. I remember them in a shiny paper sack, with the pictures printed on the exterior. I only remember rectangular ones, but in my memory, the pictures are stencils of nursery rhymes. Jack- be Nimble was alwayys on chocolate. I remember Hickory Dickory Dock, and Humpty Dumpty, and Jack and Jill as well. I have been trying to find these for years, for my own kids, and now my grandchildren. Wretched conglomerate corporations!
The machinery was highly specialised, and very old, too difficult to maintain, but with modern computer technology, it should be easy to replicate these wonderful treats. The food colouring may have been a problem as well.

Anonymous said...

I loved those cookies, they were also available in a tube type rectangular packaging. They were covered in pink frosting with either toys or ladies cameos stamped on them. My brother has been complaining for years about them being discontinued, so I am going to try to recreate them as a Christmas present for him. I am going to start with a sugar cooky base and fondant for the topping. I picked up some cooky stamps recently. wish me luck I'm starting my first experiment tomorrow!!!!

Anonymous said...

These cookies were the best! Have found a few recipes for the icing and have tried to duplicate them but never quite as good as I remember.

Anonymous said...

We used to have these cookies every Christmas as a special treat. They came in many shapes, a thin hard cookie with a thin coating of coloured hard icing and a simple nursery rhyme image of white icing. We were not fond of the red icing because it seemed to have a bitter after-taste, but we ate all colours anyway. The most fun we had was trying to be the first to guess what nursery rhyme was depicted. We had the Playbox nursery rhyme cookies about 50+ years ago, so maybe the most recent cookies had different designs.

Anonymous said...

Loved these cookies as a child. Wish I could find them now! Mo

Anonymous said...

I brought a tin with me from England in '77, and foolishly gave it to my sister who had two small children at the time. She lived in Alexandria, so your tin might even be the one!

I loved these cookies - even as a teenager and young adult, and so did my Dad! I was in England last year and looked for them, but the closest I could get was "Party Rings" which are a donut-shaped biscuit with a hard icing on top in pastel colours, and a wavy pattern in white. Not as good, but still made by PF.

Mary Barr said...

I loved these cookies, I used to break off a piece and put the sugar side down onto my tongue and just let it dissolve....mmmmmm

So, after an Internet search...

today I bought a package of "Bakers Iced Zoo Biscuits" (they are a South African company - do the Google). These look very much like playbox but with zoo animals.

I got them at a store called "Eat Sum More" located at 7700 Bathurst Street, Thornhill, Ont. below is a link. They also do mail order.

http://www.eatsummore.com/product/bakers-iced-zoo-biscuits

I haven't tried them yet, waiting for the right occasion.

Robin Roach said...

To Mary Barr
Did you try them yet? What did you think?

Mary Barr said...

Yes, I did try them... Not the same flavour, a bit too floral for my liking, though they are very pretty and unusual; the "animals" are actually white icing appliqués that lay on top of the coloured glaze. None the less they were a hit with my son's girlfriend who took them to a party where they were completely devoured.

Our search goes on..... :)

Mary Barr said...

Yes, we did try them. Not the same, they had a very floral flavour and the animals are icing appliqués.

Not really a disappointment because they are really another unique type of cookie.

My search continues :)

Abu Milhem said...

Thank goodness I found these on the web. I have been wondering about them for over 50 years since we had them as children in the late 1950s in Beirut in Lebanon. Peek Freans must have been quite active in the local market as I remember several things coming from them including tinned Christmas puddings in about the right shape. Like many others I recall the pleasure of scraping the icing off with my teeth and then finishing off the unremarkable biscuit beneath.

The galleon design was my favourite.

kannik said...

Well, I`m 70 (seventy!) and I remember them from when I was a kid. I was reminded of them because lately I have seen a video of someone doing an incredible decoration of beautiful flowers and a lace design on a large cookie (about as big as her hand, I think! I would give you the URL but it doesn`t seem to work for me, and its shares have gone from under 10 million to over 21 million -- in a single DAY! You`ll probably see it.
I would like to suggest that the person who initiated this thread send it, whole cloth, to Peek Frean`s, which I think is in England, so they can see there is some demand! The ones I remember were nursery rhyme characters and, I think, a little simpler than what I see here!

Unknown said...

Try this link for the cookie decorating video:
http://www.techinsider.io/cookie-decorating-video-facebook-2016-3
Pretty amazing! Too pretty to eat ;)

Virginia Crawford said...

OMG!! I've been trying to remember the name of this cookie for 45 years. We would have them at special times and I loved them. My sister just posted a picture of a tin she found in an antique store in Huntsville, Ontario. I had tears in my eyes!! So many happy memories associated with these cookies. I really wish they'd make them again. I've even told my kids about these magical cookies we used to have as children. Sigh.

kannik said...

I wonder if anybody has thought about sending this blog to Peek Frean`s? They might make them again if we told them there was still so much enthusiasm for them! It is said that one letter (though maybe not one email, as they are easier towrite) represents 200 people, so that that rate, we represent 13,800 interested people!

Gail Duquette said...

Finally, I have found these. Kindergarten in ?1951, whoever sat beside the teacher, me, please, picked pink, and I thought ours had a cameo figure on them. I have such a nostalgic craving for that flavour. Would not that recipe be in the Peek Freans archives somewhere?

kannik said...

Well, about getting recipes from Peek Frean, you have nothing to lose by asking! May I suggest, however, that you look up Cookie Decorating and do some for yourself? There are some fascinating videos there, which make it look so-o-o easy. You could just start with a "good" cookie recipe and decorate it yourself!

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