Cookery for the 1920s mother

17 Feb

My research is becoming increasingly focused on period between 1907 and 1934. As I examine the films of Will Onda of Preston I am beginning to examine the daily lives of those whom he filmed. In particular the women and children smiling back at the camera.

The 1920s were Onda’s most productive decade as a filmmaker – Royal visits, sports etc add to the sense of occasion but the reality of Preston in the council records is not so positive.

The 1920s was one of the challenging decades for women and their families. Poor diet and a lack of food had been linked to poor health and infant mortality before the First World War but the war had made this problem more acute. As soldiers returned home women found themselves widowed and unemployed and living on a soldiers pension was very hard for young families. Councils became increasingly focused on mothers, their diets and their children.

The Maternity and Child Welfare Act of 1918 established many of the ideas around infant welfare and the promotion of the health of child and mother that we still have today. It established maternity clinics like those seen in BBC Call the Midwife where children were checked, weighed and immunised and mothers supported with advice on everything from washing, cooking and the home.

I am lucky enough to own an original Mothers Cookery Book from 1927 that was given to mothers at these maternity clinics and I am currently working my way through some of the recipes to get a real taste if life in the 1920s.



Pancake day – The Canadian way

12 Feb

For pancake day I thought i would post a great pancake recipe from my Five Roses Flour – A Guide to Good Cooking which has featured on this blog before. Written by Jean Brodie this book has a large section on pancakes, fillings and syrups. These are American style sweet pancakes which have sugar, vanilla and butter in the batter. They are great for pancake day or a special breakfast!

Recipe is:

1 1/2 cups (American) of plain flour (190g)
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 American cups of milk this is 300ml (I use skimmed milk)
3 tablespoons of melted butter (50g)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together and mix dry ingredients then add beaten egg and whisk with a bit of milk to combine and add milk gradually until have creamy smooth batter. Then whisk in the vanilla and melted butter.

This book gives some great tips on frying and getting your pan just right.

“The pan should be hot enough to allow drops of cold water sprinkled on its surface to keep their shape for a few seconds. If the drops spread out temperature is too low, if they break up and evaporate immediately the temperature is too high”.

Add little oil to the pan then spoon large spoonful of batter on to the pan and move around so spreads evenly in the pan.

Cook the pancakes until they are filled with bubbles, then turn and cook other side.

Serve bit with syrup, honey, jam or fruit juices like orange or lemon.




Victory cakes – part 1

30 Jan

I am currently searching for Victory cakes or ‘after war’ recipes published in wartime cookery books. So far I have baked one from the  booklet ‘181 Attractive Recipes From the kitchen’s of Halifax ladies’ that was published to raise funds for the AVF or Friends of the French Volunteers during the Second World War. This association supported the Free French Forces founded by Charles de Gaulle in London in 1940.


This booklet is full of interesting meal time recipes and  cakes including variations for wartime. Both the First and Second World War affected baking. Much has been written about rationing in the Second World War but little about the problems with food shortages and local rationing during 1914-1918. Flour, eggs and milk were all badly affected. So much milk was needed to supply the soldiers in France with cheese in Lancashire milk farmers where found to selling their milk to Manchester cheese factories supplying the army. This caused outrage in Preston and attempts were made to fix the price of milk to stop shortages in towns and cities. At the same time people at home were asked to donate eggs to support wounded soldiers, wonderfully illustrated in these posters in the Imperial War Museum collection. There was a serious flour shortage in 1916.

The Victory cake was submitted by Ada and Cissie in the early 1940s but I suspect may be older recipe from 1919. It was added to the AVF recipe book by two unmarried sisters – or maybe I am reading too much into this. With no surnames to follow up I will never find out who these ladies were – unless someone kept some record of this Yorkshire fundraising venture.

This Victory cake recipe is a soda cake where bicarbonate of soda is the raising agent. It has no eggs.

To read how it turned out, wait for part 2

Talking about .. Christmas cakes

10 Nov

With Bonfire night over this signals to me it is the time to get out the mixing bowls and make a Christmas cake for the forthcoming family festivities.

My Christmas cake making only dates back a few years. I had always loved fruit cakes but believed they were easier and cheaper to buy rather than make. However I decided I would try homemade Christmas cake and have never looked back. One of my trusted favourites is Nigella Lawson’s Christmas Cake from her Domestic Goddess cookbook a very rich fruit cake with brandy.

This year I have been exploring my old cookbooks collected from flea markets, Bygone Times and eBay. I was drawn to the recipe in Margaret Bates – Talking about Cakes a book published in 1964 with a Irish and Scottish theme to it.


So many older recipes actually use whiskey to feed the cake rather than brandy. They also have more fruit than modern recipes and this one has higher ratio of currants than I am used to.

Recipe as follows:

Weigh and mix the fruit in a bowl:
1lb Currants
1/2lb Sultanas
1/4lb Raisins
1/4lb Candied peel
2oz Chopped almonds
1/4lb Cherries

In a separate bowl weigh out the flour

Cream 1/2lb butter and 1/2lb soft light brown sugar in a bowl then mix in alternatively the flour and each egg (5 eggs in total)

Then add 1/2 teaspoon each of allspice, cinnamon, cloves, coriander and 1 teaspoon of ground ginger. Mix in reach thoroughly and then add the fruit and mix until it is evenly distributed.



Put the mixture in a greased and lined cake tin (I use a deep square tin) and bake in a preheated oven at 150 degrees Celsius for about 3 hours on when cooked and cake tester comes put clean.

When cooked and still hot baste the cake in 1/4 pint of whiskey and wrap the cake tin in foil. Mine is now waiting for Christmas Eve when I will ice it with marzipan and fondant icing.


This cake turned out really well and was a great hit with my family, it was very different to my usual cake with a much deeper flavour. The Irish Whiskey (1/2 pint of it) in the cake means it is still lovely to eat after 1 month. I still have a little bit left (30 January) but not for long!

Jubilee Cakes

25 May

With the Diamond Jubilee celebrations just around the corner I have decided to look at Jubilee cakes and buns. Queen Victoria inspired a few cakes in her time but it is this fruit and almond bun from her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 that has taken my fancy.

I was also lucky enough to also see Lucy Worsley’s piece in National Treasures on the Diamond Jubilee procession around London and made me think about all the cakes and picnics that would have been made and eaten for the occasion.

I have chosen Jubillee buns from the wonderful Cakes regional & traditional by Julie Duff – a must have for anyone who likes historic cakes.

In principle it is just an almond bun recipe:

450g self raising flour sifted and, 115g of butter rubbed together to form breadcrumbs. Then add 115g caster sugar, 115g currants, teaspoon of almond essence and 2 beaten eggs. Mix together and form a dough add a little milk if necessary – I did!

Divide into 12 rounds place on baking tray and brush with egg white and a little ground almonds. Place in a preheated oven at 180 gas mark 4 – for 20 mins. Then cool on wire rack before tucking in.






Elizabeth Craig’s favourite mincemeat, 1930s

20 Nov

So this isn’t a cake but with Christmas coming my cooking is focused on festive food. I always make Christmas cake using a tried and tested Nigella recipe from Domestic Goddess but this year I have decided to delve into my collection of old cookbooks for other festive treats.



Elizabeth Craig was one of the most prominent and well respected cookery writers of the 20th century and was a particular favourite with households before the Second World War.

Cooking with Elizabeth Craig – ‘for the housewife of modest income’ was first published in 1932 – my much loved copy is the 7th edition from 1938.

My favourite mincemeat is on page 346 and is based on over 4lbs of fruit but I have halved the quantities.


8oz or 200g of raisins, sultanas, currants, cooking apple and vegetarian suet (I use Atora available from Sainsburys, Booths or Waitrose).

1-2oz each of cherries, mixed peel, figs
finely chopped

6oz of blanched almonds skins removed and chopped (I buy almonds from Asian supermarkets as they are really expensive elsewhere the skins come of easily after blanching in boiling water for a few minutes).


Mix all together and add 6oz or 150g of light brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, cloves and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg and ginger and mace. Grated rind of lemon and a orange and juice if 2 lemons and 1 orange. Mix thoroughly together.

Add 70mls each of rum and brandy this makes a Gil – which is a quarter pint. I used the divine gingerbread rum from M&S and French brandy from Sainsburys.

Mix thoroughly and pot into 5 jam or 3 medium Ikea or Kilner jars. I sterilise mine in the dishwasher and fill them while they are still hot.



Pound cake, 1930s

11 Aug
Front cover detail of the Radiation Cookery Book

Front cover detail of the Radiation Cookery Book, 1936

A new addition to by kitchen library is the Radiation Cookery Book.

The Radiation Cookery Book was one of the many cookbooks issued to instruct the proud owners of the new gas cookers being sold in the 1920s and 1930s. This one was published to promote Radiation ‘New World’ Cookers which claimed in the book to be “the most efficient gas cooking appliance in the world”.

A New World Cooker

A New World Cooker

New World cookers were manufactured in Britain by 6 manufacturers, ‘who were already household names’, who have been largely forgotten but are referenced in Grace’s Guide to British engineering:

The book was first issued in October 1927, but my copy is the nineteenth edition published in 1936. This book is a bit worn round the edges but I don’t mind as I get the impression it was used for a long time by someone who loved pastries and cakes. Inside the book are lots of press cuttings and magazine articles for cake recipes from the late 1930s and the 1950s. The latest one is a cut out and keep Family Circle recipe for Choux pastry from 1974. I wonder whether the New World cooker lasted as long as the cookery book.

The Radiation Cookbook is full of useful recipes for almost every type of dish and has a dedicated section to bread, biscuits & cakes with a long introduction to baking in your new gas oven! As a lover of fruit cakes I was drawn to the Pound Cake recipe on page 150 and also due to the newspaper article that marked the page. I like to think this was a humorous reference by my predecessor, rather than something to make the baker feel guilty. ‘SOME SLIMMING RULES by Jane Gordon’ – an apple, crispbreads and a salad with celery and shredded brussel sprouts!    No thanks Jane. Lets eat Pound cake!

Pound cake recipe in the Radiation Cookery Book


  • 1/2 lb butter
  • 1/2 lb castor sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 lb flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 lb each of currants, mixed peel and sultanas
  • 2 oz of chopped almonds
  • Grated rind of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 glass of brandy (I would recommend it!)
  • Almond paste and Royal icing to finish (optional)
Cream the butter and the sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time and beat in, until the mixture is stiff. As shown on the left. Stir in the sifted flour, baking powder, lemon rind, dried fruit, almonds and brandy. Then spoon into a greased and lined tin that is 3 inches deep and  7- 8 inches wide. Put in a preheated oven at gas mark 2 or 150 for at least 2 hours until the cake is brown and a cake tester comes out clean. 140 if using a fan oven.  It is worth the wait.

Yummy Pound Cake, straight from the 1930s!