Books about Baking

5 min read

The new series of The Great British Bake Off airs September 21st 2021. With our vegetable gardens, allotments and fruit trees bursting with tasty produce, what better time to brush-up on our baking skills?

The Country House Library’s kitchen bookshelves are full of vintage and antique cooking and recipe books from the world’s finest culinary craftsmen and women. Learn how to become the ‘star baker’ for your friends and family with show-stopping sponges, tarts, cakes, biscuits and savouries from Country House Library’s kitchen and cookery collection.

The Art of Fine Baking by Paula Peck (1967)

Paula Peck was born in New York and worked as a food columnist on The New York Times. James Beard, a respected food writer and international cookery-school owner at the time commented that her book The Art of Fine Baking, was "as complete a treatise on the art of baking as you will find in the English language." From puff pastry to croissants, crusty homemade bread to exquisite European patisserie, savoury party-nibbles to heart-warming puddings, Peck explains and simplifies the processes from the basics to the masterful finishing touches – including no ‘soggy bottoms’! This vintage recipe book is a timeless classic in the cookery genre - a must for serious home-cooks and collectors of kitchen library.


The Family Cookbook by Marguerite Patten (1964)

A fantastic vintage book from the doyenne of BBC home economists, Marguerite Patten CBE. She was one of the first ‘celebrity chefs’ (a term she disliked, always preferring “home economist”), coming to fame during the Second World War years when she shared her food rationing recipes on a BBC radio program called ‘Kitchen Front’. After the war she popularised the use of the refrigerator and pressure cooker. She regularly appeared on the BBC radio’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ until well into her 80’s. Modern day TV chefs such as Gary Rhodes and Nigel Slater have spoken of Patten’s influence on their own work. With over 170 titles to her name, start a collection of your own ‘signature bakes’ with these seminal cookery books.

Mrs. Beeton's Cold Sweets

Isabella Beeton, known throughout her writing life as ‘Mrs Beeton’ became famous in Victorian Britain with her first book Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management,first published in 1861. By the time of her death at the young age of 28, her name had become synonymous with domestic authority, and she’s considered to have been a strong influence on Victorian middle-class identity. This vintage volume on cold sweets was printed in 1925 by Beeton’s publishers Ward Lock & Co., and includes delicious recipes on jellies, creams, fruit dishes and ices. No home cookery collection is complete without a ‘Mrs Beeton’.

Sample Country House Library’s collection here.

The Great Chocolate Book by Paula Borton (1990)

The term “food porn” might well have been invented for this cookbook by food writer and blogger Paula Borton. Bringing together recipes and signature dishes from Britain and Ireland’s greatest chocolatiers and pastry chefs, the pages are rippling with naughty treats for food lovers everywhere. Including mouth-watering temptations such as
chocolate truffle cake, chocolate mousse meringue gateaux, bitter chocolate sorbet, petit pot au chocolat, steamed white chocolate pudding with dark chocolate and rum sauce, chocolate and rum gateaux, and chocolate nougat petit fours, this is perhaps a volume for the top shelf, adults only! 

Ladybird - Through the Ages: Food

An interest and basic ability in food and cooking is an essential life-skill for children and what better way to introduce them to food literature than with a Ladybird book. Since their inception in 1914,Ladybird has become synonymous with good value, easy to understand text and well-drawn illustrations. Here are four vintage examples from Country House Library, and why not start a collection for the great chefs of the future! 

Explore all of Country House Library's Ladybird books.

Mary Berry's Party

One of the founding members of The Great British Bake Off team, Dame Mary Hunnings (known as Mary Berry – her maiden name) brought generations of baking know-how to what has become a classic of food television. Born in 1935, Berry brought out her first cookbook in 1970. Now, aged 86, she still appears regularly on television and radio. This vintage volume includes party and Christmas favourites such as
salmon mousse, roast turkey, steak and kidney pie, home-made garlic bread, exotic fruit salad, brown sugar meringue and Victoriana Christmas cake. No collection of classic cookery books would be complete without a Mary Berry!

The Homepride Cookery Book by Catherine Ives (1933)

Doris Ives Smith (1888-1951) writing under the pen name of Catherine Ives was a prolific contributor to home and women’s magazines in the early part of the twentieth century, particularly the now defunctBrittania and Eve.In the aftermath of the First World War she became famous with the publication of her first bookWhen the Cook is Away(1928) which spoke to the new middle-class reality of not being able to afford a cook! Her second bookGood Meals for Hard Times(1940), with its emphasis on economy and cheerfulness, endeavoured to make the best use of Second World War food rations. This inter-wars cookbook, sponsored by the British flour company ‘Homepride’, contains a magnitude of nutritious and fail-safe recipes for the family kitchen including bread, cakes, scones, biscuits, tarts, flans and pastries. This vintage cookbook is the perfect ingredient for your kitchen library collection.

Cooking for the Freezer by Myra Waldo (1962)

 Whether you have a glut of fruit and veg from the garden, or leftovers from a Sunday lunch, there’ll be recipes in this vintage book of home economics by Myra Waldo. Beginning in the mid 1950’s, Waldo wrote more than two dozen travel and cookbooks including international cuisines such as Roman, Spanish and Asian.This book includes valuable tips on freezing; recipe sections for appetizers, soups, fish and seafood, poultry, meat, vegetables and pastas, breads and pancakes, sauces and desserts and complete instructions on packing food for the freezer. Never again be caught out with “there’s nothing to eat” – add this invaluable book to your kitchen collection.


As our world changes, there’s arguably never been a better time to re-learn the cooking skills of past generations. Climate change, political change, global pandemic, have all put pressure on food prices and availability. Home-baking slims down your weekly supermarket spend while at the same time providing your family with nutritious and sustainable food. Many of the vintage cookbooks in the Country House Library collection provide ‘no nonsense’ advice and instruction from past masters of the art of baking and cooking. Explore the full collection here!

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