Deciding which recipe to use for my Christmas cake this year caused me to spend a happy time studying my collection of BeRo recipe books. These little gems could easily be overlooked on a crowded bookshelf but that would be a great shame. They have been a fine stalwart of many British cookery book collections since they first appeared in 1923. Costing only a few pounds and a coupon from a bag of BeRo flour they have always been a value for money introduction to the world of baking for many novice bakers.
I am the proud owner of four editions of the little book. The earliest one I have belonged to my mother and dates from the fifties , I think. Certainly it was the companion to many of my ‘baking with Mummy’ sessions and has the scars to prove it. Several of the pages have buttery stains and the front cover is defaced by my childish circular scribbles. Happy days!
My three other copies are the 39th, 40th and 41st editions. I find it fascinating to see how domestic and social changes are mirrored in the pages of these small books. In my early copy it is clearly the woman of the house who is responsible the catering. The message given is that providing good food for a family is a source of female pride.
The later editions highlight recipes for the microwave oven and recipes for children to enjoy making. Lard has dropped out of favour and butter gets more of a look in. Influences from abroad can be seen in the shape of recipes for pizza and American style muffins. I am delighted that good old fairy cakes are still featured in the most recent edition and the ubiquitous cupcake has not yet encroached. Hooray for that!
So, after a happy trip down memory lane, looking at all four little books, I decided to make the classic BeRo Christmas cake. I have eaten a fair few of them in my time but this is the first year that the task has fallen to me to actually make it. Here goes then…….