Vintage Cake Books (and a Recipe Search)

Anyone who knows me knows I love cake. Seriously, I love cake. I like fancy cafe cakes a lot, but to me there is something really special about homemade cake. Cake made from a family recipe, with lots of love.

Sadly, I don’t have any family recipes. My nanna was a great (vegetarian!) cook but she wasn’t a dessert/cake kind of lady. My mum bakes good cake (especially banana cake with chocolate icing) but, aside from one well-worn old recipe book from her high school days, she doesn’t really have a collection of cherished recipes. These days she mostly just looks in the pantry and does a quick search on google to see what she can bake with what she has on hand. I do the same thing. And though that’s really, really handy and I’ve found some great recipes online, I would really love to have a collection of old, tried and tested, much loved cake recipes. Old ones with simple, unfancy ingredients like milk and eggs and sugar and butter. Ones that I could write down on little notecards, keep in a cute recipe box and pass on to future children, friends and neighbours. Call me old fashioned but I like that. I like history and nostalgia and I like that food has the power to evoke powerful memories.

And so, in hopes of collecting a bunch of lovely old recipes, I’ve recently started collecting vintage cake books. I’m yet to try any of them but I plan to start working my way through the books and collaborating my favourite recipes soon. Maybe I should challenge myself to making one new (old) cake every week? I’m especially keen to have a go at making a sponge cake. I adore a good sponge with jam and cream but I’ve always been a bit scared of attempting to make one. I think now might finally be the time. After all, no collection of classic cake recipes would be complete without a lovely sponge!

Do you have a favourite old cake recipe? Did your mother or grandmother pass any good ones on to you? Perhaps you would be kind enough to share them with me? I’d love to give them a try and perhaps add them to my little collection!

Katie x

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About Katie

Katie is a tea drinking, jewellery making, op-shopping daydreamer. Katie likes vintage dresses, Pictionary, doilies and colourful tights.


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29 Responses to “Vintage Cake Books (and a Recipe Search)”

  1. Petit Pixel August 15, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    Sadly, I am the only baker in my family! My Nan has a sweet tooth and loves when I make them for her, but I dont remember her making anything other than sponges (which I have never tried to bake). I am determined to try and make a real deal Red Velvet cake soon. In my family its tradition for me to always make the bday cake for everyone as I am the only one who is cake obsessed & cares that theres a proper cake at the table. It takes a lot of work but I wouldn’t trade it for the world 🙂

    • Katie
      Katie August 16, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

      I LOVE red velvet cake! With lots of cream cheese frosting. Oh, yes please!

  2. Bryley August 15, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    I rarely share my recipes, but you will have to come over for my chocolate cake.

    • Katie
      Katie August 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

      I would love that Bryley! <3

  3. librarygirl August 15, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    a favourite I posted ages ago on my blog – dead easy and delicious served warm with butter.

    • Katie
      Katie August 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

      That looks fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  4. Kelly August 15, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

    mum has a good sponge cake recipe with custard powder in it which makes it way more fool proof! i’ll ask her for it and give it to you 🙂 she also has an awesome scones recipe which is just cream, flour, icing sugar and eggs! i will get that one too. (yes i should already have them but dont) x

  5. Ida August 15, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    cakes. I’m not really a cakey (thats totally a word) person. But growing up, my grandma alsways used to make these cakes with brown whipped cream instead of white cream. She added cocoa to the whipped cream, that cream is to die for. I should bake a cake with brown whipped cream. (or just make the cream and eat it out of the bowl.. hm ;D)

    • Katie
      Katie August 16, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

      Oh, that sounds declicious Ida! I don’t think think the name “brown cream” does the yummy concept justice! 😉

  6. Young Georgia Love August 16, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    i have the same problem! my grandma did have one really amazing chocolate cake and frosting recipe, but that’s about as far as it goes. i make up for it by picking up old family recipe books at garage sales and thrift stores. the best is when you find notes scrawled in the pages!

    • Katie
      Katie August 16, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

      Yep, I’ve just recently taken to scouring flea markets and op-shops for old cook books too! I’m just sorry I never thought to do so sooner – I bet I’ve missed some gems!

  7. Kelsey August 16, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    I collect vintage recipe boxes and I LOVE finding ones packed full of yellowed, handwritten recipe cards. You can always tell the ones most used by the stains and the worn corners of the cards. So fun to read all the ingredients they once used.

    • Katie
      Katie August 16, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

      I would so love to find a cook book with handwritten recipe cards tucked inside! I just love finding little personal treasures like that – I’m always so curious about the former owners of my vintage things. I love that old stuff has history!

  8. Ellie August 16, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    I collect old cookbooks too (and actually wrote about one today @

    My first love was good, traditional gingerbread. Not the cookies, but the cake – it should be spicy and dark and thick and taste amazing when served warm with cream. Mmm.. Anyway, I will always buy an old cookbook if it has a gingerbread recipe in it.

    I’ve yet to try an old fashioned boiled icing, like those I see in these books.

    • Katie
      Katie August 16, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

      Oh, I’ve heard about the wonderfulness that is traditional gingerbread but have not yet experienced it! Thanks for reminding me! I’m going to have to keep an eye out for gingerbread recipes now 🙂

  9. Kelly August 16, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    ok scones are as follows: 1 small carton/tub of cream, 2 cups SR flour, pinch of salt or tablespoon of icing sugar. mix together but not too much (like muffins), bake in a hot oven (around 180/190) till golden brown. AND thats it!

    • Katie
      Katie August 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

      Thank you so much Kelly! Can’t wait to give these a go! <3

  10. maria August 16, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    love these! the pictures are my’s so funny to see how different things were back then..i especially love old magazines, the captions are usually hysterical

    • Katie
      Katie August 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

      I love the pictures too! So very different to food photography today. And old magazines are SO interesting (and funny!) Isn’t it amazing how much the world has changed in such a short time?!

  11. robbie August 17, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    the photos in those books are so charming! i think i have an old banana bread recipe from great grandma. i’l scan it and e-mail it to you 🙂

    • Katie
      Katie August 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

      Oh, yes please Robbie! I love banana bread! x

    • Raynor August 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

      If it’s alright, I’d love a copy too, Robbie! I’d love to try making banana bread. ^_^

  12. bridget August 17, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    oh my, WOW. those are absolutely gorgeous.

  13. Raynor August 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    That’s such a fantastic idea, Katie! I think that’s really becoming a thing with golden of digital, there aren’t as many of those tactile, personal hand-me-downs (except with us crafty peeps!).

    My ma has a binder full of recipes, not all of them are really all that sentimental – my ma hates cooking, and for the most part she’s just copied them out of Women’s Weeklies and the like – but I’ve always adored that binder because they’re all copied out by her, and some have cut outs of the recipe or the pictures. She’s too much of a technophobe to start looking up google. My pa is a FANTASTIC cook, but he doesn’t use recipes, he just makes it all up because he’s a genius. Oy.

    There are a few recipes in my ma’s binder that are really special (mostly because they’re the few things she actually cooks regularly, hehe). Perhaps when I’m home next I’ll get some copies for you, if you like. ^_^

  14. AnneMage August 19, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    they sure knew how to make em 😉

  15. Jamie August 22, 2012 at 2:15 am #

    Lol, I love how the kid in the book on the right, in the top pic, looks so unhappy! “Seriously? this is my cake? And FIVE candles? I’m turning SIX, jerk! I bet I didn’t even get the motorized SUV I wanted either, did I? DID I? I knew it. Eff my life.”

    I don’t have any cake recipes from my family but I have an AWESOME cake book from the sixties; I’ll look through it for you! 😀

  16. Belinda August 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    Hi Katie
    I love this post. My favourite cookbook is a compilation of home recipes from a kindergarten I used to work at 🙂 Tried and tested yumminess. I thought you might like to try my Nan’s chocolate sponge recipe
    Belinda <3

  17. Occasional Sweets August 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    My cousin has been compiling family recipes which will be pretty awesome to have, once she’s done. I have one cookbook of my nan’s and I absolutely love finding evidence of her notes & comments.

  18. Mandy September 1, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    Our family has a rich baking history, us kids always cooked with both our Nanna’s and Mum…hence we have collected quite a few handwritten notebooks of recipes. I started writing my own notebook when I was 14, sitting in the kitchen & grilling my Mum “what did you put in there?” when she was trying to whip up a family tea. Our recipes are so special to our family, & I guess I have been the unofficial keeper of ‘pink books’ go with me everywhere I travel. They have all the favourites & I name the recipe from where it’s come from i.e Mrs Whitty’s scones & Denise’s chicken snitzel. Yet amongst all our handwritten cake recipes, you will find the basis for most of them has been the women’s weekly cakes, slices & biscuits book (the original copies of these are as loved as our notebooks). Don’t dismiss the WW books if you find any old ones, they are pure gems! (just remember, never be afraid to double the vanilla essence or add a mashed banana to any cake)

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