BNA's Cookery Corner | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


Cookery Corner – Cakes

This month we are introducing a new blog theme: Cookery Corner.  Whether you want sweet or savoury; an easy 30-minute meal or an extravagant four-course dinner, the British Newspaper Archive holds all your culinary desires. Each month we will dip into through the thousands of recipes found in the British and Irish newspapers while focusing on a specific topic.

Sweet Cakes

We thought the best way to start, of course, is with cakes! This month, we discovered numerous recipes for sweet cakes.  We will dedicate another piece to those savoury cakes like Welsh cakes or potato cakes.  We searched the archives and found recipes for classics like Victoria Sponge and Madeira cake, as well as, special treats for the holidays such as Easter and Valentine’s Day.

Our first search for “cake recipes” gave us this early article from the Cardiff Times and South Wales Weekly News in 1891.  The article was published in the paper’s tea-table talk section dedicated to women.  Throughout history, women have been the goddesses of the homes kitchen and the newspapers dedicated weekly columns for women related to the home.  Of course, these editors contributed to the stereotype that women were not interested in the news of the world, but rather more concerned with only taking care of the home.  However, we can now look back on these columns for excellent tips and fabulous recipes.  The Cardiff Times and South Wales Weekly News offers three recipes: Busy Bee Cake, Chocolate Cake, and Small Cakes.

Cardiff Times , Saturday 03 October 1891

Another early cake recipe we found was for a Molasses cake in the Kentish Gazette from 1863.  The heavy, dark syrup is mixed with eggs, butter, milk, water, bicarbonate soda, cinnamon, and flour. Not sure if it would be to everyone’s taste.


Kentish Gazette, Tuesday 31 March 1863


Classic Cakes

Now let’s take a look at some classics.

This Victoria Sponge recipe is actually an advertisement for Royal Baking Powder. You will find that many advertisements for cooking products will provide a recipe for you as a way to demonstrate how to use the product.  The ad tells us ‘even inexperienced cooks can make really light cakes and never have a fear of failure if they use Royal Baking Powder’.  I guess that is what I have been missing all these years of cooking mishaps and sunken cakes!

Falkirk Herald, Wednesday 19 March 1947

A Madeira cake recipe that will brighten tea time.

Sheffield Independent, Thursday 24 January 1935


Whether you want to use cream or jam, the Swiss Roll is a classic and much-loved sponge cake.  We have another recipe from the Royal Baking Powder.

Northern Whig, Thursday 15 July 1948


However, we prefer Bird’s Sponge advertisement featuring Swiss Roll even though there isn’t a recipe given because the woman looks so happy making her dessert.

Hendon & Finchley Times, Friday 12 June 1925


Cake in Wartime

The war years meant that cooks had to become creative with their rations. We found numerous recipes for cakes without eggs, flour, and/or sugar. Even the Ministry of Food advertised cooking tips for rationing such as how to make icing without icing sugar.

Britannia and Eve, Friday 12 June 1925


This cake without eggs recipe was published in a Fife Free Press, & Kirkcaldy Guardian column titled: ‘Winning the War in the Kitchen’.

Fife Free Press, & Kirkcaldy Guardian, Saturday 25 May 1940


Special Occasion Cakes

For special occasions, we all want to make that extra special treat.  Britannia and Eve have you covered for Valentine’s Day with a special heart-shaped dessert.

Britannia and Eve , Wednesday 01 February 1956


For Easter, you could try an Easter cake made with semolina, fruit, and sherry.

Britannia and Eve, Friday 01 April 1949


The newspapers are also helpful for cooking advice.  The Graphic offers a guide for icing your Christmas cake.

The Graphic, Saturday 13 December 1919


Chocolate Cake

Finally, we saved the best for last, the Chocolate cake.  Get ready for some serious food porn now. Stork Margarine gives us a recipe for a delicious chocolate party cake.

Britannia and Eve , Monday 01 November 1954


For a quick, but delicious chocolate cake use Bird’s Cake Mix.  As a special decoration, dip almonds in melted chocolate and place around the edge on the top of the cake.

Britannia and Eve, Wednesday 01 August 1956


Do you want to add elegance to your chocolate cake? Try this Gilded Sachertorte.  The sachertorte comes to use from 19th century Vienna.  The Illustrated London News’ recipe adds extra drama with its gilded decoration.

Illustrated London News, Sunday 01 November 1998


Get in touch on social media and let us know if you if you have tried any of these recipes. Or is there are a particular recipe that you want to discover?


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