How to bake like Great-Great Granny


07 September 2016
Cookbook-59409.jpg A handwritten English cook book from the 17th to 18th centuries
Your ancestors' recipes & food traditions

With The Great British Bake Off returning to our screens it can be tempting to combine family history with a little bit of baking, perhaps trying one of Great-Great Granny's favourite recipes. In Family Tree October find out more about the food our ancestors would have enjoyed with our guide to using cookery books in family history. Food historian Dr Annie Gray's tips below offer just a flavour of the article - get the full story with Family Tree October today!

  • Eggs were smaller in the past! Halve the amount for anything before 1830, and use 2/3 for recipes between 1830 and 1950. Or use pullet or bantam eggs for the early period, and small eggs for the later.
  • Do everything by hand – it’ll give you a great understanding of how physical things were. Technically this includes grinding almonds, sugar, making your own food colourings, and boiling feet for jelly, etc for most periods.
  • There are loads of cookbooks online, and it’s worth puzzling through the original texts rather than using modernised ones if you can. Try and (but watch out for American editions).
  • Don’t neglect the next generation – keep a book of your own, or write notes in your printed books. Make your own cookbook collection your autobiography too.

Dr Annie Gray ( is the resident food historian on BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet, presented BBC Two’s Victorian Baker (Christmas special coming soon) and is currently working on a book called A Greedy Queen: eating with Queen Victoria, due out next year.

Pictured: A handwritten English cook book from the 17th to 18th centuries with recipes for: 'Mrs Chad Almonds Jumbals'; 'a pretty big bisket cake'; 'ginger bread' and 'gimmalls'.

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Image © Wellcome Library, London, copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0.