National Baking Week 2020

National Baking Week 2020

It’s National Baking Week! During the Second World War home-baking adapted to meet the restrictions caused by wartime rationing. Our oral history collection is full of stories about baking during the war.

Renee McAllister (US75 -2) pictured right with her mother and siblings.

Some interviewees fondly recall their mother’s great baking skills. Renee McAllister (US2-pictured with mother & siblings) remembered coming home to the smell of fresh baking stating ‘when we’d got in from school in the afternoon, she would have had them up on those wire trays on the big farm kitchen table cooling… bannocks; a treacle one, a wheaten one and a fruit or a plain one, a fruit and treacle one, you know mixing them, these big fresh bannocks’.

Some weren’t as lucky as Renee, with Maureen McAllister (US1) telling us she dreaded her mother baking, stating ‘my granny, she was a lovely baker and so was my aunt, but my mother couldn’t bake… she bought the flour and all and she was just going to bake the bread for us, but luckily enough the BU’s came in… the coupons came in so she didn’t have to bake thank goodness, I wouldn’t have liked to taste it believe me!’

Due to wartime rationing, home bakers were greatly limited in what their coupons could buy, with shortages common and many bakers forced to adapt their recipes. Rhena Montgomery (W&M1) recalled that ‘baking changed a wee bit because they wouldn’t have been as lavish with some of the stuff you’d have put in, had to use different things like powdered eggs, but you made it as tempting as you could’.

Many home-bakers who had a garden took the opportunity to grow fruit and vegetables to ease the severity of rationing. Robert Thompson (BBP6) remembered that his family started to grow vegetables as well as many fruits such as ‘berries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries…. Rhubarb, we grew loads of rhubarb… There was jam made out of it. My mother baked, she put all that into the baking, apple and rhubarb tarts, she made it all, so she did’.

Some bakers saved up weeks’ worth of rations to be able to bake treats for special occasions, such as birthdays, Christmas, or weddings. Sadie Lineker (US20) was married to her Navy sweetheart during the war and after the wedding they didn’t have a reception. They ‘went back to my mother-in-law’s house… there was about eight of us there, so my father-in-law was a baker and he made me a lovely wedding cake… he was a confectioner and he had made this lovely cake and it was iced on top and it had a big anchor in the middle, with the anchor chain of shamrocks going round it and roses around the side, all handmade, all little iced roses; they’d used all their rations on it.

If you fancy doing some wartime baking, check out some of our ration recipes;

Do you remember baking during the Second World War? How did your family cope with rationing? Do you remember any of your favourite wartime recipes? If you would like to share your story, please get in touch with our Oral History Coordinator at or on 07588 634847.

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