Jayne Dawson: The Be-Ro book – it’s baking ... with a cherry on top!

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You would think, wouldn’t you, with all the sumptuous cookery books available now, that a funny-shaped little pamphlet, produced by a manufacturer of flour, would have gone right off the boil?

Would have disappeared to the back of the baking cupboard along with those beans for blind baking a pastry case, and that tube of ready-mixed pink icing.

I mean, this time of year especially, publications full of photographs that would be hung on a gallery wall, if it weren’t for the instructions to preset the oven printed alongside them, are raining from the sky.

The deity that is Nigella has one out, the good egg that is Nigel Slater has one out, and I would say this is a lean year.

Previous run-ups to you-know-what - I’m not saying the word until we’re actually in December though I am having to say “you-know-what” a lot - have featured many more chefs whisking out a nicely themed recipe collection.

And baking has never been more current. The nation’s favourite domestic science teacher, Mrs Berry, has switched us all on to the joy of a nice coffee and walnut cake like never before, and she and the blue-eyed boy beside her have produced many a Bake Off book to match.

So there is not so much competition out there as a tsunami. We have been engulfed by cookery collections, we are overwhelmed by them, drowning in them.

And yet that little Be-Ro book is incredibly, amazingly, still holding its own.

I mean, I knew I had mine - or rather my mother’s - but then cut me open and nostalgia and sentimentality run right through me. I’ve made my peace with it.

In fact, I have two Be-Ro books: the 34th edition, torn, stained, taped, minus cover; and the 39th edition, looking swanky by comparison but still a bit, you know, floury.

And turns out I’m not the only Be-Ro baker, there are loads of us out there.

I didn’t know, but then my friend Judith posted online that her Be-Ro book had bitten the dust after an encounter with a banana smoothie.

She feared it was the end, which was sad because it reminded her of her mother trying to teach her to make Melting Moments.

Melting Moments, should you not know, are biscuits rolled in coconut and topped with a glace cherry.

And they join a niche group of Be-Ro teatime treats that can be decorated with a glace cherry: Rum Babas, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Madeleines.

Which is great because, in general, it’s rare that we find an instruction to top anything with a glace cherry these days

They are recipes straight out of the post-war era, ones that I feel Fanny Craddock would have given her mad stare of approval, as much as she approved of anything.

Reaction to Judith’s anguish was instant: There was an outpouring of grief on her behalf from we who still have our books with turnable pages.

Mostly our Be-Ro books belonged to our mothers, or grandmothers, and they remind us of those childhood moments when the smell of baking made everything seem safe and warm and the biggest decision of the day was butterfly bun or Battenburg cake. Talk of cupcakes would only have left us puzzled.

I remember my own mother using hers - though honesty compels me to reveal that, at sight of a cake on the worktop, the words “shop bought?” would escape my mouth in a hopeful tone.

Inevitably she crushed my hopes by revealing it was one of the Be-Ro Ten Variations on the Victoria Sandwich Basic Recipe.

Heavy hands.

That’s all I’m saying. Bread was different - she was excellent with bread.

So I’m really hoping Judith manages to wipe down her book and carry on being a Be-Ro woman.

We’re a middle aged army, defying baking razzle dazzle with the aid of the glace cherry.

Sarah Champion MP

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