By Keighley’s Mike Armstrong, an award-winning master baker with a big passion for baking...

I’M pretty sure people of a certain age will have learned to bake with a Be-Ro book in hand.

I certainly can remember baking my favourite recipes from the Be-Ro books as a child.

The first Be-Ro book was published in 1923 and 100 years later we still have them in our kitchen drawers. Did you know the early editions were difficult to date as they don’t show publication dates or an index?

Originally the Be-Ro books were published as a helpful booklet to go with bags of self-raising flour. This new convenience flour was invented by Thomas Bell’s Royal works, Newcastle upon Tyne, in 1875. Thomas had experimented with rising agents in flour in baking and from that produced the world’s first self-raising flour. The original brand name of Bell’s Royal Flour was shortened following the death of Edward VII in 1910, when it became illegal to use the Royal name. Thomas Bell decided to merge Bell and Royal into one name which became Be-Ro.

The early Be-Ro books help promote the brand and were clearly written for the stay-at-home wife and her daughters, right up to those published in the 1970s. The 15th edition of the book, in 1951, was cooking with gas as gas was becoming more common and advice was given on how to light a gas cooker with a match or taper. For those still using coal ovens it was important that the damper was always pulled out. Another big change came in the early 1970s when metric took over from imperial weights and Celsius changed to Fahrenheit.

The books have become less “housewifely” over the decades, the well-loved recipes have gradually been changed and new ones added to meet modern tastes and appetites as well as fashions in food. In 1978 the 35th edition was published in all colour, with a lot of recipes devoted to children, using cartoons.

The Be-Ro book is now in its 41st edition, “2009”, and has sold more than 39 million copies. One of my favourite recipes is rich jam cake, which first appeared in the 26th edition of 1963 – which makes sense now, with mum getting married around this time, and passing her Be-Ro books on to me.

Happy Be-Ro book centenary, and here’s to the next 100 years of happy baking.




8oz/225g self-raising flour, sift

Pinch of salt

2oz/60g caster sugar

4oz/115g butter or margarine

1 egg beaten

Jam or marmalade


1. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour and salt and rub in the butter to fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar.

2. Mix to a stiff paste with the beaten egg, add a little milk if necessary.

3. Divide into two parts and roll out thinly so both are the same size of a dinner plate.

4. Place one piece onto a greased baking tray, cover with jam and place the other piece on top, nip together and prick the lid with a fork.

5. Bake at 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4 for around 20 minutes. When cool dredge over a little caster sugar or water icing and cut into triangles.