Rumford, or, The Return to Baking Powder

It’s been quite a while since we talked about baking powder, baking fans. In the past, we’ve looked at pamphlets from three baking powder companies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Ryzon, Royal, and Snow King. This week, we’re taking on another big name–one that’s still around today: Rumford.

The Rumford Common Sense Cook Book is not the earliest Rumford publication in our collections, but it’s a rather interesting piece. It is one of MANY pamphlets and publications about Rumford in the History of Food and Drink Collection. Hardly surprising, in the case of company with a long history of production. Compiled by Lily Haxworth Wallace (who was associated with Rumford with many years), it consists mainly of what you would expect: recipes. Recipes for cakes and frostings, waffles and breads, pastries, puddings, candies and even salad dressings. Since baking is a precise art, the directions for properly measuring aren’t all that surprising either. However, a few other elements stand out.

Given the changing technology in the kitchen, this guide includes a conversion chart of sorts that translates from the previous generation’s cooking temperatures (hot or slow ovens, for example) to the (more) precise temperatures of newer stoves. There’s also a great two page glossary of cooking terms and a diagram of a table setting for semi-formal dinner. (Apparently the formal dinner hostess will have to look elsewhere. ;)) There are even two illustrated pages  about knowing your cuts of beef and lamb. Perhaps not as exciting as our set of flashcards, but a bit more conveniently embedded within a handy pamphlet.

girl in bonnet with wildflowersargument for purchase of Rumford baking powder which does not use alumcan of baking powder surrounded by wheat

Baking powder and the baking powder wars were a topic of one our first blog posts back in 2011 and while looking at Rumford publications, I did find something particularly relevant. This small (and, as you may notice, somewhat fragile) 1913 Rumford Home Recipes pamphlet includes an intriguing defense of Rumford’s brand, sandwiched between front and back covers with comforting and sweet imagery.

So, next time you starting baking, take a minute to remember baking powder. There’s a long and intriguing history to that helpful little can. And always remember: “Watch the label!”


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