The Great Rare Books Bake Off 2021

It is almost November, which means it is almost time for the Great Rare Books Bake Off! This year our celebration occurs while the newest season of the Great British Baking Show airs. Let’s make Paul Hollywood and the crowd proud by attempting some historic recipes from our collection and yours.

How can you participate?

This year there are several ways to participate in the FSU Great Rare Books Bake Off, and now that the FSU Special Collections Reading Rooms are open once again, we encourage you to visit and browse our collections for inspiration.

Just a reminder for non-locals that a portion of the SCA cookbook collection is available in the Cookbooks and Herbals collection in the FSU digital library.  You can also check last years Great Rare Books Bake Off posts on Illuminations for inspiration.

  1. We will be posting a selection of recipes at the beginning of November. Choose one or more to try! You can also choose a recipe from your personal family collection…we aren’t picky.
  2. Attempt the recipe
  3. Take a picture and post it to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtags #thegreatrarebooksbakeoff and #fsuspecialcollections. You can tag @fsulibraries on either platform as well.

If you are interested in writing a guest post about your recipe for Illuminations, comment below and we will contact you with more information.


Once again, FSU Special Collections & Archives has drawn inspiration from the Great Rare Books Bake Off hosted by the Monash University Special Collections and the Eberly Family Special Collections Library of Penn State University. To kick off this year’s Bake Off, I made a Pavlova from the Monash University recipe. Their recipe gave options for a passionfruit Pavlova or a meringue cake, as well as some interesting background on the origins of the Pavlova dessert.

I chose the Pavlova because I have seen it made several times on the Great British Baking Show but had never attempted it myself. A Pavlova is basically a large meringue cake made of beaten egg whites and sugar.

The Pavlova cooks at a low temperature for a longer time, this is sometimes referred to a “slow oven” in other countries or in historic cook books. It looks cloud-like before it goes in the oven but dries out while baking until it has a slight crunch on the outside and a softer marshmallow consistency in the very center. I decided to top my Pavlova with homemade lemon curd and whipped cream. The result was absolutely delicious!

dessert with yellow curd, white cream, and a ring of berries on top
Completed Pavlova topped with lemon curd, whipped cream, and blackberries

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was so good! There were no crazy ingredients and it was a fairly easy bake. -Kristin Hagaman

Published by Kristin Hagaman

Research Services Associate, Special Collections & Archives, Florida State University Libraries

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