Shirley Harring

writer, farmer advocate, madwoman

The Commonsense Cookery Book: 1959 edition

September 15, 2015

The Commonsense Cookery Book, 1959 edition. Also a thrift shop find, this edition has the quirky addition of clipped and hand written recipes carefully stapled over food specked pages. This was a book that someone loved, and used – a lot. Who would part with such a gem?

Vinatge WillowTin, Vintage Recipe

One of the things I love about vintage recipes is the quirkiness of the measurements. In the absence of exact science and precise measurements bakers call for today, there’s often reference to a bit of this, a dash of that, or a splash of something else.  ‘Cooking by cups’ was very common through the depression, the recession and the post war years. Cup recipes were easy – easy to remember, easy to manage, and with utensils required kept to a few, easily accessible for most people. This recipe trusts you will understand the needs for a small cup of milk. Yes? 

Date Loaf in Round Willio Tin
Date and Nut Loaf using a round Willow Tin

Commonsense Cookery Book 1959* Text reproduced as printed.

This recipe makes enough for 2 Willow rounds, or 2 small loaf tins. If using a willow round; don’t try to fill in a single bake, your tin will explode.

Hint – use a vintage teacup to measure the milk. 

  1. 2 cups flour
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 1/2 cup dates
  4. 1/2 cup walnuts
  5. 2 tsp baking powder
  6. 1 egg
  7. Small cup of milk
  8. 1 tb butter
  9. Pinch of salt
  1. Beat butter and sugar to a cream. Add a well beaten egg.
  2. Add milk gradually.
  3. Add chopped dates and chopped walnuts. Stir in lightly the flour, baking powder and salt, sifted.
  4. 3/4 fill the greased loaf tin and secure both ends.
  5. Stand upright and bake in moderate oven 3/4 hour.
Serve just as my Nan did – slathered in butter alongside a nice pot of tea.
Don’t mind if I do.


  1. I have seen those tins, but how do you get the loaf out of it, doesn’t it stick?

  2. I LOVE those tins. Shaun’s mum had a few of them, and I think they were her mum’s – I have no idea where they are now but sadly suspect they were given to Vinnies or chucked out. I’m too scared to ask as I know I’ll cry if they were not kept.

  3. I’ve never seen a tin like this but I want to! I love old baking tins AND old recipes.

  4. That’s a great find Rhu. Just the other day I was watching some cooking show and thought ‘why don’t they use one of those old nut loaf tins?’ and subsequently thought ‘they probably can’t get hold of one’. Now I know why. I’ve been trying to explain the term ‘scant’ to Anthony. He keeps asking why they just don’t say a full cup?

  5. Oh I loved the round tins – don’t have any – a girlfriend still uses the hollowed food tin to make her version of a date loaf – she lines it with paper, though. A round tin does make them taste better (as does the slathering of butter).

  6. What a great find. I bet the date and nut loaf tasted better too being round.

  7. That book, how old and beautiful it is! You’re right, I wouldn’t want to part with a gem like that. The nut loaf sounds delish, would love to give it a try. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Snap! Shirley, I just bought two old date tins in a thrift store… been wanting one for years and didn’t even buy one when I had the cookware shop and cooking school…. (I know!). Gorgeous tin you have there… I bought some dates yesterday, must now use my tin/s!

  9. That is making my mouth water, Shirley! How lovely.

  10. I still haven’t made this. I can’t figure out how much a small cup of milk is. :)

  11. Glorious! I’ve never seen a round cake tin like this ever! I don’t know if I could even find one here so I’ll have to look! The loaf sounds interesting too — have you ever substituted pecans for walnuts in this recipe?

  12. I LOVE the Commonsense Cookery book! Mine fell apart but I need another one. Thank god they still print it – this looks DEVINE!

  13. I read this a while ago but am only having time to comment now Shirley. I love a good loaf. When I look at my pinterest boards, loaf cakes make up more than half of the recipes. I hadn’t realised that until I recently did some tidying. There’s nothing better when you open a cookbook and a little note or clipping slips out. cheers xx

  14. I found a round tin on E Bay. It’s great.

  15. If you can’t get a round loaf tin just buy a round tin of fruit juice. Drink the juice use the tin to cook with. This cake doesn’t need a lid. They are very good for school fetes as you can put a lot of tins in oven at once. I have an origanal recipe taken from the tin and stuck into my recipe book. It’s about 50 years old or so as I had anniversary last month

  16. Hi all…my first ever comment on a recipe!!!!! I was searching for a gluten free nut loaf recipe for a friend and came across this little gem. I have two very old cook books from mum and TWO of the willow tins. I will never part with them…they are valuable little treasures to hand dowm to my daughter and granddaughters. Just looking at the tins takes me back to those cold Sunday afternoons in the country, and Mum would serve up the nut loaf and a cuppa. Dad used to say “Rachel honey I have just died and gone to heaven”. Happy baking ladies.

  17. I did have 2 tins, but can only now find 1. It must be 40yrs since I made a nut loaf in my round tin & just in the past 3 weeks have been given a round nut loaf by 2 different friends. It bought back many memories for hubby & myself. Today, when shopping will get dates & walnuts for me to make tonight. The Commonsense Cook Book was the recipe book we used in the 60’s at high school, wish I still had mine :)

  18. I bought one of the tins at the South Melbourne Market. There is a kitchen shop there which has everything.

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