Home-Baking at Heart of Reframed ’Fifties
From the decade dedicated to whipping up novelty fare at home – when fruit, jelly and treacle were more a standard dessert than Sunday servings of warm pudding, pie, or cake – food favourites from the 1950s are back in fashion.
In the latest throwback to the post-war era of emulating domestic perfection, the kitchen has retaken centre stage with a spotlight on staples – starting with flour.
As domestic demand for the fundamental ingredient spiked in pandemic-era conditions, flour has come full-circle for Manildra Group since the Honan family’s 1952 purchase of Manildra Flour Mill in central west New South Wales.
Three generations and 70 years on, Manildra Group Chairman Dick Honan is at the helm of the Australian-owned manufacturer, alongside son John as Managing Director, daughters Samantha and Caroline as Directors in marketing for The Healthy Baker range of specialty flours and bakery premixes.
Ms Honan said early beginnings of the eponymous family business at Manildra Flour Mill were steeped in a time when home bakers were delivered superior flours for creative innovations and new recipe trends – many that would stand the test of time.
“It was all chiffon cakes, sweet cherry pies, fluffy angel cakes and vibrant gelatine-based desserts in the 1950s – what a time,” laughed Ms Honan while flicking through a recipe book from those early days of Manildra Group’s flour marketing.
“The Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Baked Alaska, Peach Melba to layered and rosette cakes… it really hit fever-pitch in the ’50s.”
“There’s no question that baking – the way we eat and how we plate up – has changed over the decades,” she said.
Flour, meanwhile, remains the foundation of baking in almost any recipe – from puff pastry to the perfect birthday cake – and continues to underpin the family business.
As the decade following World War Two heralded the start of sweeping change for a new nation, the end of food rationing had Australians craving all things sweet and indulgent.
“This era really changed our world of home-baking forever as a more personal form of self-expression and creativity, reinforcing that motto that there is always room for cake to brighten even the glum moments,” said Ms Honan.
Amid a wave of unprecedented prosperity and the emergence of new technology, people were eager for the delights and comforts of home-cooked baked goods.
The romanticisation of consumerism driving the 1950s suburban dream, also led to households becoming accustomed to innovative labour- saving products.
Ms Honan said electrical appliances changed home kitchens forever, as people embraced electric stoves, Sunbeam
Mixmaster’s, electric frypans, and ironmasters.
“With sliced and packaged bread available in supermarkets, and Tip Top becoming the first national bread brand in 1958, housewives were suddenly able to save time on baking bread first thing the morning, giving them an avenue for more creative expression in the kitchen,” said Ms Honan.
The era witnessed a monumental shift in baking methods and processes, with many of these changes still in use today including the Chorleywood method of bread making (using lower-protein flours and reducing processing time).
Laying the foundation for more economical and speedier baking of breads and cakes, the 1950s was a period of steady growth with bakers providing consumers with competitive prices, and innovative traits to carry the independent baker forward.
Manildra Group too, evolved to changing market conditions over the following decades, becoming a leading producer of flours, bakery premixes and ingredients, trading as Gem of the West, branding that remains to this day.
By the turn of the millennium, Manildra Group made the decision to broaden access to premium baking products to home kitchens Australia- wide – launching retail range The Healthy Baker in the mid-2000s.
“We have always been a baking company at heart, providing professional and home bakers alike with exceptionally high-quality ingredients that elevate every bake,” said Ms Honan.
“We want to be your trusty kitchen sidekick to help you bake better – whether you’re whipping up a family favourite or taking a fresh twist.”
While generations younger and older lean heavily into the latest 1950s cuisine craze to craft their own eye-catchingly elaborate and sweets, our socials are splashed with gravity-defying tiers of iced cakes, featuring thick buttercream rosettes, gleaming glazed cherries, and lustrous nonpareil pearls.
“I just love this style of baking,” said Ms Honan.
“These artful and whimsical decadent desserts popping with fiery reds and vivid blues evoke the colour palettes of cherry-pie diners we’re seeing again in modern kitchen aesthetics.
“It’s a wonderful way for people to express and explore how they feel – adding their own unique touch in baking and sharing the joy in our social media feeds.”
To guarantee creative home-cooks the confidence of consistency and quality ingredients for baking perfection in form, taste and nutrition, The Healthy Baker’s specialty flours and premixes are milled round-the-clock at the flagship Manildra Flour Mill – Australia’s largest, operating 24 hours year-round.
The Healthy Baker’s expanding range of fresh innovations – including the protein packed pancake mix and nutritious wholemeal flour – helps breathe new life into those old favourites that set the standard aspired to once again in kitchens of today.