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The Gilded Age Cookbook by Becky Libourel Diamond

by Debra C. Argen and Edward F. Nesta
The Gilded Age Cookbook by Becky Libourel Diamon
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As a dedicated fan of Downtown Abbey and The Gilded Age, I fell in love with The Gilded Age Cookbook – Recipes and Stories from America’s Golden era by Becky Libourel Diamond. While the recipes are wonderful, it is her carefully researched stories behind the recipes, along with stunning photographs and vintage art, that make her cookbook such a treasure. The cookbook makes a perfect gift for foodies as well as history fans.


Becky’s cookbook takes the reader on a delightful and tasty read with recipes and the interesting stories behind them. Chapters include Culinary Innovations, Outdoor Eats, Dining Out, By Invitation Only, and Holidays. One of the many interesting things that I learned after reading Becky’s cookbook is that the American writer Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) coined the phrase "The Gilded Age" in his 1873 book by the same name.

Also interesting was learning the history behind cooking schools and food demos, where upper-class young ladies were taught how to cook so they could design elegant dinner parties, and it is also where they also sent their servants to learn how to cook.

One of the many recipes that piqued my interest was the recipe for Waldorf Salad, as it was a tradition in my family for my mother to make this tasty apple, mayonnaise, and lemon juice salad in the summer and for special occasions. The recipe dates to the late 1890’s and was created by Oscar Tschirky, the maître d’ of the famed Waldorf-Astoria, in New York City. Knowing the story behind the recipe made my memory of my mother making this salad even more special. (My mother’s version included chopped walnuts.)

The cookbook is filled with many wonderful recipes and captivating stories, including the recipe for Pumpkin Cake from Chapter Five: Holidays – Thanksgiving, page 209, which Becky Libourel Diamond graciously shares to provide readers with a delicious taste of her cookbook. (The recipe is reprinted with permission from the author and publisher.)

Becky notes: "Pie is the traditional way to feature pumpkin on the Thanksgiving menu, but during the Gilded Age, pumpkin and other squashes also found their way into other desserts, including puddings, tarts, fritters, and cakes. Some of these were heartier, substituting cornmeal for flour, such as pumpkin loaf (similar to Boston brown bread) and pumpkin Indian pudding. But this recipe uses cake flour for a lighter, fancier cake that makes a pretty addition to the Thanksgiving table."

Pumpkin Cake - The Gilded Age Cookbook by Becky Libourel Diamond

Pumpkin Cake
Serves 12-16

Unsalted Butter, softened
Granulated Sugar
Packed Brown Sugar
Eggs, beaten
Cooked (or Canned) Pumpkin
Cake Flour
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Chopped Walnuts
Maple Extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and pumpkin and mix well.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add alternately with milk to the butter mixture. Fold in walnuts and maple extract.

Pour batter into cake pans and bake for 30-40 minutes. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes and then remove from pans to cool completely. Frost with maple butter frosting.

Maple Butter Frosting

Butter, softened
Vanilla Extract
Confectionary Sugar
Maple Extract

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until creamy, adding another tablespoon of milk if necessary to achieve a good spreading consistency.

About the Book

"The American Gilded Age (1868 to 1900) and its extreme extravagance continue to be a source of wonder and fascination, particularly for foodies. The style and excessiveness of this era has ties to modern popular culture through books, films, and television shows, including The Alienist and the Julian Fellowes TV series The Gilded Age, on HBO. The Gilded Age Cookbook transports the reader back in time to lavish banquet tables set with snow-white linen tablecloths, delicate china, and sparkling crystal glasses. Cuisine featuring rich soups, juicy roasts, and luscious desserts come to life through historic images and artistic photography. Gilded Age details and entertaining stories of celebrities from the era-the Vanderbilts, Astors, Goelets, and Rockefellers-are melded with historic menus and recipes updated for modern kitchens."

About the Author

"Becky Libourel Diamond is a food writer, librarian and research historian who specializes in reconstructing historical recipes. She has collaborated with several chefs and food groups to recreate historic dinners, including Marc Vetri’s Osteria restaurant in Philadelphia, Chef Adam Diltz of Elwood Restaurant in Philadelphia, COOK (a demonstration kitchen in Philadelphia) and Edible History Supper Club in New York City. She has been writing about food since 2008, sharing her passion for food and history with the world through her books: The Gilded Age Cookbook, The Thousand Dollar Dinner and Mrs. Goodfellow: The Story of America’s First Cooking School. She lives in Yardley, Pennsylvania."

For more information on Becky Libourel Diamond, please visit her website: www.BeckyLDiamond.com.

Social media:
Linked-In: @BeckyLDiamond.

Websites where you can purchase The Gilded Age Cookbook by Becky Libourel Diamond: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million.com, and other online retailers.

Rowman & Littlefield Publishing

The Gilded Age Cookbook by Becky Libourel Diamond
© 2023 by Becky Libourel Diamond
Published by Globe Pequot
Essex, Connecticut
An imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 220
Latham, Maryland 20706
United States
Website: www.rowman.com

Other credits:
Photography by Heather Raub of FrontRoom Images
Food styling by Dan Macey of dantasticfood
Foreword by Chef Walter Staib
ISBN: 978-1-4930-6945-3 (hardcover): $34.95

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