IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

B. Dylan Hollis’ new cookbook ‘Baking Yesteryear’ celebrates the wild and wacky world of vintage recipes

Hollis affectionately nicknamed the Pickle Cheesecake in his cookbook “the devil quiche.”
B. Dylan Hollis
B. Dylan Hollis and his infamous Pickle Cheesecake.Lauren Jones, Kelley Jordan-Schuyler

The most preordered recipe compendium in publisher DK’s history is not your grandmother’s cookbook.

Well, it is your grandmother’s cookbook — but more. With recipes stretching from the turn to the close of last century, it’s everyone’s grandmother’s cookbook — the good, the bad and the Pickle Cheesecake — and it is officially out in the world today, July 25.

“‘Baking Yesteryear’ is a greatest hits of bakery from the good down-home community cookbooks from the U.S., U.K. and Bermuda,” B. Dylan Hollis tells TODAY.com. He saw the veneration aimed at fancy French pastries, but as his love affair with vintage cookbooks blossomed, he says, “I was seeing the love that was going into these community cookbooks, church ladies pouring their hearts out … I wanted to broadcast that.”

If you’ve seen his TikTok or YouTube channel, full of him laughing, crying and screaming his way through alternately mouthwatering and horrifying recipes from the good ol’ days, you might be surprised he sat still long enough to write a book. Growing up in Bermuda with a house full of rambunctious brothers, he learned “to live by the three Ws — wild, wacky and wonderful,” and admits he was always the class clown. But Hollis is a jazz pianist by training, refined and insightful when he’s not on the kitchen camera. “It’s just that being ridiculous is appropriate for these recipes!” he explains.

How did a jazz pianist end up the king of social media baking?

An aficionado of all things vintage, from driving a 1963 Cadillac to playing an accordion like Lawrence Welk, Hollis didn’t even bake before snagging an old cookbook from an estate sale during the pandemic. He took it up to pass the time and “fell into social media fame and baking concurrently and must have baked 300 days out of that first year,” he says, “so the internet watched me learn how to bake. I learned by brute force!” 

Early on, he found a 1915 “Five Roses Cook Book” recipe for “Pork Cake,” a 6-pound fruitcake behemoth based on rendered pork belly, and thought it so delightfully crazy that he had to share it with the world. His trademark frenetic comic style was present right out of the gate, as he listed ingredients and basic instructions with hilarious commentary. “350 for two-and-a-half hours,” he deadpans, “I suppose any less and it might gain consciousness.”

“I still don’t know where I stand on ‘Pork Cake,’” he says now, thinking back on that recipe. “It tastes like a question mark.”

It wasn’t long before Hollis became a massive grassroots star. In his most popular video, with over 34 million views on TikTok, he makes a 1932 Peanut Butter Bread recipe.

It’s no wonder, then, that DK thought the time ripe for a cookbook. For his part, Hollis had always been thinking of one, so he could share a lesson learned on his own journey: that vintage recipes are not only interesting and charming, but worthy of respect — not despite their use of humble or thrifty ingredients, but because of it.

“They’re discredited from our modern perspective,” he says, “but to me, that’s a real cultural creation, something families were brought up on, from a place and a time in America where people got excited for it at a family function. It’s like time travel.”

Hollis’ delightedly disgusted disapproval is largely reserved for the recipes that were crafted by food manufacturers to drum up sales. The Fiesta Peach Spam Bake was an ill-advised Thanksgiving offering he enjoyed hating, but even worse in his estimation was the Baked Bean Pizza. “It comes from a brazen disregard for taste, and clearly from the advertising perspective of, ‘We need to sell more beans.’”

Only the spectacularly monstrous ones were bad enough to make the cut for the cookbook, though. His pick for the worst of the “Worst of the Worst” chapter? An unfortunate misadventure from the 1970s love affair with savory appetizer pies: Pickle Cheesecake

Pickle Cheesecake

Hollis genuinely likes what he bakes, though, and that’s reflected in the cookbook. Divided into chapters by decade, most of the recipes are things you’ll love to eat, like the ethereal, 1950s Melting Moments shortbread cookies, or the fruity-but-not-fruitcake-y 1980s Banana Split Bars. “I’ve had the Chocolate Potato Cake from 1912 on a pedestal for years, too,” he says, “because it was a simple idea that used an unorthodox ingredient for a really moist crumb.”

Other recipes in the winners’ circle include Pioneer Brownies, Kiskadee Fantasy, and some unlikely sounding treats like Velveeta Fudge and Unemployment Pudding. One of the loveliest, and one of the few to leverage brand marketing into an authentically delicious dish, is this 1950s Color Vision Cake, which relies on Cherry Jell-O for its Barbie-pink aura.

Color Vision Cake

“I’m not a chef,” says Hollis, “I don’t even call myself a baker, but I wanted a different type of cookbook. Going back to the three Ws, I don’t just want to be impressed, I want to eat something that makes me feel good. It’s about the art of sharing that which you love.”

In short(cake), he was looking to praise simple baking that tapped into memory and history, and from the comments he gets, he’s done that.

“People say, ‘This brings so many memories back from my childhood.’ That’s what’s special.”

TODAY independently determines what we cover and recommend. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Baking Yesteryear” by B. Dylan Hollis