I have a very special treat for you! I am so excited to introduce you to my dear friend Bryce, the creator of the wildly popular The Victorian Kitchen on Instagram where he researches and reinvents Victorian recipes from the 1800s. In addition to being a wonderfully talented baker and florist, Bryce also works at the Culbertson Mansion in New Albany, Indiana where he shares his vast knowledge of the Culbertson family and the Victorian era.
I highly recommend you follow The Victorian Kitchen on Instagram! You’re sure to fall in love with his beautiful baked creations and his heartfelt, insightful, and fascinating posts!
Now without further ado…I have the distinct pleasure of sharing my recent interview with Bryce about his baking inspirations and favorite flavor combinations, where he finds his recipes, and so much more! Pour yourself a cozy cup of your favorite beverage, nestle in, and enjoy!
What do you love most about the Victorian era?
I’ve always loved Victorian stuff. I would read Victorian books when I was a kid, I was just fascinated by the architecture of the houses and I loved how much detail and care was put into it. Victorians did what Victorians do best, and that is to embellish their basic needs. It makes me appreciate everyday things—just because it’s everyday doesn’t mean it has to be mundane, and I think that’s what I like about it most. I like to be around pretty things all the time!
And what I love about living semi-Victorian is that when you bake a recipe, when you try some of their food, it’s like you’re actually there because you have an actual item that they would have eaten. It’s really neat to think, this is what they would have done, or these are the flavors that they were accustomed to.
How did you come up with the idea for The Victorian Kitchen?
I was a florist for a really long time and I used to garden with my grandmother, so that kind of instilled in me the love of flowers. And so, as I got older, I really liked flowers and I really liked baking, but that was because I liked the Victorian era…so I thought I would just combine the two; I would bake but do it a lot with flowers and I kind of put them together and this is what I came up with!
And how did you get started with using recipes from antique cookbooks?
I actually did it on a whim…I thought of the movie Julie & Julia about Julia Child and I was wondering how I could encompass the Victorian era into what I love to do. And then I realized that a lot of libraries have put in the public domain all of these old cookbooks, so you could peruse them online for free. But a big part of it was also my grandma, she’s my best friend…she is a big part of this too because she gifted me her mom’s cookbooks and I started cooking from those and I was thinking, what if I go back even further to the Victorian era?
You have a huge following on Instagram, with hundreds of thousands of people drawn to your beautiful creations and the stories you share with each recipe. Did you ever expect The Victorian Kitchen to grow like it has?
It was truly insane! At first I posted it and the response was there a little bit but I got really busy and I remember I stopped and took a break. For me, the creative process kind of waxes and wanes and I think it does that for a lot of people. But then I just thought I’d try it again and then everything started happening and, I don’t know, I guess it just finally worked! It was really crazy and I’m so grateful for it, it allowed me to connect with so many people. I think Instagram is my favorite because I like the fact that these very niche communities can find each other. I think that is so awesome because we’ve never really had that before where you can connect with strangers, essentially, who like the same stuff. And everybody is so supportive of each other too and I just think that is the coolest thing in the world, I absolutely love it.
Have you ever come across something that surprised you in a Victorian recipe? A unique ingredient, baking method, etc.?
Specifically towards the Culbertsons, one of their favorite dishes that they ate at every meal was cow tongue and that was a delicacy for them, so that was interesting…kind of this idea of using every part of the animal. I also noticed that they used nutmeg a lot…almost every single recipe I find has nutmeg in it! I also noticed that they didn’t use vanilla at all because I think it was rare to have it imported from Mexico or Madagascar, but what they did use was a lot of rose water so that is kind of like their version of vanilla, like how we throw vanilla into everything.
What are some of your favorite flavor pairings?
My all-time favorite pairing is lemon and lavender, by far. There’s something about sugared citrus with the lavender and the light floral…it’s amazing! So now when I smell a lavender candle, I used to think, Oh, this smells good…but now I get hungry! Oh, and this is kind of an under-rated flavor…jasmine. I love jasmine. And, of course, I love orange and sugar and cream, like a dreamsicle. Love that, too!
Do you have a favorite item to make with lemon and lavender?
My “signature dish”, if you will, is lemon-lavender scones. I actually get the lavender from a lavender farm about an hour away called Willowfield. I love their lavender!
I love the captions you include with your recipes with tidbits on the history of what you’re baking! How do you come up with your ideas?
Thank you! Yes, I try to make the captions like a diary entry while also including some sort of historical fact in there somewhere. I have so much fun writing them and I’m so grateful for all of it! For a long time I was so lonely and I felt like people just didn’t really care, so then when all of this happened and I got to meet awesome people, it just changed everything.
And, finally, if you could have tea with anyone from the Victorian era, who would you choose?
That is a hard question! I’d have to choose Mr. Culbertson. Even though he’s not widely famous across the United States, he was an awesome man and I would love to sit down and ask him about the house and all of his family. And most definitely Fannie Farmer, and also Beatrix Potter is one of my biggest inspirations. I really like people who have inspired a whole era, so of course Fannie Farmer changed the way we think about baking. Beatrix Potter changed the way we think about gardening, flowers, and natural history and for her to be a woman and do that…huge deal. And so we still find what they’ve done today and that’s what I think is the coolest part about that because almost everything we do today can be traced back to the Victorian era somehow, someway.
My most heartfelt thanks to Bryce for sitting and chatting with me! It was such a joy to hear more of the story behind The Victorian Kitchen and I’m so thankful I could share his beautiful creations with you all! Please visit Bryce on Instagram and say hello! And don't forget to take a look at his Blueberry Earl Grey Cinnamon Rolls inspired by our English Fog scent!