Saturday, December 02, 2006

Through the Ages with Gingerbread.

Recipes are added to this feature when time allows, so please check back from time to time.

There is also a Vintage Christmas Recipes feature HERE.

Gingerbread today is quite different from what it used to be. Once upon a time, “gingerbread” simply meant preserved ginger. By the fifteenth century it was a “cake” made from a dense dough of breadcrumbs or ground almonds mixed with honey or spices. Often this dough was pressed into moulds with very intricate designs. There were many varieties of gingerbread in medieval times: ‘coarse’, ‘fine’, white, red (coloured with red wine or sandalwood), and gilded (with real gold). Here is a small sample of recipes from over the centuries, to give you an idea of the development into gingerbread as we know it now. If you are not familiar with reading very old recipes, be patient! The language gets easier as you go along, although old recipes are rarely as easy to understand as we expect nowadays.

There are some wonderful pictures of old Gingerbread moulds HERE and HERE.


Take a quart of honey and sethe it and skime it clene; take Safroun, pouder Pepir and throw theron; take gratyd Brede and make it so chargeant that it wol be y-lechyd; then take pouder canelle and straw ther-on y-now; then make it square, lyke as thou wolt leche yt; take when tho lechyst hyt, an caste Box leves a -bowyn, y-stykyd ther-on, on clowys. An if thou wold have it Red, colour it with Saunderys y-now.
From: Austin, Thomas. Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books. Harleian MS. 279 & Harl. MS. 4016, with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1429, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS 55. London: for The Early English Text Society by N. Trübner & Co., 1888.


To make white Ginger bread.
Take Gumma Dragantis* half an once, and steep it in rosewater two daies, then put thereto a pound of sugar beaten and finely serced, and beat them well together, so that it may be wrought like paste, then role it thin into two Cakes, then take a fewe Jordain almonds and blaunch them in colde water, then dry them with a faire Cloth, and stampe them in a mortar very finelye, adding thereto a little rosewater, beat finely also the whitest Sugar you can get and searce it. Then take Ginger, pare it and beat it very small and serce it, them put in sugar to the almonds and beat them together very well, then take it out and work it at your pleasure, then lay it even upon one of your cakes, and cover it with an other and when you put it in the molde, strewe fine ginger both above and beneathe, if you have not great store of Sugar, then take Rice and beat it small and serce it, and put it into the Morter and beat them altogether.
*Gumma Dragantis = gum traganth.
From: A book of cookrye Very necessary for all such as delight therin. Gathered by A.W. At London : Printed by Edward Allde, 1591


To make course Gingerbread.
Take a quart of honie and set it on the coals and refine it; then take a penny worth of ginger, as much pepper, as much Licoras; and a quarter of a pound of Aniseedes, and a pennyworth of Saunders; All these must be beaten and searsed, and so put into the hony: then put in a quarter of a pint of Claret wine or old Ale: then take three penny Manchets finely grated and strow it amongst the rest, and stirre it till it comes to a thick Past, then make it into Cakes, and drie them gently.
From: ‘Countrey contentments, in two bookes the first, … The second intituled, The English husvvife: containing the inward and outward vertues which ought to be in a compleate woman: as her phisicke, cookery, banqueting-stuffe, distillation, perfumes, wooll, hemp, flaxe, dairies, brewing, baking, and all other things belonging to an houshold. A worke very profitable and necessary for the generall good of this kingdome., Markham, Gervase: Printed at London, 1615.

To make white Gingerbread.
Take halfe a pound of marchpaine* past, a quarter of a pound of white Ginger beaten and cerst, halfe a pound of the powder of refined sugar, beate this to a very fine paste with dragagant** steept in rose-water, then roule it in round cakes and print it with your moulds: dry them in an oven when the bread is drawn foorth, upon white papers, & when they be very dry, box them, and keepe them all the yeare.
*marchpaine past = marzipan paste
** dragagant = gum traganth
From: Delightful Daily Exercise for Ladies and Gentlewomen; John Murrell; 1621

To make Ginger Bread.
Take a pound of jordan almonds, and a penny manchet grated and sifted and mingled amongst the almond paste very fine beaten, an ounce of slic’t ginger, two thimble fulls of liqouras and aniseed in powder finely searced, beat all in a mortar together, with two or three spoonfuls of rose water, beat them to a perfect past with half a pound of sugar, mould it and roul it thin, then print it and dry it in a stove, and gild it if you please.
Thus you may make ginger bread or sugar plate, putting sugar to it as abovesaid.
From: The accomplisht cook, or, The art and mystery of cookery wherein the whole art is revealed in a more easie and perfect method than hath been publisht in any language … .Robert May; London : Printed by R.W. for Nath. Brooke ..., 1660

To make Ginger-bread.
Take three stale Manchets grated and sifted, then put to them half an Ounce of Cinnamon, as much Ginger, half an Ounce of Licoras and Aniseeds together, beat all these and searce [sift] them, and put them with half a Pound of fine Sugar, boil all these together with a quart of Claret, stirring them continually till it comes to a stiff Paste, then when it is almost cold, mould it on a Table with some searced Spice and Sugar, then bake it in what shape you please.
From: The queen-like closet; or, Rich cabinet stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying &c; cookery. Very pleasant and beneficial to all ingenious persons of the female sex. By Hannah Wolley; London : printed for R. Lowndes at the White Lion in Duck-Lane, near West-Smithfield; 1670


Thick Ginger-Bread
A pound and a half of Flower, takes up one pound of Treacle, almost as much Sugar, an ounce of beat Ginger, two ounces of Carraway-seeds, four ounces of Citron, and Lemon-peel Candy’d, the Yolks of four Eggs, cut your Sweet-meats, mix all, and bake it in large Cakes, on Tin-plates.
From: A collection of above three hundred receipts in cookery, physick and surgery; for the use of all good wives, tender mothers, and careful nurses. Kettilby, Mary; 1714

To make an excellent sort of Ginger-Bread.
Take a quart of Damask-rose-water, and four pound of double refin’d Sugar; two Quarts of fine Flour, or as much as will make it up into a pretty stiff paste. Take Ginger, Carraway-seed, and Coriander-seed, of each two Ounces, finely powdered; Nutmets finely powdered one Ounce and a half; Anniseed, and Fennel-seed, powder’d, of each three quarters of an Ounce; of Cloves powdered, almost half an Ounce. Mix all these well together in a Mortar. Then reserve this powder for use. Put in two Ounces of it into a Quart of your Syrup made of Rose-water and Sugar to your two Quarts of Flour; make your Paste into thin square Cakes, and bake it.
From: The cooks and confectioners dictionary: or, the accomplish’d housewives companion. ... The second edition with additions. Revised and recommended by John Nott; London : printed by H. P. for C. Rivington, 1724

To make fine Gingerbread.
Take two pounds and a half of flour; mix an ounce of beat ginger with it, and half a pound of brown sugar; cut three quarters of a pound of orange-peel and citron not too small; mix all these together; take a mutchkin and a half of good treacle, and melt it on the fire; beat five eggs; wet the flour with the treacle and eggs; weight half a pound of fresh butter, Scots weight*; melt it and pour it in amongst your other materials; cast them all well together; butter a frame, and put it in the oven. This gingerbread wont fire without frames. If it rises in blisters when it is in the oven, run a fork through it. It makes very fine plain bread without the fruit, with a few caraway seeds. All these cakes must be fired in an oven neither too hot nor too cold. The way to know when the cakes are fired enough is to run a clean knife down the middle of them; if the knife comes out dry, they are enough; if the least of it sticks to the knife, put it in the oven again.
From: Cookery and pastry. As taught and practised by Mrs. Maciver, ... A new edition. To which are added, for the first time, figures of dinner and supper courses, from five to fifteen dishes. Also, a correct list of everything in season ... . MacIver, Susanna; Edinburgh : printed for C. Elliot: and G. G. J. and J. Robinson, London, 1787

NOTE: Mrs McIver specifies “Scots weight” because until 1824 when they were forced to change to Imperial measurements, Scottish measures were different. One Scottish pound weight was equivalent to one pound, six ounces and one dram in Imperial weight.


Mix with two pounds of flour half a pound of treacle, three quarters of an ounce of caraways, one ounce of ginger finely sifted, and eight ounces of butter.
Roll the paste into what form you please, and bake on tins, after having worked it very much, and kept it to rise.

If you like sweetmeats, add orange candied; it may be added in small bits.
Another sort. - To three quarters of a pound of treacle beat one egg strained; mix four ounces of brown sugar, half an ounce of ginger sifted; of cloves, mace, allspice, and nutmeg, a quarter of an ounce, beaten as fine as possible; coriander and caraway seeds, each a quarter of an ounce; melt one pound of butter, and mix with the above; and add as much flour as will knead into a pretty stiff paste; then roll it out, and cut into cakes.
Bake on tin-plates in a quick oven. A little time will bake them.
Of some, drops may be made.

A good plain sort. - Mix three pounds of flour with half a pound of butter, four ounces of brown sugar, half an ounce of pounded ginger; then make into a paste with one pound and a quarter of treacle warm.

A good sort without Butter. - Mix two pounds of treacle; of orange, lemon, and citron and candied ginger, each four ounces, all thinly sliced; one ounce of coriander seeds, one ounce of caraways, and one ounce of beaten ginger, in as much flour as will make a soft paste; lay it in cakes on tin-plates, and bake it in a quick oven. Keep it dry in a covered earthen vessel, and it will be good for some months.
Note. If cake or biscuits be kept in paper, or a drawer, the taste will be disagreeable. A pan and cover, or tureen, will preserve them long and moist. - Or, if to be crisp, laying them before the fire will make them so.
[From: A New System of Domestic Cookery; By A Lady (Rundell, Maria Eliza Ketelby). Boston: 1807]

Orange Gingerbread.
Sift two pounds and a quarter of fine flour, and add to it a pound and three quarters of treacle, six ounces of candied orange peel cut small, three quarters of a pound of moist sugar, one ounce of ground ginger, and one ounce of allspice : melt to an oil three quarters of a pound of butter, - mix the whole well together, and lay it by for twelve hours, - roll it out with as little flour as possible about half an inch thick, cut it into pieces three inches long and two wide, - mark them in the form of chequers with the back of a knife, put them on a baking plate about a quarter of an inch apart, - rub them over with a brush dipped into the yolk of an egg beat up with a tea-cupful of milk, bake it in a cool oven about a quarter of an hour; - when done, wash them slightly over again, - divide the pieces with a knife, (as in baking they will run together.)
A Modern System of Domestic Cookery: Arranged on the Most Economical Plan. M. Radcliffe; 1823.

Gingerbread for Voyages or Travelling.
Three pounds of treacle, four pounds of flour, half a pound of sugar, both well sifted, two ounces of pounded ginger, a quarter of an ounce of allspice, a quarter of a pound of orange-peel, two ounces of caraway-seeds, a quarter of a pound of citron, a quarter of a pound of almonds, a pound of butter; let the almonds be blanched and cut with the citron and orange-peel; it ought not to be much handled, but well mixed ; bake it in small cakes or nuts; give it a quick oven.
This bread, baked with the fruit pounded, is to be very well dried in a cool oven, and then to be rasped, and again kneaded, with as much butter and treacle as it will take ; knead up with more fruit and spices; bake it well, without burning; dip it in spirits of wine, with a few drops of the essence of caraway, cinnamon, or cloves; dry it in the oven; wash it over with isinglass and sugar, or white of egg ; dry it again, and wrap it up in writing- paper very close ; pack it in a lined box, exclude the air, and it will keep years in a dry, but not warm place.
This is excellent for sea store.
[Domestic economy, and cookery, for rich and poor, by a lady; London; 1827]

Honeycomb Gingerbread.
Half a pound of flour, half a pound of the coarsest brown sugar, a quarter of a pound of butter, one dessert-spoonful of allspice, and double that quantity of ginger, half the peel of a lemon grated, and the whole of the juice. Mix all these ingredients together, adding about half a pound of treacle, so as to make a paste sufficiently thin to spread upon sheet tins. Beat it well, butter the tins, cut it into squares with a knife, the usual size of wafer biscuits, and roll each round the fingers as it is raised from the tin. This paste, put into a jar, and covered closely, will keep for a month; but the biscuits will be found best when newly baked.
From: The Practice of Cookery; Mrs.Dalgairns; Scotland; 1840

Cocoa-Nut Gingerbread.
Mix well together ten ounces of fine wheaten flour, and six of flour of rice (or rice ground to a powder), the grated rind of a lemon, and three-quarters of an ounce of ginger: pour nearly boiling upon these a pound of treacle, five ounces of fresh butter, and five of sugar, melted together in a saucepan; beat the mixture, which will be almost a batter, with a wooden spoon, and when quite smooth, leave it until it is perfectly cold, then add to it five ounces of grated cocoa-nut, and when it is thoroughly blended with the other ingredients, lay the paste in small heaps upon a buttered tin, and bake them in a very slow oven from half to three-quarters of an hour.
Flour, 10oz.; ground rice, 6 oz.; rind of 1 lemon; ginger, ¾ oz.; treacle, 1 b.; sugar, 5 oz.; cocoa-nut, 5 oz.
Or: Flour, ½ lb, ground rice ½ lb. ginger, ¾ oz.; rind of one lemon; butter, 5 oz.; sugar, 5 oz.; treacle, 1 lb,; cocoa-nut 6 ½ oz.
[From: Modern Cookery for Private Families; Eliza Acton, London; 1845]

NOTE: Eliza Acton was the first cookbook writer to list the ingredients separately from the method. To her we are eternally grateful.

Cup Gingerbread.
Mix together 6 cups of flour; 1 cup of butter; 1 cup of sugar; 1 cup of molasses; 1 cup of milk; 4 eggs well beaten; 1 nutmeg, grated; 3 table-spoonsful of ginger ; some grated orange-peel; 1 dessert spoonful of pearl-ash.
Bake it quickly.
[The Ladies' New Book of Cookery: A Practical System for Private Families; Sarah Josepha Buell Hale; 1852]

Swiss Gingerbread.
Ingredients: 1 ½ lb. of flour, 6 oz. of skinned almonds, 1 lb. of warm honey, 1 oz. of ground coriander seeds, 1 oz. of ground ginger, ½ oz. of ground cinnamon, ½ oz. of ground cloves, ½ gill of orange flower water, 1 oz. of carbonate of soda.
Work all the ingredients (except the almonds) into an elastic paste, allow it to rest till the next day, covered over in a cold place ; then roll it out, place the whole almonds in rows upon the paste, roll it up in the form of a bolster, bake it in a long shaped buttered tin mould, and when done, and cold, cut it in slices with a sharp knife.
[Francatelli, Charles Elmé; The Royal English and Foreign Confectioner: A Practical Treatise…; 1862]
NOTE: Francatelli was for a brief time Chef to Queen Victoria.

Gingerbread, Flemish.
Warm one pound of treacle in a bowl before the fire, and stir into it six ounces of butter. When dissolved, beat in as much flour, with two tablespoons of oatmeal and half an ounce of powdered ginger, as will form a stiff batter. Beat it till smooth, and add two ounces of candied lemon sliced as thin as possible. Butter some moulds, and bake in a quick oven for nearly an hour.
From: Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery; circa 1870’s

Gingerbread, Mrs. Smith’s.
Melt together three-quarters of a pound of treacle a quarter of a pound of honey, and half a pound of fresh butter. Mix one pound of flour with two ounces of candied lemon, chopped small, one ounce of powdered ginger, and half a teaspoonful of powdered cinnamon. Beat all well together, and bake in well-buttered, shallow tins, in a moderate oven. [From Cassell’s ]
From: Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery; circa 1870’s

Gâteau d’Epice.
Gâteau d’Epice is the name for French gingerbread flavoured with vanilla. Pound a quarter of a pod of vanilla with a dessert-spoonful of brandy. Stir it into half a pound of treacle, and put it into a saucepan with quarter of a pound of butter, half an ounce of powdered cinnamon, half an ounce of ground ginger, an ounce of candied lemon, orange, and citron together, cut into thin slices, and a pinch of salt. Let these simmer gently for five or six minutes, stirring all the time, then pour the mixture into a bowl, and when cool, add as much finely-sifted flour as will make it into a solid batter. Bake in a slow oven on buttered tins, in small rounds, placed at a little distance from each other. Time to bake, three-quarters of an hour. Probable cost, 1s. 6d. per pound.
From: Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery; circa 1870’s

Light Gingerbread.
One pint New Orleans molasses; set on the corner of the range until warm enough to melt one-half pound of lard in it; beat it up well; one half nutmeg, one teaspoonful each of cinnamon and cloves, and two tablespoonfuls ginger, a pinch of salt, one cupful milk stirred in two beaten eggs, and prepared flour, with two teaspoonfuls baking powder added; mix until just stiff enough to break off clear when you pour it from the spoon.
New York Times Dec 10, 1876
[this recipe is "Light" on account of the use of a leavening agent]

Green Ginger Cake.
(Sent by Mrs. Abel to Mrs. Proctor, N. Berwich. 1879)
½ lb. pounded sugar, ½ lb. fresh butter, 4 eggs, ¼ lb. Oswego flour [cornflour], ¼ lb fine flour, ¼ lb. ginger take out of syrup, chopped fine, ½ teaspoonful powdered ginger, ½ teaspoonful baking powder, a pinch of salt.
Beat sugar and butter together till very light; add the eggs, one by one, beating each thoroughly well in as you add it. Mix all well together, the Oswego flour, fine flour, salt &c., and then add them to the mixed butter, sugar, and eggs; mix in lightly, and bake in a moderate oven.
(This makes an excellent pudding, if you add more ginger, and serve with a custard sauce flavoured with the syrup of the ginger.)
From: The Cookery Book of Lady Clark of Tillipronie; 1909.

The next recipe, also from Lady Clark, contains yeast, so is a genuine sweet raised bread, not a cake (at least not in the modern sense.)

Ginger Cake. No.3 (Isabel Heywood).
2 lbs fine flour, ¼ lb butter, ¼ lb sugar, 2 teaspoonfuls each powdered ginger and pounded allspice thoroughly mixed together, 2 tablespoonfuls yeast. Make into a light dough with warm milk. Bake.
From: The Cookery Book of Lady Clark of Tillipronie; 1909.

This next one would make a very large cake, but it sounds delicious with a lot of citrus flavours and some caraway seeds. If you intend to try it, note that it is meant to be made in at least a week in advance. Also note that the method instructions say to include a dessertspoonful of soda, which does not appear in the ingredient list.

Gingerbread Loaf or “American Cake.”
For tea or for luncheon.
1 lb. 14 ozs. flour, ½ lb. butter, 2 lbs. treacle, ½ lb. powdered sugar, ¼ lb. candied lemon peel also ¼ lb. chopped citron peel if liked, a tablespoonful of caraway seeds, 1 lemon squeezed and its peel grated, 1 ½ ozs. of powdered ginger, ¼ lb citron, ½ teaspoonful beer (“a tablespoonful” in another copy), 2 eggs.
Melt the butter and the treacle together, and rub in the sugar with a dessertspoonful of soda which is not quite ½ oz. (another copy says a teaspoonful). Bake like any other cake, having ornamented the top with slices of citron or caraway comfits if you like, but do not cut it for eating in under a week.
From: The Cookery Book of Lady Clark of Tillipronie; 1909.


Gingerbread Men 
2 cups of molasses.
1 cup of equal parts of butter and lard, mixed.
1 level tablespoonful of ginger.
1 teaspoonful of soda.
Flour to mix very stiff.
Melt the butter, add the molasses and ginger, then the soda, dissolved in a teaspoonful of boiling water; stir in flour till the dough is so stiff you cannot stir it with a spoon; take it out on the floured board, and roll a little at a time, and with a knife cut out a man; press currants in for eyes and for buttons on his coat. Bake in a floured pan.
The Fun of Cooking: A Story for Boys and Girls. [American book] 1915.

Parliament Gingerbread [added 2009]
(With apologies to the English Suffragists)
½ lb. flour
½ lb. treacle
1 oz. butter
½ small spoon soda
1 dessert spoon ginger
1 dessert spoon mixed spices
½ cup sugar
A bit of hot water in which soda is dissolved.
Put flour in a basin, and rub in butter, and dry ingredients; then, soda and water; pour in treacle, and knead to smooth paste. Roll quite thin and cut in oblongs. Bake about ¼ hour.
[The Suffrage Cook Book, Mrs L.O.Kleber,1915]

Ye Ancient Gingerbread [for gingerbread men] 
One pint of sorghum molasses, one cup (genuine) sour buttermilk, one cup home-made leaf lard, one level tablespoon soda, three-quarters tablespoon ginger, one teaspoon each allspice, cinnamon, one-quarter teaspoon salt, two eggs, and Sperry [brand] flour to make a soft dough.
Mix lard and molasses, add beaten eggs, then add spice, salt and soda mixed with about one cup Sperry flour and alternate with the milk, beating all well together. Finally add flour enough to make a soft dough. Roll rather thick, cut in fantastic shapes, “little gingerbread men,” if to please the little folks, or any desired shape. Have a moderate heat only, as bread should not be baked too quickly.
The Bride’s Cookbook. Edgar William Briggs, California,1915

World War I Gingerless, molassessless, eggless, butterless, milkless gingerbread.
The National Emergency Food Garden Commission in Washington came to the assistance of a US Navy baker in 1917. Paul R. Wallace had heard of a 'pumpkinless pumpkin pie’ recipe sent to the commission by a Mrs. G. M. King of New Jersey, and had tried it out on his crew, whose only complaint was that he did not make enough of it. He asked Mrs King in a letter if she could assist him by creating a gingerbread without ginger, molasses, spices, and butter.
Amazingly, Mrs King came up with the solution.

Dissolve two cups of brown sugar in a little black coffee and add one dessertspoonful of soda. Add four tablespoons of nut oleomargarine, two tablespoons of lard, a little salt, then one scant cup of hot black coffee, and last, but not least, pepper to taste. Take one cup of graham and three cups of wheat flour and roll it out about one inch thick.
[This recipe would equally well fit in the Coffee Recipe feature on the Companion to the Old Foodie Site.]

Cornmeal Gingerbread (U.S Food Administration)
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup wheat flour
1 teaspoon soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
1 cup sour milk
1 cup molasses
2 tablespoons shortening
1 egg (omitted if desired)
Sift together the dry ingredients.
Combine the milk, molasses, melted shortening, and beaten egg. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry. Stir well. Bake in a moderate oven.
Two cups of buckwheat flour may be substituted for the cornmeal and flour in the above recipe. This will have the characteristic flavour of buckwheat. If it is too strong, use only 1 cup buckwheat and 1⅛ cups white flour. Two and a half cups of rye flour may also be substituted. In using rye and white flour a larger quantity is necessary because these flours absorb less liquid than do the cornmeal and buckwheat.
From: Daily Menus for War Service; Thetta Quay Franks, 1918

Suffrage Gingerbread.
1 cup ( ¼ lb.) ground rice
2 cups ( ½ lb.)
1 cup ( 4 oz. whole wheat flour)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon ginger
1 teaspoon mace
¾ cup (1 ½ gills) honey or molasss
½ cup (1 gill) milk or cream
1 egg, beaten
1 cup (4 oz.) ground almonds
1 cup ( ½ lb. butter substitute
1 lemon
½ teaspoon salt.
Into a bowl sift rice, flours, baking powder, and spices. Melt molasses, add milk and butter substitute, and when dissolved, pour amongst flours; add grated lemon rind, egg, and salt. Pour into a greased and floured flat tin and bake in a moderate oven 45 minutes. Turn out and cool and cut into slices. If liked, the gingerbread may be frosted before it is cut.
Economical Cookery, Marion Harris Neil (Boston, 1918)

Gingerbread Custard. [to use up stale gingerbread] 
1 cupful stale gingerbread, broken in pieces
¼ cupful sugar
2 eggs
1 pint milk.
Scald the milk; beat the egg-yolks and sugar together. Add the scalded milk gradually to the egg mixture. Pour this over the gingerbread which has been placed in a buttered baking dish. Place in a pan of hot water and bake in a 3500 F oven for about thirty minutes or until set. Cover with a meringue made from egg whites, six tablespoonfuls of granulated sugar, and one-fourth teaspoonful of vanilla, and brown in a 3000 F oven, about fifteen minutes.

[From Good Housekeeping’s book of menus, recipes, and household discoveries, published about 1922]


The joy of the old-fashioned gingerbread, sold at every English fair was, of course, the fact that it was fashioned into enchanting shapes of animals and human beings; for choice, kings and queens in gilded crowns. But the expression, “the gilt is off the gingerbread” has outlived, in England, the custom of giving gingerbread in so romantic a form.
Even the most blasé modern child feels the fascination of these fantastic delicacies, and they are very easily made.

Here is the recipe:
Two pounds of flour, a quarter of a pound of brown sugar, one ounce of ground ginger, two ounces of candied peel, half an ounce of caraway seeds, half an ounce of cinnamon, a quarter of a pound of butter, two ounces of hot treacle.
Mix the dry ingredients well together, then cream the butter and mix well, add the hot treacle.
Knead it into a thick paste. If it is too stiff, moisten it with a very little milk. The paste must be very smooth. Roll out thin and cut it into any shape, making any design upon it with the back of a knife. The shape of the gingerbread need be limited only by the skill or fancy of the artist. Fishes are easy to draw, so are birds, and pigs, and elephants, and humans in Anglo-Saxon attitudes. Bake them till they are crisp all through.
A “Gingerbread House is” an old-fashioned Christmas treat that is worth making for the delight of nurseries where the children are not too blasé; if the children are allowed to help to make it, no child will be too modern to enjoy it.
From: The Gentle Art of Cookery, by Mrs. C.F. Leyel and Miss Olga Hartley (1925)

Gingerbread Pudding.
¼ lb. flour
¼ lb breadcrumbs
¼ lb suet
2 oz sugar
1 teaspoonful ground ginger
2 tablespoonfuls treacle
1 lemon
1 egg
1 teacupful milk
1 teaspoonful carbonate soda
pinch of salt.
Mix dry ingredients, add grated rind and juice of lemon.
Mix well with warmed milk, and steam at least 2 hr.
Mrs. Jowett, 9 St. Andrew’s Place, Listerhills, Bradford.
From the Yorkshire Observer (newspaper) cookbook, 1934-5

Sultana Gingerbread without Eggs or Milk.
1 ½ lb self-raising flour
¼ lb brown sugar
¼ lb dripping
½ teaspoonful salt
6 oz. sultanas
1 tablespoonful caraway seeds,
1 ½ gills golden syrup
2 oz cut candied peel
1 teaspoonful ground ginger
1 ½ gills water.
Put flour and salt in a basin. Rub in the dripping, add sugar, sultanas, candied peel, caraway seeds, and ground ginger. Mix to a stiff batter with the golden syrup and water. Pour the mixture into a greased cake tin and bake in a moderate oven for about 1 ½ hr.
Mrs A. Betteridge, 34 West Bank, Riddlesden, Keighley.
From the Yorkshire Observer (newspaper) cookbook 1934-5

Marshmallow Gingerbread.
Take ½ lb. marshmallows, ½ lb butter, ¼ cup golden syrup, 2 cups flour, egg [presumably one, but not stated], teaspoon ground ginger, ½ lb preserved ginger, tablespoon brown sugar, ½ teaspoon soda bicarb., little milk.
Reserve 12 marshmallows for decoration, place rest in saucepan, stir over gentle heat tull melted, add butter, sugar, golden syrup, stir all well together till ingredients quite melted and mixed thoroughly, without making too hot. Leave pan to cool. Sift flour, ground ginger into basin, add finely chopped preserved ginger. Beat egg, stir into marshmallow mixture, beat well, add flour, mix well. Dissolve soda in little milk, add to mixture. Turn into well-buttered baking dish, bake in moderate oven 30 minutes. Allow to cool a couple of minutes after taking from oven; arrange 12 marshmallows in shapes on top, return to oven to brown lightly.
From: “Truth” and “Daily Mirror” Cookery Book; Australia; 1943.

[Wartime] Gingerbread Men. 
Ingredients: 2 oz. sugar or syrup, 2 oz. margarine, 8 oz. plain flour, ½ level teaspoon mixed spice, 2 level teaspoons ginger, lemon substitute, 1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda.
Method: Melt in a pan the syrup or sugar and margarine. Pour into a bowl. Add some flour and the spice and lemon substitute. Stir well. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in a tablespoon of tepid water and add to the mixture. Continue stirring, gradually adding more flour. Finish the process by turning out the mixture on to a well-floured board. Knead in the remainder of the flour. Roll a small ball for the head, flatten it and place it on the baking tin. Roll an oblong for the body and strips for arms and legs. Join these together with a little reconstituted egg and put currants for the eyes.
Food Facts leaflet No. 233 from the Ministry of Food in December 1944.

Ginger Cake.
1 tablespoon shortening
½ cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup molasses
1 teaspoon soda
½ cup sour milk
1 ¾ cups flour
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
Cream shortening, sugar, and egg together. Stir in molasses. Dissolve soda in the sour milk. Mix and sift flour, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Add alternately with the sour milk to the first mixture. Turn into a greased shallow pan. Bake in a hot oven (400oF.) 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot with whipped cream.
From: The Lilly Wallace New American Cookbook, 1946.

Acadian Gingerbread.
This recipe is from the Madawaska (Maine) Historical Society’s ‘Reunion Families’ Favorite Recipes’, and was submitted by Therese Dufour for the Hebert family.
Thankyou to Judy Glattstein of BelleWood Gardens, who alerted me to this recipe, and has some wonderful pictures of historic gingerbread in her postings of December 10th and 12th 2006.

Pain Sucré / Gingerbread.
Ingredients.½ cup shortening. 2 eggs. 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda. 1 teaspoon ginger. ½ teaspoon salt. 1 cup boiling water or coffee. ½ cup white sugar. 2 ½ cups flour. 1 teaspoon cinnamon. ½ teaspoon cloves. 1 cup molasses.
Cream shortening; add sugar and mix well. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Sift dry ingredients together in another bowl. Combine liquids. Add dry ingredients alternately with liquids, ending with boiling water or coffee. Pour into a greased and floured square pan, 8x8x2-inches. Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 45 minutes or until cake separates from the sides of the pan. Serve hot with whipped cream or plain.
[This recipes would equally well fit in the Coffee Recipe feature on the Companion to the Old Foodie Site.]


Elise Bauer has a recipe for Gingerbread Men at SIMPLY RECIPES.


The following recipes are from my personal collection. I have no idea how old they are, only that they are very good.

Grasmere Gingerbread.
8 oz. wholemeal flour
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
6 oz butter
6 oz brown sugar
1 level tablespoon Golden Syrup.

Mix the flour, bicarb soda, cream of tartar and ground ginger.
Rub in the butter.
Add the sugar and Golden Syrup and mix well. Press into a greased 8 inch diameter tin.
Bake in a cool (325oC) oven for 45-50 minutes.
Leave in the tin 15 minutes. Cut into wedges.

Yorkshire Parkin.
4 level tablespoons Golden Syrup
4 level tablespoons Treacle
3 oz soft dark brown sugar
8 oz butter
¼ pint milk
8 oz plain flour
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons bicarb soda
1 teaspoon salt
8 oz fine or medium oatmeal.
Melt the syrup, treacle, sugar, butter and milk together gently.
Sif the flour, ginger, bicarb, salt together and add the oatmeal.
Add the melted mixture to the dry mixture and beat till smooth.
Pour into a greased and lined 11 x 7 inch tin.
Cook in a cool (325oC) oven 40-45 minutes. It will shrink back from the sides of the tin, and look a bit sunken, but will spring back when cooked. Cool in the tin ten minutes before turning out.

Quotation for the Day ...

And I had but one penny in the world. Thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread.
William Shakespeare, Love’s Labours Lost


Anonymous said...

I wish I had some of the Elizabeth David books here, particularly the one on France - to compare what facets the famous gingerbread from Dijon has in common with these gingerbreads. I do remember that recipe as she transcribed it as being quite laden with ritual and almost-formalized ingredients, some of which were a bit surprising to one used to reading modern gingerbread recipes. Was it mustard that was in the recipe? (ha, ha!) Or beer perhaps, dark beer? Fascinating recipes, anyway.

The Old Foodie said...

I think I will keep adding to this little collection as I find recipes and time - it might turn out to be an interesting little history.
I do seem to remember a recipe somewhere for gingerbread with mustard - maybe a fifteenth century one??
I should include one for Yorkshire Parkin too (me being a Yorkshire lass by birth). And do you know the other English type called Grasmere gingerbread?

Anonymous said...

Grasmere gingerbread - just looked it up in Oxford. :) It sounds interesting, particularly so with the oatmeal-based recipe. Yummy.

I think you're right about gingerbread and interesting histories. It's one of those quiet little things that somehow has significance for lots of people.

Goodness. Tie in the story of ginger itself and its travels and you'd have not only a pleasant history but even an adventure story! Ha, ha!

Anonymous said...

Actually, that last post by "anonymous" was me, too. :) Forgot to sign in somehow.

Something was nagging at me about the Dijon gingerbread, and I realized what it was. It was *not* Elizabeth David but rather MFK Fisher who wrote of it, in "Two Birds Without a Branch" in "Serve it Forth".

Anise, mustard, lemon and "old black honey" play parts in the recipe. Wonderful essay.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Karen - I was just about to scour the Elizabeth David to find that recipe - it didn't ring a bell! No I'll go to MFK. I have a recipe for Grasmere Gingerbread that I make sometimes. It is very firm, almost like shortbread. I'll post it in this collection, along with a Yorkshire Parkin recipe very soon.

Liz + Louka said...

There was a recipe for ginger muffins in an old Gourmet or Gourmet Traveller magazine years ago. They were extremely rich - I think they included sour cream - and delicious. But I guess the recipe would be copyright.

The Old Foodie said...

Ginger muffins sound great. In the absence of a copyright-free recipe, perhaps a fairly basic muffin with some chopped up crystallised ginger or ginger in syrup and a bit of powdered ginger would work. Banana and ginger muffins??

Anonymous said...

Hi -
I have been looking for a recipe for a Martha Washington Cake (a 2" high gingerbread cake, with a bottom pie crust and chocolate icing) for many years now. I would like to know more about this old recipe....why the crust?? I finally found a bakery that still makes it and they said it was a 1925 recipe. Any ideas?? Linda

J said...

I have to say that my heart has just stopped still, what a beautiful, wonderful blog and the recipes are exactly the type of thing that I've been looking for.
My name is Jo and I run a little home bakeshop and I'm located near Hampton Court. I'm always looking for Olde Recipes and your site has really been invaluable. Many Thanks

Josephine Fay

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Josephine
I have been thinking of a new collection of old recipes for seed cake - what do you think?

Unknown said...

Is the Grasmere gingerbread recipe that you make sometimes been posted yet? Does it taste anything like the one they sell at the gingerbread shop in Grasmere? If and when you do post it..can you write it so us Americans can decipher it??? Thanks so much! Hope to hear from you real soon. Kelly

The Old Foodie said...

hello ginginlady - the recipe is in this very archive, just search for "grasmere" and you will find it. It is already in pounds and ounces, so if you have a set of scales, it is very easy. Have fun.

~~louise~~ said...

LOVE this post! I just added the link to my Gingerbread House Day.

Thank you so much...

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Louise. It is fun, isnt it? Still more to add when I get time.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why, but I have been utterly fascinated with Gingerbread since childhood. Perhaps it is because my mother and both grandmothers made delicious soft gingerbread, each one was as different as night and day. My grandmothers’ tended to be really rich and full flavored but very different from one another. I know they each definitely used cloves in their recipes and one used instant coffee granules! I do not have either recipe, to my sincere disappointment. My mother’s was far milder to suit my father’s taste, as he tended not to care for things that were too spicy. He would excuse this by blaming what he refereed to as his geographic tongue. His tongue had these deep cracks and crevices, truly odd. Anyway, there was a bakery in town called the Home Dairy that made wonderfully spicy ginger cookies each had a center filled with raspberry jam. They were a real treat! And when I was old enough, I think second grade I purchased my first cookbook and with my mother’s help made my first Gingerbread Men. I’ve been reading about all Gingerbread and have since accumulated a vast collection of cookery books often because of their sections on gingerbread. I noticed your recipe for Gâteau d’Epice and wondered how this differed from Pain d’Epice? There is a wonderful clip on You Tube of an older French Lady who makes her version of this, which is fascinating because for one thing it contains yeast. I’ve also read some books about nineteenth century Gingerbread venders who made all sorts of gingerbread including gilt figures of numerous shapes and sizes. I would love to know if there is a definitive book out there regarding the history of gingerbread and had pictorial examples.

Zom G. said...

I have been lurking on your blog for some time, but this little discovery has brought me out of hiding!Thank you for the collection! I believe I just found my fall baking project.

The Old Foodie said...

Zom! Thankyou for coming out of hiding. I have some more to add to this collection, when I get a little time, so check back, wont you? Best of luck with your project, it sounds like fun.

Anonymous said...

I have been given about a dozen ceramic cookie molds. What I need is recipes for sugar & gingerbread cookies. Can anybody help me?

Anonymous said...

There was a recipe for ginger muffins in an old Gourmet or Gourmet Traveller magazine years ago. They were extremely rich

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Jack said...

I think there are some recipe for ginger muffins in an old Gourmet which are very rich. Sounds Interesting.

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ryan said...

Great source of information! linked & shared....

Nikki Magennis said...

This is lovely! Thanks for posting.

merry carter said...

quite wonderful to have found The Old Foodie. Help if you can? Am searching for a gingerbread cookie recipe that is mostly made in large kettle then turned out onto floured table to roll for cutting. I do recall molasses, spices, butter, all heated then quickly add eggs remove from heat , add soda then mixture foams high and turns ginger color add flour... anyone know this recipe? It was sooo good! I'd love to make it again..Thanks Merry Carter

merry carter said...

thanking you for your time and efforts, most pleasant read!

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Merry. The recipe you ask about is certaainly familiar, but I cant search for it easily right now - I have had hand surgery and have to do everything one-handed, which is slow and tedious. thank goodness for bloggers post-ahead feature, or blog posts would be very short!

Angela Stephens said...

I am wondering if anyone knows what the phrase "beaten and cerst" means?

Angela Stephens said...

I am wondering if anyone knows what the phrase "beaten and cerst" means?

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Angela - 'cerst' means put through a searce - an old name for a sieve or sifter.

Anonymous said...

Hello there,and thanks for such an interesting and detailed post! I am interested in finding out how much a piece of gingerbread would have cost back in the early modern period. If you were, say, at a market in the 1600's and there was a lady there selling gingerbread, how much would it cost to buy a piece? A few pennies? More? Less? I'm having trouble finding an exact answer, and I thought you might have found something about this during your foodie readings. Cheers, Kelly : )

Anonymous said...

Hello there,and thanks for such an interesting and detailed post! I am interested in finding out how much a piece of gingerbread would have cost back in the early modern period. If you were, say, at a market in the 1600's and there was a lady there selling gingerbread, how much would it cost to buy a piece? A few pennies? More? Less? I'm having trouble finding an exact answer, and I thought you might have found something about this during your foodie readings. Cheers, Kelly : )

The Old Foodie said...

Hi there Ceallach, I cant help you there, I am afraid. But it would have been for most ordinary folk an occasional treat at a fair or something like that.

Anonymous said...

Made Mrs Smiths Gingerbread to make a gingerbread man in a mould I bought - reduced the flour to about 5oz as it was getting a bit stiff, but yum once it was made....! Needs to be left in the mould until cool - mine lost its head and leg. I will just have to practice more!

Heather said...

I wanted to tell you that I made Hannah Woolsey's (Queen-like Closet) gingerbread recently, using a Manchet bread I had made (using The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin recipe). Being uncertain of baking time for the gingerbread, I ended up overbaking it and it was quite tough to chew. Had I left it longer it might have turned into more of a biscotti style bread. It was absolutely delicious! Instead of using claret though, I used sherry. Mmmmm!