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A kind of plain sweet cake flavored with ginger. — Webster, 1882

Laura’s Gingerbread and lemonade in a crock to be sold at Old Settlers Day. – The De Smet News, 1966

In looking through old cookbooks recently, I find recipe after recipe for gingerbread in which the only spice included is ginger; this is the true definition of gingerbread. A spiced gingerbread contained the additional spices. The only gingerbread recipe I’ve ever baked was that made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which by definition is really a spiced gingerbread. You’ve all seen the recipe, published in the December 1953 issue of Horn Book (transcribed below the recipe written by Laura and mailed to Horn Book editor, Jennie D. Lindquist) and on recipe cards sold by the various homesite museums. Laura herself penned at least one variation of the recipe.

1 cup brown sugar blended with 1/2 cup lard or other shortening.
1 cup molasses mixed well with this.

2 teaspoons baking soda in 1 cup boiling water. (Be sure cup is full of water after foam is run off into cake mixture).

Mix all well.

To 3 cups of flour have added one teaspoon each of the following spices: ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves; and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sift all into cake mixture and mix well.

Add lastly 2 well-beaten eggs. The mixture should be quite thin. Bake in a moderate oven for thirty minutes.

Raisins and/or candied fruit may be added and a chocolate frosting adds to the goodness.

Some recipes say that only 1/2 cup of molasses should be used. Try it both ways and see which you prefer! I love the taste of ginger, so here are a few additional ginger recipes with a decided Little House flavor to them:

Mrs. Power’s Ginger Snaps.
One-half cup butter (scant), one-half cup lard (scant), one cup white sugar, one cup molasses, one teaspoon soda dissolved in one tablespoon water, one egg, one tablespoon ginger, a pinch of salt. Flour to mix quite stiff.

Mrs. Boast’s Ginger Cake.
One cup sugar, one cup molasses, two-thirds cup butter or lard, one cup sweet milk, two eggs, teaspoon soda, one of ginger and one of cinnamon and cloves. Flour to make little stiffer than layer cake. For molasses fill cup with brown sugar, then pour water until it comes to top.

Mrs. Loftus’s Soft Ginger Cake.
Beat together one-half cup each butter and sugar, add one well beaten egg and one cup New Orleans molasses (not black strap); sift together two and one-third cups flour, two teaspoons ginger and one of cinnamon. Put one teaspoon soda into a cup with boiling water; add the flour and hot water in small quantities alternately. Bake in well buttered flat pans fifteen minutes, or a little longer if baked in one.

-These recipes were included in Kitchen Echoes, the 1909 cookbook compiled by the Aid Society of the First M. E. Church, De Smet, South Dakota.


gingerbread (FB 21)