Grandmother Alice’s Gingerbread

This is a traditional gingerbread, baked in a traditional square pan, but with a few little flavor twists along the way to move it into this century.

I lived across the road from my Aunt Mary, my father’s sister, most of my growing up years. She was a cook who fussed little and rarely used recipes. She did not bake a lot. In fact, this and her salt cod fish cake recipe are the only ones I have that were actually written down, and she said the gingerbread recipe was my grandmother Alice’s.

The ginger gene

Gram lived with us for many years, and I can identify that my absolute love of anything ginger comes directly from her genes. She was never without her ginger snaps with her afternoon tea, except when she swapped them for spicy molasses cookies, also quite ginger in nature. I never remember my grandmother actually cooking or baking a single thing, so I am lucky my aunt saved the recipe! Perhaps my mother was territorial about her kitchen!

While the original recipe was pretty straight forward, I have bumped up the ginger in this on two fronts: fresh ginger, and crystalized ginger. The fresh ginger is abundant at our farm stands right now, and with my recent flavorful purchase, my mind immediately went to ginger everything, starting with gingerbread.

I had forgotten about gingerbread and hadn’t make it in quite a few years (so many recipes, so little time…). While I rarely eat cake myself, a tiny sliver will instantly transport me to my childhood, and it is a nice trip! My inn guests also loved this simple treat at tea time.

Lots of spice

My grandchildren all have the ginger gene as well, and they all like it spicy, too. In addition to the ginger and traditional cinnamon and nutmeg, we also add some allspice and black pepper, our additions. Sometimes I add a pinch of cayenne as well.

The basic cake is made with pantry staples and was usually eaten as is with no frills. The crystalized and fresh ginger are really wonderful in this cake, but not essential if you don’t have them on hand.

Make it your way

You can experiment with the ingredients depending on your diet. This is good made with white whole-wheat flour or gluten-free flour as well. If you cannot consume dairy, just add a teaspoon of vinegar to any plant-based milk to create a plant buttermilk, and swap coconut oil or vegan margarine for the butter.

This cake is quite moist, but since it is the season, you can also add a grated apple or pear for interest. Add walnuts if you like, and top with whipped cream to dress it up for company.

I’m sure Alice would approve.

slice of gingerbread
A little fresh ginger, a little crystalized, and this vintage recipe is filled with flavor. Add a dollop of whipped cream and this snack cake becomes dessert!

Grandmother Alice’s Gingerbread

2 cups flour, sifted

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. freshly grated black pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

6 tsp. unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2/3 cup molasses

1/4 cup crystalized ginger, minced

1 knob ginger, grated, about 2 tbsp.

3/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter and flour an 8-inch by 8-inch square baking pan and line with waxed paper or parchment. Butter and flour it as well. I’m pretty sure there is a law that gingerbread must be made in a square pan, but feel free to use a round one if you are feeling daring.

Sift flour,  baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter with sugar until creamy and fluffy using an electric mixer. This is a perfect time to channel your grandmother and use a hand mixer.

Switch to a wooden spoon or spatula and add the egg, molasses, crystalized ginger, and grated ginger.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk in three additions. Don’t over mix.

Fill the pan, level it off, and place in the oven.

Bake for 45 minutes and check for doneness. It will probably need another five minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean and a gentle touch on the top feels firm.

gingerbread cooling
Let it cool, cut it, and enjoy!

Let cool five minutes, then invert on a rack to finish cooling.

Serve as is, or top with whipped cream or a favorite ice cream.

You can add a chopped up apple to add even more moisture to this cake. I kept the theme and used a ginger gold apple!

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  1. OMG!! I LOVE gingerbread and always on the look out for moist extra gingery cake. I love the idea of adding fresh ginger and crystalized ginger and apples and pears too! I hope to make this cake soon. Will let you know how it turns out!

    1. Please do let me know! It’s a good recipe, and the extra ginger makes it special. Good luck!

  2. eponine3 says:

    I too LOVE gingerbread! One thing that annoys me about myself in regard to food is that I sometimes forget about things I love. Thank you for the reminder 🙂 I bought some acorn squash the other day following your squash post, and now I will make gingerbread!

    1. I am so very pleased that my posts are inspiring your cooking! You know, I’d forgotten about the gingerbread recipe too until I bought the fresh ginger the other day. I realized I hadn’t made it for several years. It’s an old fashioned treat, but one absolutely everyone in my family loves, and I can make it gluten free for those in the family who can’t eat wheat. Enjoy the squash!

  3. Lickthespoon says:

    This looks yum and will definitely be making it as it’s different to my normal recipe. I love the plate by the way and am looking forward to the recipe for spicy molasses cookies. Your Grandma Alice obviously knew a thing or two!

  4. chef mimi says:

    Nice! I just love crystallized ginger, and I bet it really makes this gingerbread sing!

    1. It sure does Mimi! BTW, my grandkids all call me Mimi, and sometimes when they are goofing around with me in the kitchen, I’m Chef Mimi too!

  5. How divine! 🍁🍂🌾

  6. Ally Bean says:

    I’ve never added crystallized ginger to gingerbread and I don’t know why I haven’t. Great idea. Thanks.

    1. It adds a little extra zip!

  7. Gingerbread is one of my favorite things on earth! This recipe looks fantastic.

    1. Thank you so much! My grandmother would be happy.

  8. CarolCooks2 says:

    I love gingerbread and it has been a very long time since I have cooked gingerbread…As I have a lot of ginger in the garden it seems like a plan now I have seen your recipe..Thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. You are welcome! Please let me know how you like it, especially the little pops of crystalized ginger!

      1. CarolCooks2 says:

        I may have a problem getting that.. My best bet is to make my own.. I will chck that out there are many ingredients not imported or available here in Thailand but as ginger is plentiful here and widely used I may get some.. 😀

      2. I sometimes make my own crystalized ginger as well because it is less expensive!

      3. CarolCooks2 says:

        Do you have good recipe to share?

      4. More a technique, so here goes: Peel the ginger and cut it into thin slices and boil them in water until tender, 20 minutes or so. Save a couple of cups of the boiling water and drain the rest. Add an equal amount of sugar, plus a little more, to the (ginger flavored) boiling water. Add the ginger, bring to a boil, then simmer for a half hour, just like you were making candied orange peel. Remove to a wire rack to cool, then roll them in coarse sugar. Good luck!

      5. CarolCooks2 says:

        Thank you so much, Dorothy…I need to use some as I have so much ginger in the garden..I will let you know how it turns out 🙂 x

      6. Please do! It makes a lovely gift too!

  9. Looks deliciously comforting. Nostalgic meals are just that. Your gingerbread share is a perfect reflection of Sunday dessert during America’s heydays.❤

    1. Thank you so much! It is comfort food at its best, tied to a memory.

      1. That’s for sure!

  10. jadwiga49hjk says:

    If I do not have butter milk what could I use unstead?

    1. You can make your own buttermilk by adding something to acidify it! To any % milk, add a tablespoon of white vinegar. Let sit for a minute and the mixture will sour, sometimes it does this instantly. However, most of the time, I will just add a couple of tablespoons of either plain yoghurt or sour cream to the milk and whisk it in. It works like a dream!

      1. jadwiga49hjk says:

        Thank you for that advice

  11. jadwiga49hjk says:

    Instead that should be – in previous post

  12. I’ve been looking for a great gingerbread recipe! I recently had some at a school board meeting, which reminded me of this culinary quest. This looks wonderful!

    1. Thanks, I hope you try it! Sure brings back memories for me.

  13. Ruelha says:

    This looks delicious Dorothy

    1. Ah thank you! Gram would be delighted she is still pleasing folks!

      1. Ruelha says:

        She deserves a nice hug for that 🌸🤗😊🎀🤗🌸😊🤗😍

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