Historic Recipe: Ginger-Bread Cakes (1774)

Source: The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse (1774)

Available free through Google Books here

It’s been a really long time since I last posted and for that I’m sorry – life has been a bit all over the place this year, but things have settled down in the last couple of months. As of September, I have moved to Edinburgh and I’m now working for the National Trust for Scotland.

We held a Georgian-themed Christmas event at work last week and I rather foolishly agreed to make a range of eighteenth century treats for people to try, this included bannocks and flummery as well as these rather Christmassy biscuits.

Take three pounds of flour, one pound of sugar, one pound of butter rubbed in very fine, two ounces of ginger beat fine, one large nutmeg grated, then take a pound of treacle, a quarter of a pint of cream, make them warm together, and make up the bread stiff; roll it out, and make it up into thin cakes, cut them out with a teacup, or small glass; or roll them out like nuts, and bake them on tin plates in a slack oven.

I halved the recipe and used ground ginger instead of fresh (2 tbsp) and 1 tbsp of ground nutmeg. I rubbed the butter into the flour and spices as though I was making a crumble and then added the warm treacle and cream. It took quite a bit of work to get the mixture to come together, but it did finally and then rolled out smoothly. I experimented with a range of thicknesses and it seemed to work best when the dough was about 1cm. I used a range of cutters including a teacup, the actual cutters were defintely easier to use. I then cooked the biscuits on a greaseproof-covered baking tray for 10 minutes at 180oC. They came out a bit wobbly but set nicely as they cooled and were crunchy round the outside and softer in the middle.

These went down a storm at the event – the texture is lovely, but they taste more treacle-ly than modern gingerbread.

Suggested alterations: None

Final verdict: I’m probably not going to add this recipe to my roster of favourites but all in all they were pretty good.


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