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Today's Case

1950s Light-Colored Gingerbread

Subject: 1950s light-colored Gingerbread
From: Sharon
Date: 9/29/2020, 7:03 AM

On 9/28/2020 2:37 PM, Sharon wrote:

Hi, you do recipe searches, is that correct?
I have been looking for a recipe for what I thought was standard, or traditional gingerbread, 
or the type always served to me regularly as a child, in mid 1950s-1960s, Fort Worth, TX. 
Iíve never been able to find anything like it, have looked since at least 1980s. All the 
so-called traditional or standard gingerbread recipes I see are nothing like it all. 
You wonít find it online, also doubt itís in any recipe books after 1970s. This was just 
called gingerbread, not gingerbread cake or any other qualifier. It was a medium golden color, 
very moist and rich, but not dense like pound cake, had a buttery flavor. It was served warm 
with either whipped or plain cream over it. The standard type now is a much darker color, 
overbearingly spiced with additional stronger spices that I donít remember tasting, and 
either denser or drier, or both. Iím sure it had brown sugar, but I suspect not dark-brown, 
which I donít believe even existed at that time. Doubt it contained Molasses and dark Karo 
or Corn syrup either, or a lot of other stronger spices like clove and cinnamon, or if so, 
far less of them. It seemed to be mostly ginger and perhaps nutmeg. This is not going to be 
an obscure European or other family recipe passed down. Would likely have just been from a 
standard American recipe book used at the time and in that part of the country. Have a hunch 
it might have come from the original (not the revised, or after her daughter was involved) 
Erma S Rombauer Joy of Cooking, which is what everyone used most often, but I canít find a 
copy so canít check. Iíve even looked under White or Light gingerbread and I get a lot of diet 
recipes. This for sure was not a diet food.

Thank you for any help you can give me!


Hi Sharon,

Please tell how I can determine whether a recipe that I find is or is not the one you want. Think about things that are usually included in the text of a recipe and think about what your recipe would say that other recipes with the simple name "gingerbread" would not say. How would you know the correct recipe if you saw it in a cookbook or on the web? That's unclear to me.† I wouldn't expect to find a recipe that actually said: "This recipe is from a 1950s to 1970s cookbook that was popular in the Fort Worth, Texas area. It makes a light-colored gingerbread." (Although, I actually did a search for such a recipe.) Descriptions of how a finished recipe product tastes or looks are usually not included in a recipe.† So how will I know your recipe if I see it?† Or do you want to narrow it down to just a gingerbread recipe that was in the original "Joy of Cooking"? Remember, the "Joy Of Cooking" has been around since the 1930s,


Hi Sharon,

Below is a gingerbread recipe that's very old and very simple. Maybe it's similar to what you remember.


Georgia Gingerbread

This is a very old recipe, shared here as it was written originally. 
See below for updated substitutions.

2 cups simple (or corn) syrup
1 tbsp. baking soda
1 cup lard and butter mixed (half butter/half lard)
1 cup hot water
1 quart sifted flour (4 cups)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tbsp. ground ginger (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of nutmeg, allspice or mace

Heat lard and butter together until melted. Pour this over the flour, mixing well. 
Add preferred spices to taste. Raisins, boiled for 2-3 minutes may be added, if 
desired. Add the hot water, in which the baking soda has been dissolved. Bake in 
a well greased parchment lined loaf or biscuit pan in a preheated 375įF oven until 
cake tests done. (35-50 minutes).

May be eaten warm from the oven or refrigerated and served with whipped topping or 
vanilla ice cream.

This recipe has been in our family for generations; the date on the original was 1865, 
around the time of the Civil War. The original recipe used lard as shortening, but we 
now use non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening and butter instead.
Subject: Traditional Gingerbread
From: Kristen
Date: 10/20/2020, 9:38 AM

On 10/20/2020 12:19 AM, Kristin wrote:

Dear Uncle Phaedrus- † †
Interesting one of your readers requested gingerbread. I had just been 
reminiscing of the wonderful gingerbread my eldest sister used to bake 
years ago, hot out of the oven, she would cut out squares of it to pass 
out to all of us, her younger sisters. I do believe your reader is mistaken, 
all gingerbread is made with molasses! and, like your reader, I do indeed 
recall it being a golden, light color- not dark at all. It almost looked 
like a cinnamon color, but a tad darker. I just did a basic search, on 
clickamericana nostalgia site they have tons of antique recipes. 
Here is one from 1910!

"Classic gingerbread recipes #4: Plain gingerbread recipe

Stir to a cream one cupful of brown sugar and three tablespoonfuls of butter. 
Add one cupful of New Orleans or Puerto†Rico molasses (never use syrup), two 
beaten eggs and half of a tablespoonful of ginger. Mix thoroughly, then stir 
in two and one-half cupfuls of flour sifted with two teaspoonfuls of baking 

Turn into a deep baking pan and bake for one hour in a moderate oven. Just 
before putting into the oven, gloss over with a mixture made by stirring 
together a beaten egg and the same amount of rich cream."
Here is Irma Rombauer's old recipe (Joy of Cooking) it is the same in the 
old book and the revised.

melt in saucepan 1/2 cup butter- let cool. add in and beat well 1/2 cup sugar, 
1 egg, sift together 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon each: cinnamon and ginger. Combine: 1/2 cup LIGHT molasses 
1/2 cup honey 1 cup HOT water (1 tblsp orange rind, if desired) add the sifted 
and liquid ingredients alternately to the butter mixture until blended. Baked 
in a greased pan about one hour at 350F.

Phaed, the 2nd recipe (Rombauer's) was the one my sister baked and the one 
I distinctly remember, and it is indeed a very old recipe. I would bet money 
this is the one your reader so fondly remembers as well. Have her try it. 
And, thank you for your very entertaining and novel website!!

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