My mother's gingerbread

I found a notebook filled with my mother’s old recipes, and tried to recreate her gingerbread.

My mother's gingerbread

Recently I found a notebook filled with my mother’s old recipes from the 1940s and 1950s, and it inspired me to experiment with them, trying to recreate some of the baking that I grew up with. It soon became clear that this notebook was little more than a collection of magazine cuttings and copied-out recipes, rather than an archive of the dishes she actually cooked. The flapjack recipe which she had written down was nothing at all like the one she used to make. It’s going to take a few more attempts before I create a batch of flapjacks worthy of sharing.

One recipe was completely missing from Mum’s notebook – gingerbread. This was a surprise, as she cooked it quite often for visitors. Mum’s recipe was like a dense sponge cake, dark golden brown in colour, almost black. I’ve been wondering whether it was adapted from a parkin recipe, as she used to live in Lancashire, but there is no oatmeal in it, which I would have expected to see in a traditional recipe.

As a child I wasn’t a huge fan of either spiciness or its slightly bitter black treacle flavour of gingerbread, nevertheless, the warm, wintery smell wafting around the house is one of my abiding memories of childhood. Tastes change as you get older though, don’t they? I certainly love the flavour of gingerbread now!

Today I managed to create a batch of gingerbread which I felt really proud of. It came out absolutely perfect! It had exactly the right texture – just like my mother’s – although I don’t think it was quite as dark as hers. Perhaps I need to increase the amount of black treacle and reduce the golden syrup? It was definitely spicier than my mother’s version – I suspect that she only spiced hers with ginger, whereas I added cloves and cinnamon for a rich and indulgent Christmassy flavour.


100g golden brown caster sugar
100g spread
1 large beaten egg
100g black treacle
100g golden syrup
250g plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
75 ml milk


Cream the sugar and spread until smooth.
Add the beaten egg, treacle and syrup, and mix well.
In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients a bit at a time
Slowly stir in the milk.
Turn into a square cake tin.
Bake at 180 for about 30 minutes.
Test with a cocktail stick to ensure it’s cooked through.
Cool and slice into good chunky squares to serve.

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