When I decided to start my first blog post, I couldn’t quite choose what to make. There were so many great recipes to choose from. So, I asked my grandma which of the recipes she sent me was her favorite. At first I was a bit confused. Lemon and gingerbread seemed like a strange combination to me. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a try. Admittedly it is not quite gingerbread season; most people associate this treat with fall or Christmas. However, this recipe turned out so well I could eat it all year long.
I started by making the gingerbread. We could not find my great-grandmother’s recipe for gingerbread, so I was tempted to pull up Pinterest and get one from there. However, in the interest of authenticity, I looked through old cookbooks to find a vintage gingerbread. I found the recipe I was looking for in the 1961 edition of the New York Times cookbook. This is a gingerbread cake, rather than the kind of gingerbread you would make cookies or a house out of. I’m glad that I put in the effort to find the recipe because this gingerbread turned out to have an almost perfect taste and texture.
The recipe was relatively simple to follow, although it did have multiple steps. Despite the fact that this recipe is out of a cook book, there were relatively detailed instructions about how to make it, which was helpful.
The first thing I did was mix the milk and vinegar to make “curdled milk.” This is very similar to a substitution I make in modern recipes when I do not have buttermilk on hand.
The next step was to sift together the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. If you are like me, you are often tempted to skip this step, but don’t do it. Sifting is very important to getting the soft and spongy cake you want. It gets out all the clumps and leaves the cake batter silky and smooth.
After I set that aside I creamed together the shortening and sugar. Shortening is something that isn’t really used anymore, since most bakers opt for butter instead. However, it was quite popular in vintage recipes. I can see the appeal. It tastes amazing in baked goods, and creams quite nicely with sugar. After the sugar and shortening were fluffy, I added the egg, then the molasses. This recipe had quite a bit of molasses in it to give it its rich color and flavor.
Once I had the three components mixed, I alternated adding the milk and dry mix to the wet mix until there was no flour left visible. I then dumped the batter into a greased 8x8x2 pan. I greased this pan using cooking spray, which is kind of a bad habit I have gotten into. It makes cakes come out of the pan really easily, but it makes the edges a little more crispy than I would like. Butter really is much better for soft edges. Baking spray aside, I then popped the cake into a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, I prepared the ingredients for my Great-Grandmother’s lemon sauce. Like many old recipes, this one had very vague instructions. All it told me was to heat over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Luckily, this sauce seemed to be similar to my Great-Grandma’s lemon meringue pie filling, which there are more detailed instructions for. So, I prepared lemon zest, lemon juice, one egg well beaten, one cup of sugar, and a half a cup of butter cut up into cubes. I also got one quarter cup of water.
I first mixed the sugar and water in the pan and heated them. Next, I added the butter and stirred the mixture until the butter melted. Once there were no bits left, I added the lemon juice and zest. Then it was time for the egg. It all went really well up until the egg. I added a little bit of the hot mixture into the egg and mixed it. I then added this mixture into the hot sugar mixture and brought it to a boil. I should have used a whisk, and added a little more of the mixture to the egg, because I did not get it all quite mixed fast enough. This caused some of the egg whites stuck to the bottom of the pan, a few bits of egg to end up in the finished sauce. This was not the end of the world, or the sauce, however, because I just strained the sauce and all was fixed. In the future, however, I will be more careful when adding the egg so that I don’t have to strain the sauce.
While both the sauce and gingerbread were still warm, I poured the lemon sauce over the bread and enjoyed a piece. It was amazing. The rich flavor of the gingerbread, when combined with the tangy citrus from the lemon, is amazing. From a baking standpoint, I think it went well. The only thing I would change, if I were to make it again, would be being more careful when adding the egg into the lemon sauce. I would definitely recommend this recipe. It is a little complicated, but nothing too challenging. The end result is definitely worth the work!