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Southern Culinary Arts: Mama Schaffer's Gingerbread

Updated on December 24, 2012

Culinary arts - southern desserts

This is another heirloom recipe for southern desserts from my great-grandmother’s collection of Southern food and culinary arts. It’s an old recipe for gingerbread – I guess they didn’t have the boxed mixes back then. It includes hot water, which somewhat baffles me. Actually, it’s not just hot water – it calls for boiling water. Why the hot water? What does it do? The only thing I can figure out is that it melts the shortening. Remember, this was way before the handy microwave oven was invented! Maybe the boiling water also makes the molasses blend with the other ingredients more easily. ??

I like the kind of gingerbread we used to get in school when I was a kid. It was always soft and warm and covered with a lemony glaze. This original recipe does not include a glaze, but I added one. I think it will make the gingerbread even tastier!

I can hardly wait to make this. I imagine it will fill the house with a tantalizingly delicious aroma. I think this would make a wonderful fall treat, Thanksgiving dessert, or Christmas goody. The gingerbread would also be a nice from-your-kitchen gift. You might want to include a copy of the recipe, and let the recipient know that it’s an heirloom recipe!

Here’s the recipe! Hope you enjoy it.

Mama Schaffer’s Gingerbread

What you’ll need:

½ cup sugar

¼ cup shortening

½ cup boiling water

1 cup molasses

1 egg

1 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon soda (baking soda, I presume)


Cream sugar and shortening together. Add boiling water, molasses, and egg.

Sift dry ingredients together and add to wet mixture.

Batter will be thin. Pour into a greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

While still warm, drizzle lemon glaze on top of gingerbread, or sift it with powdered sugar.

Lemon glaze: Mix together powdered sugar, lemon juice, and just a little melted butter. Spoon it over the gingerbread.

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