Holiday Gingerbread

Baking, Christmas, Dessert, Recipes, Special Occasions
on December 1, 2007
Elsie's Gingerbread
Mark Boughton Photography / styling: Teresa Blackburn

What sweet was mentioned by Chaucer, Shakespeare and poet e e cummings? It’s gingerbread. Though this confection seems a little homey for all that history, only bread itself has an older recorded history. But clearly, man, and woman, cannot live by bread alone. He, or she, needs a little spice.

Gingerbread has had two forms. It’s either a cookie (often cut into gingerbread men or used as slabs to construct edible holiday houses) or a cake (airy, spicy, tender and egg- and butter-rich). Cake-style gingerbreads first appeared in European recipe collections in the 18th century and quickly became popular. In 1796, Amelia Simmons included five different versions in her American Cookery. And we’re still tweaking this old favorite today.

By Crescent Dragonwagon, a food writer in Saxtons River, Vt.