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Laura Ingalls Wilder’s famous gingerbread recipe

Historic photographs: Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum, Mansfield, MO
Caroline Ingalls shawl reproduction: Sarah Miller
Food styling: Tom Kulesa
Photography: Chris Czajka

 

In her adult life, Laura Ingalls Wilder was famous for her gingerbread. While the gingerbread doesn’t appear in the books, we interviewed several people who knew her for the film Laura Ingalls Wilder: Prairie to Page and asked them if they’d ever tasted it when she made it. They all said that whenever she brought it to a church social or party, it always disappeared before they got any!

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s original handwritten gingerbread recipe.

 

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Gingerbread

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening (or butter)
1 cup molasses
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup boiling water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Grease and flour a pan. [Editor’s note: gingerbread is best made in a loaf, brownie, or Bundt pan].
2. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar, shortening and molasses.
3. In a large bowl, mix flour, spices and salt. Add in the wet ingredients and stir to combine.
4. Dissolve baking soda in 1 cup boiling water. Add to the batter, then add eggs. Mix well and pour into prepared pan.
5. Bake 45 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Editor’s note: Even into her adult life, Laura used spices sparingly as they could be costly. If you’d like to make the gingerbread as if Laura had a full spice cabinet, and have a more spiced cake, you can double all of the spices listed above.
Laura always frosted her gingerbread with chocolate. Her frosting recipe has unfortunately been lost, but here is a quick and easy 21st century version:
  • 16 oz of semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 3-4 oz of butter
  • Half teaspoon of cinnamon
  • A splash of milk or heavy cream.
Combine all ingredients and melt in a microwave or double boiler. If the mixture too thick to pour, or if the chocolate gets grainy (this will happen if ANY water gets in the chocolate), add a bit more milk. If it’s too runny, add more chocolate. Pour it over the cake and let it harden.
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