Home » Cuisine » American » American 17th Century Gingerbread

American 17th Century Gingerbread

Save and share!

This easy to make old fashioned gingerbread cake recipe is from the 17th century. It is flavorful, dense, and moist, and still as perfect today as it was back then.

This easy to make historical 17th century gingerbread cake recipe is flavorful, dense, and moist, and still as perfect today as it was back then.
A pan of colonial gingerbread cake on a white napkin and a white plate with 2 forks beside
A pan of colonial gingerbread cake on a white napkin and a white plate with 2 forks beside

This gingerbread is very easy to make, and my girls loved helping me make it. It is dense, moist, and so flavorful. Serve it with just a sprinkling of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream.

If you think your kids might not like the strong taste of the molasses, you can replace half of it with honey to give it a bit of a milder and sweeter taste.

You can even replace all of the molasses with honey, but the cake will not be as dark or as rich. Just make sure that you use a really good quality, flavorful honey for this (a mild clover honey would not be a good choice. Instead, go with a buckwheat honey.

Try these other historical recipes:

A slice of historical gingerbread cake on a white plate on a wooden table

A brief history on gingerbread

Gingerbread itself has a very long history, evolving across time from preserved ginger all the way to the sugary cakes and cookies that we are familiar with today. If you want to dive deeper into the history and evolution of gingerbread (which is really long and varied!), check out this awesome resource I found from The Old Foodie.

In the 1600’s, gingerbread cake was traditionally used, not as a dessert, but as a stomach settler! The Gingerbread that is dense and cake like today comes to us by way of the honey cake. Spices were added, and in America, the cheaper molasses replaced honey. It turned into a favorite recipe for early Americans because the fragrant spices and rich flavor overrode the crude leavening agents of the time, which often left a bitter aftertaste. That would totally ruin a cake!

I have based my recipe (which I am totally calling dessert, since I am a modern day American and pretty much addicted to all things sweet) off of recipes I found in “The Art of Cookery” and “American Cakes”. I wanted a cake that was easy to make since my girls would be helping me, and would also something that would taste great.

A pan of gingerbread cake and a plate with a slice of gingerbread cake, both on a wooden table

I choose to kind of combine the cakes a bit to reflect everyday ingredients we have on hand (anyone keep pot ash in their cabinets?) as well as modern day measurements (what the heck is half a gill of sack, anyway?!) and modern conveniences (how long does one cook a cake in a hot oven? And what temperature is “hot”?) (Pssst… a half a gill of sack is a teacup half full of brandy!)

kids hands measuring spices for baking

Get Your Kids in the Kitchen

  • Kids aged 0-3 can help you measure the ingredients and stir.
  • Kids aged 4-7 can help you do everything above as well as help you heat the milk and help you pour the batter into the pan.
  • Kids aged 8-10+ can help you do everything above. Heck, print off the recipe and let them go at it!

Food tastes better when its shared! If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment and rate below!

Love and links are always appreciated! If you’d like to share this post, please link to this post directly for the recipe, please do not copy and paste or screenshot. Thanks so much for supporting me! xoxo

A pan of colonial gingerbread cake on a white napkin and a white plate with 2 forks beside

American 17th Century Gingerbread - Historically Hungry

This easy to make historical 17th century gingerbread cake recipe is flavorful, dense, and moist, and still as perfect today as it was back then.
4.80 from 34 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 9 Servings
Calories: 287kcal
Author: Jenni


  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup molasses can also use honey or treacle
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 stick 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • tsp ground allspice
  • tsp ground nutmeg


  • Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  • Grease a 8 or 9 inch square baking pan with soft butter and set aside.
  • In a small sauce pan, warm the milk until almost boiling.
  • Pour the milk into a cup and add the baking soda. Stir and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the molasses and eggs together.
  • Add in the butter (you want super soft butter - not quite melted but almost). It will be lumpy, that's ok.
  • Whisk in the sugar, the flour, and the spices and whisk until smooth and thick.
  • Carefully pour in the warm milk and stir until combined.
  • Pour into the baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool on a wire rack in the pan for 20 minutes.
  • Cut into pieces and enjoy!


You can sub out half the molasses for a well flavorful honey, or treacle syrup.
You can also add in 1/2 cup of chopped candied orange and/or lemon peel to the gingerbread.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 287kcal | Carbohydrates: 62g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 44mg | Sodium: 182mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 41g




  1. Wow! I love all the history in these dishes! Looks amazing!

  2. I’ve always thought of gingerbread as the perfect snack, somewhere between a bread and a cake, with the bonus of spices! Love the history around it.

  3. I loved reading about the history and cultural aspects of the series you and your friend are doing. I have enjoyed desserts made with ginger since the very first ginger steamed pudding one of my aunts made for a birthday party many years ago, and your child friendly dessert looks awesome.

  4. Looks like I am in good company with history nerds! I think the story behind food and how it came to be is quite interesting. We have Lebkuchen in Europe which is the gingerbread there and I think that was mostly derived from honey cakes. Such a fun topic!

  5. I loved your post so much! I’m seriously always so impressed by how you get your kids involved and it inspires me to do it more with my girls. Why do I find that so hard?! That little pic of you little one’s hands measuring the cinnamon?! Time for me to make this happen!

  6. That beef steak pie looks fabulous! I love making gingerbread cookies and cake. It is very flavorful and with a dollop of whip cream is the best! It is great that you bake with your kids!

  7. Catherine @ Whine and Dancing says:

    I love the idea of looking at historical recipes and their history and making them new again. I think this is also a great way to get your kids involved in the kitchen while teaching them a little bit of history and “how things used to be” WAY before cell phones and TV! I hope you will do another post like this!

  8. William Brown says:

    I doubled this recipe and it was extremely thin,,I thought man to cook this for 35 minutes there’s no way it will turn out right..well it came together like a champ and was off the chain good..For a guy I even amazed myself lol…delicious,,loved the history lesson also..Great job thanks for sharing !!

  9. Can you make this in a loaf pan and what size would work 8 or 9”

  10. Sally Fox says:

    I’ve misplaced my recipe for “Colonial Gingerbread,” which was different than any I could find online, but I tried this and liked it even better. I had less than half the amount of molasses required, so used honey for the rest. It had a wonderful texture, didn’t crumble at all when cut, and everyone loved it. I used fresh nutmeg because I had it, and can’t imagine it could be better with a full cup of molasses, but I’m looking forward to trying it that way. I served it with a dab of lemon curd on top, just to gild the lily!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.