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All About Gingerbread - Recipes for All Types of Gingerbread, Spiced Bread, Cookies, and More
By Renee Shelton

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Gingerbread brings in the holidays in a way other desserts can't: by smell. The rich, tangy scent of gingerbread baking is hard to ignore without lifting your nose and following it to the kitchen. But what is gingerbread, exactly?

According to an article in Saveur magazine entitled Gingerbread Dreams: Spicy, sweet, and full of lore, this holiday confection defines the season, by Meryle Evans, "the term now applies loosely to any spice cake containing molasses and ginger."

Etymologically speaking, from Wikipedia:

"Originally, the term gingerbread (from Latin zingiber via Old French gingebras) referred to preserved ginger. It then referred to a confection made with honey and spices. Gingerbread is often used to translate the French term pain d'épices (literally "spice bread") or the German term Lebkuchen or Pfefferkuchen (pepperbread, literally: pepper cake). The term Lebkuchen is unspecified in the German language. It can mean Leben (life) or Laib (loaf), while the last term comes from the wide range of spices used in this product."

In this spirit, I've included several recipes for gingerbread and spice bread, along with several spiced and gingerbread cookies.

Gingerbread and spice cake recipes include Gingerbread, Dutch Honey Bread, French Pain d'Epices and Ukrainian Christmas Medivnyk. Ginger cookie recipes found below are Ginger Cookies (dropped), Gingersnaps (rolled) and Gingerbread Cookies (mold pressed). Also included below are spice cookies with no ginger, such as German Lebkuchen and Pferffernusse, Dutch Speculaas, and Basler Leckerli, a Swiss honey cookie. The Aachen cookies "Printer" are included in this category and a link for the recipe is from a German site and is in German.

Have fun baking these treats!

This gingerbread uses molasses and honey.

2 1/2 cups flour 1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon ginger 1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cloves 1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom of a 9" square cake pan, line the bottom with parchment then grease the parchment again.

Sift the flour with the spices and salt. Set aside. Combine the boiling, molasses and honey and set aside. Cream well the shortening, then add in gradually the sugar. Add in the beaten egg, mix and few turn, scrape the bottom of the bowl and make sure mixture is smooth. Add alternately the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients, mixing only until the mixture is smooth; do not over beat. Turn the mixture into prepared pan and bake until the cake tests done, about 50 to 55 minutes. Let rest in pan for 15 minutes to cool, then loosen the sides of the cake gently with a small metal spatula or butter knife. Turn out then place right side up for cooling.


Dutch Honey Bread
This gingerbread contains walnuts and buttermilk.

1 cup brown sugar 2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter 1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 eggs 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup honey 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped, tossed with
1 tablespoon flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a loaf pan.

In bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add in eggs. Mix the baking soda into the honey, then combine with the buttermilk. Sift the flour with the spices, and add the dry ingredients and wet ingredients alternately to the creamed butter mixture. Stir in the flour tossed nuts. Pour this into the prepared loaf pan. Rest on counter top for 20 minutes before baking. Place into preheated oven and bake until done, about 45 to 60 minutes. After bread is cooled, allow to "age" 24 hours before slicing and eating.


Pain d'Épices
This recipe contains fresh hot coffee, do not use the flavored types. Some feel this bread is best when it is several days old. Wrap it and store properly if you do, and slice it thin. Serving it with the best raspberry jam you can find with fresh whipped butter turns this simple spice bread into a decadent treat.

1 cup boiling water 4 cup flour
1/2 cup hot coffee 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup honey 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed 1/4 cup rum, no substitutions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a large loaf pan.

Pour the boiling water and hot coffee over the honey and sugars in a mixing bowl. In separate bowl sift the dry ingredients. Pour the hot wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix ingredients well. Add in the rum last. Pour into prepared loaf pan, and bake until tester comes clean, about 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours. Cool bread completely, wrap and store properly.


Christmas Medivnyk
This honey bread recipe makes 2 loaves, and contains raisins, currants, dates and walnuts.

1 cup honey 3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cloves 1/2 cup flour to mix with:
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1 cup raisins
1/2 cup butter 1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup brown sugar, packed 1/2 cup currants
4 eggs, separated 1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped

Preheat oven to 300°F. Lightly grease 2 loaf pans, then line the loaf pans with parchment paper, and butter lightly.

Toss the raisins, walnuts, currants and dates with the 1/4 cup of flour; reserve. Place honey in a saucepan and bring to boil. Remove from heat and add in the baking soda and the spices. Mix well and allow to cool to room temperature. Cream the butter with the brown sugar. Add the yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in the honey mixture. Sift the 3 1/2 cups of flour with the salt and baking powder. Mix this into the honey and butter mixture. Add in the nuts and fruits. Take egg whites and beat until they are stiff. Fold this into the batter and pour equally into prepared loaf pans. Bake until they test done, almost 2 hours. Let cool, then wrap and store properly. This bread is best after a couple of days.


Ginger Cookies
These drop-style cookies call for cream, oatmeal and pecans.

1/2 cup butter 1 1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar, packed 1 cup flour
1/3 cup honey 2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cream 1 teaspoon ginger
2 eggs, separated 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  1/2 teaspoon allspice
  1/4 teaspoon salt
  1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cream butter and sugar together. Add in honey, cream. Separate eggs, then add in beaten yolks to the creamed mixture. Stiffly beat the egg whites and set aside. Sift the flour with the dry ingredients. Add to creamed mixture, along with the oatmeal. Fold in the whipped whites. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto lightly oiled cookie sheet or on a silicone baking sheet lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes.


Gingersnaps, rolled out
Chill these cookies overnight in the refrigerator before rolling and cutting out.

1 cup molasses 2 cup flour
1 tablespoon dry ginger 1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt  
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed  
1/2 cup shortening  

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Measure molasses into small saucepan and heat to boiling. Add in ginger and salt and let come to room temperature. Cream shortening and brown sugar together well and add in the cooled molasses mixture. Sift the flour, measure, then sift again with the baking soda. Add to the creamed molasses mixture and combine thoroughly. Chill dough overnight in refrigerator, then roll out thin on lightly floured surface. Cut out and place on baking sheet. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes.


These cookies are rolled in sugar before baking, giving a nice cracked appearance after they are baked.

3/4 cup shortening 2 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar, packed 2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg 1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup molasses 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1 teaspoon cloves
Sugar for Rolling 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cream shortening and brown sugar until light. Add in egg, then molasses, scraping well after each addition. Sift together the flour, salt and spices. Add to the creamed mixture, mixing in well the dry ingredients. Chill dough for 1/2 hour, or until firm enough to handle. Gather dough into walnut sized pieces and roll into balls. Roll each ball in granulated sugar and place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes. The cookies will have a cracked appearance and should be soft in the center, so don't overbake. Let rest on baking sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.


Pressed Gingerbread Cookies
Use this recipe for your gingerbread and shortbread pressed molds.

3 sticks butter 3 cups flour
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed 1 tablespoon dry ginger
1 egg 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup molasses, unsulphered 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300°F. Lightly oil your gingerbread molds.

Cream butter and the sugar together. Add in egg and the molasses. Sift dry ingredients together and add to the creamed mixture in parts, working into the mixture well before adding more. Chill dough in refrigerator for 3 hours before using to press. Press dough into molds with fingers and carefully invert onto oven sheet. Trim edges. Bake until the molds are browned, about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the molds.


These cookies contain candied fruit and chopped almonds, and are let to dry overnight before baking. Please note that this recipe calls for leaving the cookies out at room temperature overnight to dry before baking. You will want to skip this step if you have health concerns, just to be on the safe side. Simply roll, cut out, then bake. They are brushed with a boiled sugar icing while they are still warm.

Cookies: 3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup honey 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup molasses 1 teaspoon allspice
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed 1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs 1 teaspoon cardamom
4 oz. candied fruit, chopped fine 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup almonds, chopped fine 1/2 teaspoon salt
Boiled Sugar Icing:  
1 cup sugar 1/2 cup water

For Cookies:

Place honey and molasses in small saucepan. Bring to a boil and let cool. Place in bowl and add in the sugar, eggs, candied fruit and almonds. Sift the dry ingredients together, then stir this into the wet ingredients. Let dough rest for an hour at room temperature before rolling out. Roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thick, and cut out with desired shapes. Place on wax paper, and let cut out shapes dry over night. Using offset spatula, transfer to baking sheet, and bake in a 350°F oven for about 10 to 12 minutes.

For Boiled Sugar Icing:

Place sugar and water in small, heavy saucepan and bring to boil. Wash down sides if necessary and continue to cook until candy thermometer reaches 235°F. Use this hot icing on warm cookies. Let set on cookies and cool completely before serving.


These cookies are spiced with cardamom, anise, ginger and black pepper among many other spices and flavored with candied orange and citron. Please note that this recipe calls for leaving the cookies out at room temperature overnight before baking. You will want to skip this step if you have health concerns, just to be on the safe side. Simply roll into balls, place on cookie sheets and bake.

2 teaspoon cardamom seeds 3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon anise seeds 2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup candied orange peel 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped citron 3/4 teaspoon cloves
2 tablespoons butter 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1/4 teaspoon allspice
  1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1/2 cup egg whites
1 cup powdered sugar 2 T milk

Grind together the cardamom seeds, anise seeds, orange peel and citron. Cream the butter and sugar together until light. Add in the yolks then the lemon cardamom mixture. Mix the spices, salt and baking soda with the flour, and add to the creamed mixture. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold in to the spice mixture. Chill for 1 hour. Take a tablespoonful of the dough and roll it into a ball and repeat. Place on baking sheet and let stand at room temperature overnight. Bake in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes. While the cookies are baking, mix the powdered sugar and milk glaze together, and brush on the cookies while still warm.


Dutch Speculaas
Grind anise seeds in a spice grinder for this recipe. The spice comes from the white pepper.

4 cups flour 1 cup butter
4 teaspoon baking powder 1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon cloves 1/3 to 1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt  
1/2 teaspoon powdered anise seed  
1/2 teaspoon white pepper  

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Sift the flour, measure, then sift again with all the dry ingredients together. Cream the butter and sugar together until light. Add in the lemon zest. Mix in the dry ingredients. Add in enough milk to make a soft dough. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface into a square roughly 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 3 inch squares and place on lightly buttered cookie sheet. Sprinkle with the almonds, pressing them in very gently. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until very lightly browned.


Basler Leckerli
These Swiss honey cookies contain kirsch, candied lemon and orange rind and are cut out with special leckerli or springerle cookie cutters. If these are not available, simply cut in desired shapes or into 2 inch by 3 inch bars. Please note that this recipe calls for leaving the cookies out at room temperature overnight before baking. You will want to skip this step if you have health concerns, just to be on the safe side.

1 1/3 cups honey 3 1/2 cups sifted flour, plus more as needed, see recipe instructions
1/3 cup kirsch
1 cup sugar 1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup candied orange rind, finely chopped 1 teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup candied lemon rind, finely chopped 1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup coarsely ground almonds 1/8 teaspoon salt
Sugar Icing:  
3 cups powdered sugar, about 2 tablespoons boiling water, about
Vanilla extract  

In saucepan, bring the honey to a boil. Remove from heat, add in the kirsch and the sugar. Place back over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add in the candied rinds and the ground almonds and mix to combine. Remove saucepan from heat and let cool to warm. Sift the flour and measure. Reserve extra sifted flour in case you need it later. Resift the 3 1/2 cups of flour with the dry ingredients together. Work the dry ingredients into the honey mixture a little at a time, working it in before you add more, and adding more additional sifted flour to the mixture as need to the dough leaves the sides of the pan and is no longer sticky. Doing this takes time, as long as 15 minutes. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out cookies and set on buttered and floured cookie sheets. Cover the cookies with a soft cloth and let stand at room temperature overnight. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 15 to 25 minutes, or until they turn golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with the icing while the cookies are still hot. These cookies are best after a few days. Keep cookies tightly covered in airtight container.

References used, sites accessed or recipes adapted from:

From the files of Renee Shelton.

Home Cooking Library. Cakes and Frostings. New York: Banner, 1978.

Casella, Dolores. A World of Breads. New York: David White, 1966.

Migliario, Ida, Harriet W. Allard, Zorado Z. Titus, and Irene Westbrook, Editors. The Household Searchlight
     Recipe Book. 8th printing. Topeka: Household Searchlight, 1936.

Twelfth Edition Cook Book Committee. Fredericksburg Home Kitchen Cook Book. 12th Ed.
     Fredericksburg: Fredericksburg PTA, 1978.

Editors of Horizon Magazine. The Horizon Cookbook and Illustrated History of Eating and Drinking
     though the Ages. Part Two. Ed. in charge Wendy Buehr. US: American, 1968.

"History Aachener Printer-Bäckerei Klein." Accessed site 4 June, 2005.

Evans, Meryle. "Gingerbread Dreams: Spicy, sweet, and full of lore, this holiday confection
     defines the season." Saveur. No. 9. Nov/Dec. 1995

"Gingerbread." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2015..


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