I have a great love of history and always have. I often love to read about food from past times as well, so I was thrilled to find this recipe that Mary Washington made for both her son, George, and also General Lafayette. Gingerbread is one of the happy traditions that we have kept today.
Reading through Mary's recipe made me instantly hungry. The addition of the orange in the gingerbread is brilliant. As a cook, I thought it very interesting to see the few differences in method. For example, the "soda" is dissolved in water before it is stirred into the batter. I assume that their baking soda was a little different than ours. She also mentions that raisins make a "good addition", something I never would have thought of putting into my gingerbread.
Mary Washington's Gingerbread recipe:
"Cut up in a pan 1/2 cup of nice sweet butter with 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Beat to a cream with a paddle. Add 1 cup of the very best India molasses and 1/2 cup of warm milk. To this add 2 teaspoons of finely powdered ginger and 1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon, mace and nutmeg (powdered and mixed), and 1 wine glass of brandy.
Beat 3 eggs till very light and thick, 3 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar sifted with the flour and stirred alternately with the beaten eggs into the batter. Last, mix in the juice and grated rind of 1 large, ripe orange. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of soda in a little warm water and stir in. Beat until very light. A cup of large seeded raisins is a good addition. Bake in a moderate oven until done. Serve with brandy or lemon sauce."
Source: Naturally Delicious Desserts and Snacks by Faye Martin, published 1978 by Rodale Press, INC.
If you'd like to try this recipe, I was able to find this recipe with more modern instructions here. I am considering trying it myself. It sounds so delicious!