Eliza’s 18th-century gingerbread


Preparation info

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Appears in

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The history of British Baking, savoury and sweet

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South

By Regula Ysewijn

Published 2020

  • About

This 18th-century recipe comes from Eliza Smith’s book, The Compleat Housewife, or, Accomplish’d Gentlewoman’s Companion from 1727. I have a delicate copy from 1737 and it is one of my most precious possessions.

This gingerbread is one of my favourites from the book and it takes the form of small cushions. It remains soft on the inside and is fragrant with coriander and caraway seeds.

If you can’t get hold of Lyle’s black treacle, you can use another brand or even molasses, but I’m not particularly fond of the stronger taste. It’s worth the effort in hunting down Lyle’s. A pinch of salt is not called for in Eliza’s recipe, but I do find it improves the flavour.


  • 130 g ( oz) golden syrup or maple syrup
  • 35 g ( oz) black treacle or molasses
  • 115 g (4 oz) butter
  • ½ egg
  • 55 g (2 oz) soft brown sugar
  • 6 g ( oz) ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground mace
  • ½ tsp ground coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp ground caraway seeds
  • 200 g (7 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 100 g ( oz) wholemeal plain (all-purpose) flour or oat flour


For the best result, make the dough one day in advance.

Melt the golden syrup, treacle and butter together in a saucepan over low heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well, then set aside to cool.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Knead the dough, then roll it into balls, using about 33 g (1 oz) of dough per biscuit, and place on the tray. Lightly press the balls down.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, then transfer the gingerbreads to a wire rack to cool.