Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ginger Cakes and Shopping for Spices in 19th Century Baltimore

Ginger Cakes

Recipe Provenance
The following recipe comes from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations (including this one!).

The Recipe: Ginger Cakes 
Mrs. Nicols Darley
Take 3 lb. of flour, one lb. & quarter of Butter & Lard mixed, one lb. & quarter of Sugar, a teacupful of ginger, half a pint of cream & half a [ ] of molasses.

Where to Buy Spices in 19th Century Baltimore
Below is an advertisement for a variety of ground spices, including ginger, as well as crude or whole spices. Paca Mills was located at No. 68 Bowly's Wharf in Baltimore and was under the proprietorship of George W. Wait and Son.

In trying to pinpoint exactly where Bowly's Wharf was located, I found George Wait & Sons business advertisement in the Matchett's Baltimore City Directory for 1851 listed as being located at 68 South St. with a manufacturing site located on West Lexington St.

Finally, here is where I think that location is today:

Modern Recipe Adaptation: Ginger Cakes
Yield: About 26 Cakes (Cookies)

  • 2 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Ginger
  • 6 Tablespoons Salted Butter, Softened
  • 1/4 Cup Lard or Vegetable Shortening
  • 1/2 Cup + 1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Molasses
  • 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and ginger. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, lard/shortening, sugar, molasses, and heavy cream.  Beat until fluffy.
  3. Add the flour/ginger mixture and beat until the flour is completely mixed into the wet ingredients.
  4. Shape the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic, and then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  5. While the dough is in the refrigerator, heat the oven to 375ยบ F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Make 1-ounce (2 tablespoons) balls of the dough. Too prevent sticking, you will need to dampen your hands to roll the dough into balls. Place the dough balls on the prepared baking sheets and, applying light pressure, flatten them with the bottom of small bowl that has been dipped in water to prevent sticking.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until firm.

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