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Fall family rituals and traditions : Gingerbread is for sharing ( Part 6)

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Wednesday was a pretty big day of the week when I was a kid. Since my Dad was a minister, and my Mom the secretary to the church choir director, we were pretty much at the church every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday with some Saturday events. WHEW!

When my Mom went back to graduate school and I was 10 or so, my parents put the whole family on a TYPED rotating calendar for kitchen chores and everyone was then responsible for setting up, cooking and cleaning. Most of my early cooking efforts were supervised by our long term housekeeper, Betty Birdsong.

Wednesday was my night to cook. This turned out to be the perfect option to food swap with a longterm childhood friend who would also be at church on Wednesdays. ( Donna Oltmanns Law is the longterm administrative secretary to Bob Ravitz, the Oklahoma County Public Defender Administrator). Donna has told me since, that another childhood recipe I shared remains in her holiday repertoire... story for another day.

Donna's Mom, Madeline Oltmanns made homemade beef jerky, which my Mom never made and I learned that my friend would swap the jerky for a piece of homemade gingerbread. So be came the ritual ( I have NO idea how long this went on but I will tell you she and I spent hours together weekly from about age 8 until 18 or so.)

So here is the recipe, which is touted to be George Washingon's wife, Martha Washington's Gingerbread Cake, from the Betty Crocker Cookbook of the late 1960's, and was prepared with regularity for her guests at the Whitehouse.

It is awesome plain, or with fresh made whipped cream. The recipe has a lemon sauce, which I never made until I was in my 40's... and it is the traditional combination. The cake is super deep brown if you use minimally processed molasses, like Plantation and lighter if you use one like Grandma's Molasses. It is not uncommon to crack, as you can see mine did. I prepped it in a foil pan instead of a usual baking pan, hence the crevices. British friends say it is the bees knees. Others often pleasantly surprised it is not chocolate, it is so dark.

As with all diligent cooks, having made this a thousand times it seems, my recipe has scribbles of notations and God forbid someone else would ever try to figure out my recipe file cards. They are often not exacting. My own copy of this recipe is on a card that says under section b) One cup of molasses, and then one cup. This is the only recipe I ever made calling for hotwater, which is an essential jump starter for the soda. Leaving it out would cause the cake to crash. LOL.

Preheat oven to 325.

Grease and flour a 9x9 pan.

a) In a bowl, cream the following ingredients:

1/2 c soft shortening

2Tbsp sugar

1 egg

b) Then add:

I cup dark molasses

1 cup water at a rolling boil

c) Then sift in and blend well, but don't over mix

2 1/4 cup of flour ( cake or Shawnee Best All Purpose White flour)

1 tsp soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Transfer to baking pan, and bake for 45 minutes or so. Check with a skewer for doneness.

Remove from oven, and cool on a rack in the pan with a waxpaper lightly covering. You may want to spray the paper so the cake doesn't stick.

In the picture, I cut my cake before 30 minutes had elapsed, so it did not cut cleanly.

d) While the cake is baking, you can make the lemon sauce :

1/2 c butter

1 c sugar

1/4c water

1 well beaten egg

3 Tbsp fresh lemon, with lemon rind grated into this

Cook until it boils lightly. Serve hot or cold over the cake.

Again, fresh home made whipped cream is also wonderful.

1 pint cream

very cold bowl and beaters

3 Tbsp ( or more) granulated sugar

Add the vanilla just as it begins to peak

1 tsp vanilla

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