Ask any member of the Stein family what recipe they remember best about Christmas holiday gatherings and chances are they’ll say, “Granny Cakes.”
The boys’ Grandma Marie made these, but LaVerne always attested that the recipe actually originated with her, and her own grandchildren certainly associate their existence with Grandma LaVerne. The real story may be lost to the mists of time unless the Stein brothers remember the truth…
This dough was used to make gingerbread people at Christmas when our kids were small, customized for each visiting grandchild. The dough was most often rolled out and sliced into odd-shaped slabs, though. LaVerne always got a twinkle in her eye after they’d been around a couple of days because, as she said, “They’re better when they have a chance to get a little bit tough. Especially with a hot cup of coffee.” That’s still my favorite way to eat them.
Granny’s Ginger Cakes (also known as Granny Cakes)
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 cups flour (+3/4 if needed to roll easier)
Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add molasses, ginger, cinnamon and salt to creamed mixture and blend well. Stir soda into buttermilk and stir into molasses mixture (mixture will appear curdled). Gradually add flour and beat until smooth after each addition. Chill dough several hours or overnight. Working with a small amount at a time, pat dough out on floured surface with floured hands to a thickness of half-inch. With sharp floured knife cut into pieces about 3 in. square. Bake on greased baking sheet 375°F for 15 minutes. Do not overbake!
Take your time with this dough. Chill it plenty and work with small portions, or rolling out can be a horrible sticky mess. I use lightly floured parchment paper to help me now.
We have used both fresh and powdered buttermilk with success in this recipe.
In addition to making wonderful fat gingerbread men, this is lovely dough for Valentine’s hearts or birthday dinosaurs or what have you, but it puffs up a fair amount in the baking, so simple shapes are best.