Extraordinary Gingerbread: An Unexpected Gift


This isn’t just any gingerbread.

                                                              Grandmother’s Gingerbread


It is my mother’s, her mother’s before her, and possibly further back.  How can I be sure?

One Christmas Eve a few years ago, my son gave my mother a memories book.  In essence, it was page after page of questions about her life before he knew her, even before I knew her.



She kept it all year, filling in the pages with her special left-handed writing that was unique to her.

In her own words are details about her birthplace and what was happening in the world on the day she was born.  More importantly, her precious memories of him, me, favorite trips, her life as a child, her faith, home, and so much more.

She included her favorite recipe, a simple one, probably from memory.  It had been her mother’s recipe for gingerbread, and she wrote about how it smelled as it baked and how that made her feel.

                From Left to Right: Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Dot holding her baby, Mother.

Christmas Eve was special to her.  Before her mother died, we all celebrated Christmas Eve together at her house.  After her death, we shared Christmas with my Aunt Dot and her immediate family: our cousins and their spouses all together in a large two story home in the mountains where it always snowed at some point over the Christmas holiday.  Food spilled over the sprawling counters and enormous farmhouse table with a cozy nook near the fireplace in the dining room, and a mountain of gifts eclipsed the live tree.

Things changed.  The family grew and grew.  The state consumed a large portion of my aunt and uncle’s farm, including their house, when a new highway plowed through it.


My son and I took down Grandmother’s Memories and looked over it again.  Her voice rang out across the years as we relived special times in her life.  I’d forgotten about this recipe.  My son’s eyes lit up.  “Can we make it?”

So here we are.  It’s Christmas Eve.  My son’s wife has helped me clean and cook.  Thank you Amber!

Mother’s Gingerbread

2 cups flour                                  1 1/2 tsp soda

1 1/2 tsp ginger                            1/4 tsp salt

2/3 cup sugar                               1/2 cup shortening

1 cup molasses                              2 eggs

1/2 cup boiling water

Blend all ingredients together, adding water last.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes in a greased 8 x 8 pan.


I remember her making this.  She normally dusted the top with a little sieved powder sugar.  I added a glaze of powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk, and decorated the top with fresh cranberries and a sprig of rosemary to make it festive.

Some recipes feed the soul along with the body.  This is one of those.  Not because it’s spicy and delicious.  This isn’t extraordinary because it is somehow unusual in flavor, but because it is a memory from the kitchen of my mother’s mother, my son’s great-grandmother, a woman he never had the opportunity to get to know.

We’ve shared a taste from life in years past.  I think my mother would be proud.  I’m certainly glad she recorded this for me.

Grandmother’s Memories is still available on Amazon.  Other options are available too, such as Grandfather’s Memories and Grandmother’s Kitchen.

Renee Johnson is the author of Behind The MaskHerald AngelsAcquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.  She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food.  She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and two very spoiled German shepherds named Hansel and Gretel.





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  1. Thank you for sharing this Renee! Yesterday I made my grandmother’s stack cake that she made every Christmas. I always remember her telling the story of her wedding cake which was a stack cake . When we use the old recipes, I believe that we have angels on our shoulders… Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    1. Leila,
      How wonderful that you have kept her recipe and carry on the lovely tradition. Sometimes an aroma or a taste can transport us back to those treasured days when our loved ones shared what made them so special. Merry Christmas my friend. I hope to see you soon!

  2. Aw, Renee what beautiful and bittersweet memories you’ve shared. The book is an amazing treasure that your family will share for who knows how many generations to come.
    Thanks for sharing the recipe, your photo of the Gingerbread is worthy to be printed in Better homes and Gardens.
    Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas. ❤

    1. Thank you so much! I tried to do ours justice. We often overlook the things we grew up with–take them for granted. But this did feel like a God wink. A cousin whose mother was my grandmother’s sister said their mother made it in a wood stove, so it’s at least one more generation older. Merry Christmas E.C. I hope it’s fabulous!!

    1. Thank you Michelle! I shared it in hopes that others would leave something similar for their grandchildren–a few notes about ordinary life–that reach out and speak to us all! Happy New Year my friend!

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