Colonial Williamsburg Ginger Cakes


One of my favorite places is Colonial Williamsburg. So many great memories… My most favorite memory there was when I surprised my mom with a weekend trip one Fourth of July; we had such a great time, and stayed in one of the old historic houses, a couple of houses down from where they filmed “The Howards of Virginia” (1940), featuring Cary Grant. The Fourth of July is a fun time to go — well, actually, anytime is a fun time to visit this place — and we enjoyed the fireworks and the ice-cream and the fife-and-drum entertainment and the reading of the Declaration of Independence… : )

I’d been going to this beautiful place since I was a child with my family — and later, when I took playwriting classes at the College of William and Mary, I’d always end up walking through the restored town before heading back to the beach for my night job, waiting tables. But not before dropping by the candy shop for one milk-chocolate pecan-caramel delight and one with white-chocolate. And not before stopping by the Raleigh Tavern Bakery for one of their famous ginger cakes. Scrumptious.

I find people either love their gingerbread cakes or don’t like them at all, saying they’re too dry. Not as moist as some, and not too sweet, I think they’re just perfect. I found the recipe at the official Colonial Williamsburg site — http://www.history.org/visit/christmas/din_recipe.cfm — so if it sounds good to you, give it a try.

“Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup melted margarine
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup unsulfered molasses
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon extract
4 cups stone-ground or unbleached flour, unsifted

Combine the sugar, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Mix well. Add the melted margarine, evaporated milk and molasses. Add the extracts. Mix well. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly. The dough should be stiff enough to handle without sticking to fingers. Knead the dough for a smoother texture. Add up to 1/2 cup additional flour if necessary to prevent sticking. When the dough is smooth, roll it out 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface and cut it into cookies. Bake on floured or greased cookie sheets in a preheated 375°F oven for 10 to 12 minutes. The gingerbread cookies are done when they spring back when touched.”

(Didn’t know they used margarine instead of butter though… Not a margarine fan, as it’s not good for your body, so I think I’ll substitute that with butter and see what happens…)

So many more Williamsburg stories… But they will have to wait ’til another time.

P.S. — This is one of my favorite views (see picture). I took this on an afternoon trip there with one of my sisters about four years ago, the day of New Year’s Eve. Love those steps. And that’s the top of Bruton Parish Church in the background; there were sheep in a field behind us, and yes I got a picture of them too. ; )

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