The Owl Springs Gingerbread Recipe

by Diane Duane
A slice of gingerbread

This recipe is kind of a favorite around here, so this morning I thought I’d put a copy of it on the blog for others who might like it. (Though the plan regarding “this morning” got a bit derailed by the video card software in the desktop machine suddenly deciding it didn’t want to acknowledge the monitor’s screen resolution. Anyway, it seems to have sorted itself out after a driver reinstall… I hope.)

Anyway. Gingerbread!

The original recipe came from this page at  The basic recipe was okay, but always struck me as too sweet, and over time it got tweaked. Now we’ve got a version of it that Peter and I both really like, so you might want to take a look at this and see if you’d like it too.

There are two ways to make it – with butter and without. The with-butter version produces a more cake-y result. The without-butter one is squidgier. Both versions seriously benefit from being served with sour cream, crème fraiche, or plain unsweetened whipped cream.

The ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 rounded teaspoon baking soda (It seems wise to specify how full that teaspoon is, as measuring-spoon amounts in Irish cookbooks are routinely heaped / rounded rather than leveled, and those of you who’ve seen recipes here before might be wondering.)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (Less than in the original. More distracts from the ginger.)
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger (Because the original single teaspoon produces a genuinely underwhelming result.)
  • 4 tablespoons sugar (Brown sugar is preferable, but white is OK.)
  • Optional: 1-2 teaspoons espresso powder (i.e. Azera or similar)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (It’s going to go all sludgy when you mix it with the buttermilk. Don’t panic.)
  • ½ cup dark molasses or treacle (Blackstrap molasses if you can get it. On this side of the water, plain old Lyons Treacle from the can works fine.)
  • ½ cup buttermilk (You can do this recipe with milk, but it’s not as good. If you can’t get buttermilk, use the same amount of regular milk and substitute 1 teaspoon of baking powder for the soda.)
  • ¼ cup melted butter (Include it or omit it as you please. The first time you do the recipe, probably it’s better to do it with the butter.)

…So. First thing: butter and flour whatever you’re going to bake this in. (I usually use a springform pan.) Preheat the oven to 350F / 175C.

Mix the dry ingredients together. You can sift them together if you like, but in my experience it doesn’t make a big difference. Re that “optional” espresso powder: I strongly recommend it. It really makes a difference to the flavor of the gingerbread, though magically it doesn’t jump out at you as coffee-ish. Think of it as a flavor enhancer.

As regards the liquid ingredients: Though we take buttermilk for granted in Ireland, it’s so weirdly regional in the US and Canada that it makes sense to offer an alternative strategy.  If you’re feeling enthusiastic about the buttermilk but have trouble finding it locally, we’ve got a page over at on how to make buttermilk from scratch, and also one on how to make (and keep) fake buttermilk.  Check those out and exploit whichever method you prefer.

In a small bowl, beat the egg. Add the buttermilk. Beat some more. The egg will go sludgy because of the acid in the buttermilk. Don’t be bothered. Add the molasses and the butter and beat some more. The sludginess will recede a bit.

Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir them together, then beat them a bit more, just until the batter is fairly smooth. Pour it into the buttered and floured tin. Fire that directly into the oven (because when you’re baking something raised solely with baking soda, the raising period is limited and begins as soon as liquid hits the mixture).

Bake for 30 minutes at 350F / 175C. When baked, put the pan on a rack and let it cool thoroughly before removing the gingerbread. (Just as a side note: the butter-free version of this tends to drop a little in the middle after baking. This is normal.)

Serve plain or with a nice dollop of whipped cream / crème fraiche / sour cream.

…And now to go discuss matters with the video card again. AMD, gonif! (I swear, I’m changing over to an Nvidia card as soon as it’s practicable…)

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