Appalachia Appalachian Food

Ginger Cake And Homemade Whipped Cream

Ginger Cake

Several months ago I came across a small cookbook titled Mountain Makin’s in the Smokies. The book was published in 1957 by The Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association.

Most of the recipes in the booklet are centered around cornmeal, molasses (sorghum), and honey. I recently found time to try out the recipe for Ginger Cake submitted by Mrs. Reaford McCarter. The recipe notes it is over 150 years old-now you could easily say it’s over 200 years old.

Old recipe for ginger cake

Ginger Cake

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup molasses (sorghum)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 eggs well beaten
  • 3 cups of plain flour (all purpose)
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon


Cream shortening; add sugar mix well. Add sorghum mix well. Sift flour, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon together in another bowl and set aside.

Boiling water ginger cake

I was interested in seeing what the addition of boiling water did to the shortening/sugar/sorghum mixture. As you can see from the photo, once the hot water was added the mixture almost looked like it curdled or turned to cottage cheese.

Add sifted ingredients in increments, mixing well after each addition. Once the dry ingredients go in, the curdled looking pieces smooth right out. Mix in the beaten eggs and you’re ready to bake.

Ginger cake with whipped cream

Pour batter into a well greased bundt pan (I’m sure other pans would work just as well) and bake for 30 to 50 minutes. The original recipe gave the time frame of 30 to 35 minutes but mine took 50 minutes to bake completely. Could have been because I used a bundt pan which typically takes longer to cook than round layer cake pans.

While the cake baked, I made homemade whipping cream to top it with. Homemade whipping cream is so easy! And so much better than store bought.

Pour whipping cream into a mixer bowl-I usually use about 1 – 2 cups for my bunch. Mix cream until it begins to thicken slightly. Add sugar to taste and continue to mix until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Whipped cream ginger cake

The cake turned out so pretty! Before I made the recipe, I noticed it had no leavening in it except for the eggs. I was worried the cake might turn out like a rock, while it was very dense it wasn’t hard at all. I suppose the hot water supplied enough to moisture to keep the cake soft.

Best ginger cake

Anyone who likes gingerbread will like this cake. It was very good straight out of the oven-but I believe it was even better the next day when I sliced a piece, toasted it, and added a dollop of whipped cream.


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  • Reply
    April 28, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    Ed-sadly all I have is the grocery store variety of cream. Wish I had the real thing though!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    April 28, 2015 at 12:25 am

    Very interesting recipe that sounds AND looks so good.
    Don’t know if it would work for this recipe or not, but been told adding a tablespoon of the flour (dry) mixture to the shortening and liquids mixture stops the curdling, but then since this turned out smooth in the end anyway, doesn’t matter – just thought I’d toss that bit of information in there. LOL
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 27, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Do you use store-bought ultrapasteurized whipping cream or do you have a secret source of the real thing? You know, the kind that comes directly from the udder end of a cow?

  • Reply
    April 27, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Your Gingerbread Cake looks a lot
    like my birthday cake I made over
    the weekend, before I added the
    Chocolate Topping.
    I like Gingerbread Cookies so I
    know I’d like the cake toasted.
    And Lisa asked the question about
    how you stay so fit, shoot, the
    whole family is like that, even
    Miss Cindy (the Deer Hunter’s
    Mom.) …Ken

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    April 27, 2015 at 10:46 am

    I was wondering how it was going to rise, but it looks good.

  • Reply
    Judy Malone
    April 27, 2015 at 10:22 am

    I am going to try this. My 2 sons are trying to build up some recipes for keeps and I am really working on ones that have basic ingredients. My sons are in early 40’s and are finding out THEY better know how to cook! You know with (their) divorces and the wife doesn’t always like to cook! Just saying. đŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Danny McCarter
    April 27, 2015 at 9:48 am

    I am going to try this. The cookbook sounds very interesting
    On a different topic. I am searching for a chocolate cookie, That is not soft and cake like but kinds hard and plain and semisweet. There is a cookie called alphabet cookies made by the Paul Newman company. But the stores here in the mountains does not carry it.

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    April 27, 2015 at 9:22 am

    WOW, 200 years old! This looks delicious! I will definitely be trying this historic recipe. Just think of all the people who have eaten this cake and all the changes in 200 years! Goes to show, you can’t mess with success! Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    April 27, 2015 at 8:56 am

    Another great recipe for the cookbook you are working on – putting together some top notch recipes. This sounds delicious! I love gingerbread!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    April 27, 2015 at 8:54 am

    This Ginger Cake sounds good and simple enough to make!
    I remember Mother making gingerbread when I was a young’un!
    She never made a Gingerbread Man! I always hoped she could make one and to see if he would jump out of the oven and run like the one in the Nursery Rhyme!…
    “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me! I’m the Gingerbread man!”
    Well, that is until he ran into the sly fox and met his demise!…
    Mom’s cakes were always baked in a square pan. She would take the cream off the top of the milk (that was hand delivered to the city door), save and whip it later. We had gingerbread with a big dollop of whipped cream for dessert after supper. Her cake was very dark brown and with the pure white of the cream, made it look so delicious. Back when I was a kid, I didn’t like the taste of ginger very much, but loved the whipped cream…LOL
    To tell the truth, I didn’t like the Gingerbread Man story very much either…It is a good thing the old man and old woman didn’t have such a naughty boy! LOL
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…How could Ginger Cake bring up all these memories?

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 27, 2015 at 8:45 am

    I love gingerbread, Tipper, save me a piece. I’m surprised that the color is so light. Most of the gingerbread I’ve made came out a dark brown color. I really liked the gingerbread recipe that came from one of your Foxfire books. It was an old recipe like this one.
    I wonder if there is some kind of reaction between the hot water and the molasses that makes the cake rise.

  • Reply
    April 27, 2015 at 8:39 am

    This sounds exactly like the gingerbread I grew up with – including the whipped cream which I had the job of making with an eggbeater. Now I finally have a use for my old eggbeater! Thanks Tipper!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 27, 2015 at 8:27 am

    You ‘flung a craving on me’ ! I love recipes like spice cake and gingerbread. My Grandma baked a lot of gingerbread, probably for us grandkids. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. A variation of your recipe with the addition of black walnuts, apples and raisins is my standing request for a birthday cake.
    Thanks !

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    April 27, 2015 at 8:24 am

    I love Gingerbread so I will probably make this cake.
    Toasted the next day sounds delicious.
    Sorry I missed Saturday night but my weekend chores went a bit longer than expected. Time just got away from me.

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    April 27, 2015 at 8:07 am

    This looks lovely and scrumptious! I like the idea of it being toasted with the whipping cream. How do you stay so slim?

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