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As the leaves start skipping down the sidewalk, the arrival of autumn signals change -in our attitude, our wardrobe, and in our taste buds. Even before the weather here in North Carolina cools off I’m craving comfort food that harkens the cool, crisp days of fall.

Every year usually by the first of October, the first batch of gingerbread has been baked. This is not the traditional gingerbread in cookie form, but rather a tender cake fragrant with the warming spices of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. This 150+ year old recipe is a family tradition and it is a sure sign the new season has officially arrived.

The cake is delicious enough but our tradition includes a lemon sauce (which is the way we’ve made it my entire life). A lemon sauce on gingerbread may sound odd, but the tangy brightness of lemon against the molasses and spices… it just works.

My Mom is usually the one that bakes to first batch for our family. The past few years, there has been some discussion as to how my grandmother, Mimie, made hers and which sauce she used. There were two versions of the lemon sauce out there, and discussion of a caramel sauce. My Mom and her sister, Pat, have different memories of which sauce they grew up with, having both always made the lemon sauce for their respective families.

A few days ago Mom & I decided to make a caramel sauce, in addition to the lemon sauce, you know, for comparison’s sake. We whipped up my favorite salted caramel sauce for the taste test.

I guess now you’re expecting me to declare my favorite, “the winner.” Well friends, I can’t do it. I love them both and for different reasons. I love the brightness the lemon sauce adds, and it tastes like a childhood memory. Yet I love the way the caramel seems to deepen the intensity of spices in the cake.

I can tell you this, for eating right out of the jar, the caramel wins! Hands-Down. Every. Time.

Indulge in one of my family’s favorite fall treats, gingerbread. Make sure you try both sauces, and let me know which is your favorite.

Food tells out story.

Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce

Recipe by Amy@Sassy'sTableCourse: Desserts
Cooking time



A vintage family favorite made in tradition and with love.


  • Gingerbread
  • 1/2 cup butter

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1 cup molasses

  • 1 cup hot water

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves

  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger

  • Lemon Sauce
  • 1/4 cup butter

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1 egg. well beaten

  • zest of 1 large lemon

  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice


  • Gingerbread
  • In a mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar together, then add egg.
  • Combine hot water and molasses together. Add to creamed sugar, mix to combine.
  • In another bowl, sift dry ingredients together – flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Then add to wet ingredients, mix to just combine.
  • Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Check for doneness with a cake tester or toothpick. Allow cake to cool.
  • Serve cake warm or at room temperature with warm lemon sauce.
  • Lemon Sauce
  • Add all ingredients into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Serve warm over a slice of gingerbread. Refrigerate any leftover sauce.


  • You can double the sauce if you like to have extra sauce. Or make BOTH the lemon and caramel sauce for serving. Sea Salt Caramel Sauce is a separate recipe.


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