Today, I am excited to share something very special with you, just in time for Thanksgiving; Haddon Hall Gingerbread.
Haddon Hall Gingerbread is a delightful, dark and distinctive cakelike gingerbread with deep notes of rich molasses and warm spices. It is another of the treasures from my Grandmother Ibby’s recipe box and is a favorite of my mom’s. Not just a favorite fall treat but a favorite childhood memory. Crisp fall days spent playing outside or afternoons walking home from school, cold nose, tingling fingers. Opening the front door of the big old Victorian house, a deep breath and a spreading smile as she is greeted by the scent of her favorite gingerbread baking in the oven.
I can just picture her standing there in her cotton dress, knit sweater, saddle shoes, dropping her books and inhaling deeply, happy to be home and anticipating that warm gingerbread dolloped with fresh whipped cream.
What a picture of home and comfort. Perfect for this time of year when we nestle in and regain our focus on what is most important. Home. Family. Tradition.
While in our family, this will always be my grandmother’s gingerbread, Haddon Hall Gingerbread does have some pretty interesting roots. And apparently a very interesting effect on men.
Yes, this post started out as a simple and sweet remembrance from my mother’s childhood. A favorite recipe to share for the upcoming holiday season. But as is so often the case, there is more to this story.
The research I have done has yielded some intriguing and even amusing results and several different variations on the recipe; none quite the same as my grandmother’s. From what I’ve read, Haddon Hall Gingerbread originally gained the attention of American housewives in 1933 with a Gold Medal flour ad on the back cover of the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
And after reading this advertisement, I must say, how could it not?
The ad encourages the lady of the house to buy Gold Medal flour for the “Kitchen Tested, simplest, surest, easiest way to baking success.” And if that wasn’t reason enough to purchase Gold Medal flour, the recipe set included in each bag was certainly an irresistible offer.
“Rich man… poor man… Every man goes for Haddon Hall Gingerbread. An old favorite marvelously transformed by adding cream cheese and lemon sauce. The recipe … with 19 others … is given free inside every size sack of Gold Medal ‘kitchen-tested’ flour.”
Intriguing? Perhaps. But irresistible?
“Amazing Collection brings the never before published secrets of world famous chefs for foods that enchant men including the one for Haddon Hall Gingerbread shown here – The creation of William J. Holmes, Pastry Chef, Chalfonte-Haddon Hall, Atlantic City.”
Hmmmm, man enchanting recipes.
Still not convinced?
“What your husband has to say about this Haddon Hall gingerbread will bring the roses to your cheeks. And you’ll find baking this way a thrilling adventure.”
Rosey blushing cheeks? A thrilling adventure without putting your shoes on and leaving the kitchen? What self respecting gal could resist that promise.
“Get Gold Medal ‘Kitchen Tested’ flour at any grocery store. Each sack contains the recipe for Haddon Hall Gingerbread and 19 other ‘foods that enchant men.’ Try them.”
Now, before you set aside 80 years of progress and attempt to manipulate the man in your life with baked goods, keep in mind the Gold Medal flour sacks no longer contain these bewitching recipes.
Do not dismay! Fortunately for you, I have one of them right here. I’m not sure any of us could handle all 19 anyway but a little bit of a rosey cheeked thrill shouldn’t be too dangerous.
Haddon Hall Gingerbread
- 1/2 Cup Butter
- 1/2 Cup Sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 Cup Molasses
- 2 1/4 Cups flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. ginger
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 Cup boiling water
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Blend in the eggs and the molasses.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients alternately with the boiling water, beginning and ending with the dry.
Pour into a greased and floured 8×8 pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.
My mom remembers my grandmother always serving this with whipped cream but I think a sprinkling of powder sugar is pretty nice too. She also never served it with the cream cheese layer or the lemon sauce and frankly, I can’t imagine it needing either.
Just before Halloween, I made a batch and packaged some up for friends in a festive treat box. That was before I had done some research and discovered the true power of this recipe. I’m expecting a thank you note any day now.
So, now we know that this is no ordinary gingerbread but where does the name “Haddon Hall” come from? It could be named for the Chalfonte-Haddon Hall Hotel in Atlantic City where Chef William J. Holmes worked but I imagine it goes back further than that. The Gold Medal flour ad says that with the addition of a cream cheese layer and lemon sauce, Chef Holmes’ creation was an updated version of an “old favorite”.
According to Uncle Phaedrus, Finder of Lost Recipes, “Haddon Hall is a famous old medieval mansion in Derbyshire, England. It’s not too distant from a Derbyshire town named Ashbourne, which is famous for it’s gingerbread. According to Derbyshire tradition, Ashbourne gingerbread was first created by a French prisoner of war, who decided to remain in the town after the Napoleonic wars. His special gingerbread recipe was then handed down through generations of his descendants.
Gingerbread is a tradition in the area. Gingerbread men were made and sold in country towns at Easter Fairs and Autumn Wakes Weeks. Fashioned in molds, they were decorated with colored hats and scarlet or white sugar buttons. They can still be found for sale today in Ashbourne and the surrounding area.
So, I’m speculating that the Betty Crocker ‘Haddon Hall’ (there is a version of the recipe in the 1965 Betty Crocker cookbook) gingerbread recipe was likely an Americanized version of the below Ashbourne gingerbread recipe.”
More about Haddon Hall.
Perhaps that “old favorite” does have its roots in the accounting above and in Ashbourne Gingerbread and the Haddon Hall of Derbyshire; I’d like to think so. But I could find nothing to confirm the origin with certainty so, it remains a food mystery. Which kind of makes this recipe all the more intriguing.
Regardless of the origin and the mystery, the romantic Madison Avenue promises of 1933, or if this is an exact duplicate of the recipe from that magical little booklet in the flour sack or was again altered by my grandmother, this recipe is special.
So break out the mixer, pans and measuring cups (if you dare) and be ready for your kitchen to be filled with the scent of fall and family and home.
Anything else is your business.
This Thanksgiving, I hope you have a beautiful day filled with the people you love and a grateful heart brimming with joy for all that makes you thankful. As for me, I am so thankful for the incredible friends, readers and blogging community that stick with me and make writing Welcome Company such a joy!