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  • Makes 10 to 12 servings

As a child, I was a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series, and some of my favorites parts of those books are the descriptions of what they ate. Almanzo’s childhood culinary recollections in Farmer Boy are particularly vivid. It sort of sounds like a nonstop year-long dinner party! A few years ago I was fortunate to come across on the internet a letter that Laura, at that time in her 80s, sent to a friend in 1953, enclosing her recipe for gingerbread. It’s been a labor of love to create a healthier version of this pioneer treat that still does justice to the original flavor, but leaves out the eggs and lard.

From A Plant-Based Life: Your Complete Guide to Great Food, Radiant Health, Boundless Energy, and a Better Body

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole-grain flour (I prefer spelt, though if you want to go gluten-free, this is a good opportunity to use buckwheat. Try half buckwheat and half oat.)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Combine the maple syrup, applesauce, molasses, and white vinegar in a second medium bowl.
  4. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat. Add 1 cup hot water to the wet ingredients and stir.
  5. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients while mixing, but be careful to not over-mix. The mixture should be quite thin.
  6. Transfer the batter to a 9 x 13-inch glass pan. Bake for 35 minutes.
  7. Cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Comments (18)

(5 from 16 votes)
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Sherry Siddall6 days ago
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Spicy, moist and delicious. Everything you want from gingerbread. I used 2 cups fine whole wheat flour and 1 cup all purpose einkorn flour.

Ella2 months ago
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Wow, this recipe worked perfectly and is absolutely delicious! Tastes just like the gingerbread cakes I remember from childhood.

For the molasses I used mostly blackstrap and a bit of date syrup and it isn’t bitter at all. It’s the perfect balance of spices and sweetness.

Major complements to the recipe creator. I’m impressed with how much rise it achieved and it was really easy to lift from the baking dish even without parchment.

I’ll be coming back to this recipe again and again, this is a new holiday staple. Thank you!

Suzanne2 months ago
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I make this every holiday season! We love it. Chewy, rich, decadent.

E3 months ago
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Has anyone tried this using blackstrap molasses?

Paula Smith3 months ago
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It is a chilly, breezy fall day, perfect, I thought, for something spicy, like gingerbread. This Pioneer Gingerbread was the perfect recipe. Easy to make and I altered the recipe only by using a quarter cup less maple syrup. Then I worried that it might be dry but it was night. It was moist and so delicious!

Kari4 months ago
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This is scrum-dilly-umptious! I’ve made it twice – once with whole wheat pastry flour, and again with half whole wheat pastry flour, half buckwheat flour. The latter was more hardy and a little drier, but both were delicious. I’m going to keep experimenting with flours, and probably give spelt a go next time.

I also subbed half the maple syrup with date paste in the second batch, and used 2/3 cup date paste for every 1/2 cup maple syrup. The added dryness of the buckwheat combo batch could be due to this, or, maybe, the different flours. I’ll be experimenting more to find the perfect ratios.

I might tweak the baking time too. The first whole wheat pastry flour batch went for the entire 35 mins with no dryness, but the second whole wheat pastry/buckwheat flour went for 30 and it was drier.

Cathy Plante11 months ago
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So easy and so delicious! My husband wants as his birthdsy cake this year.

Terri Peer11 months ago
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Absolutely delicious. Very spicy and warming. I used whole wheat flour since it’s what I had on hand.

Chef Katie12 months ago
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This recipe is great! I made the gluten-free version (using half oat and half buckwheat flour), and it is sooo good. Texture is great…lots of warming spices. I’ll be making again.

Sheilah1 year ago
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This is so good! Tender, moist, and chewy, and not too sweet despite what seems like a lot of syrup and molasses. I made it exactly as written and it’s delicious, just what my husband asked for. Thank you!

Xavy1 year ago
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I used whole wheat pastry flour and followed the recipe exactly until baking. I baked for 27 minutes and then removed from the oven. Either my oven is especially hot or I just like the consistency of slightly-underbaked goodies. Either way, this was FANTASTIC! I ate it for breakfast with berries for 4 days…

Elaine1 year ago
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I’ve made these a few times, they’re always great and even go down a treat with carnivorous friends so thank you!

I’ve recently had to give up sugar though so does anyone know if I could sub the molasses for date syrup or more applesauce?

Jennifer1 year ago
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What is the difference between date syrup and molasses?

Linnea1 year ago
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I love this gingerbread! It is a comfort dessert for my family and perfect for cold weather afternoons with tea.

Berni1 year ago
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This cake is really lovely: spongey, sticky and very yummy. I used a little extra ginger – just because I like the flavour. I was a little casual about the measurements and the recipe was very forgiving. I didn’t have a glass baking dish that sort of size, so used my enameled, cast iron dish lined with reusable non-stick sheets. I warmed it in the oven first as I thought the mixture might be sitting for too long waiting for the heat of the oven penetrated the dish. The recipe makes quite a lot so have frozen half after cutting it into squares – hope it defrosts ok….! Thanks again for the recipe.

Leah Stolar1 year ago
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I baked half the recipe in mini silicone muffin pans for 10 minutes and it worked perfectly. The other half in an 8×8 Pyrex and didn’t even require parchment paper. Delicious! Perfect texture and intense gingerbread flavor.

Sarah Richardson2 years ago
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Absolutely delicious!
Moist, flavourful … and so,so more-ish!
Thanks Forks over Knives!

skye2 years ago
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Delicious another wonderful recipe i can not believe all these are free!! I added some crystalized ginger and they were divine.

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about the author

Micaela Karlsen, PhD, MSPH

Micaela Karlsen is the author of A Plant-Based Life and a contributor to the New York Times bestseller Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health. She currently serves as senior director of research for the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. Karlsen holds a PhD in nutritional epidemiology from the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and an MSPH in human nutrition and public health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Find her on LinkedIn.

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