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This recipe appears in Dining with the Washingtons (2011). It makes one 9-inch pan of gingerbread.


  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • Scant 2 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest

Step 1 - Butter the Pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9-inch square cake pan.

Step 2 - Combine ingredients

Combine the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl, and beat until light and fluffy.

Add the molasses, and continue to beat until well combined.

Step 3 - Sift dry ingredients

Sift the flour with the ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.

Step 4 - Mix in eggs and flour

Alternately add the eggs and flour to the butter mixture, beating very well after each addition.

Step 5 - Add orange juice

Add the orange juice and zest, and continue beating for several minutes until the batter is smooth and light.

Step 6 - Pour batter

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Set the cake on a rack to cool completely in the pan before slicing.

What is Lafayette Gingerbread?

It is likely that gingerbread was a favorite in the Washington and Custis families. The women of these families passed down numerous recipes for the special treat. Martha Washington’s recipe collection included several recipes for gingerbread. Her granddaughter, Eleanor “Nelly” Parke Custis included four gingerbread recipes in her own collection. 

The Washington family had a particularly special story associated with their gingerbread. In early April 1781, the Marquis de Lafayette stopped in Fredericksburg, Virginia, to pay his respects to General Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington. According to family tradition, Mary served gingerbread during his visit. The gingerbread was in the form of a soft cake or loaf, rather than a cookie. After this visit, the family referred to Mary Washington’s recipe as “Lafayette Gingerbread.”