The UK has many hidden and historic bakes that are taste gems. Many that mainly those who live in a certain area or have visited that area will know about. Grasmere Gingerbread is one of those gems that needs shouting about!
What is Grasmere Gingerbread?
I came across Grasmere Gingerbread when I was looking through an old baking recipe book of my Mum's. It has a few treasures inside, some of which I have already adapted and shared on this blog, including Little Apple Cakes, and Cinnamon Apple Cake. Grasmere Gingerbread is from the small picturesque village of Grasmere in the Lake District, Cumbria. My husband and I visited The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop so I could pick some up. I have to say it didn’t disappoint.
The Original Grasmere Gingerbread Shop is a very little shop in a building called Church Cottage - on account of it being on the corner of the villages church yard. The church is in fact the final resting place of William Wordsworth. The little cottage building was originally the village school. In the 1600’s poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy taught there. There is nearly always a queue out of the door, and standing in line while you wait your turn to go inside you can soak up the strong history of the area.
When you get inside it smells delicious. There were 2 gentlemen behind the counter. One serving and the other wrapping the gingerbread in the old-fashioned way, inside parchment paper sealed with a rubber band.
I can honestly say I haven’t eaten anything so delicious for a very long time! It is, by the THE best gingerbread I have ever eaten.
Grasmere Gingerbread was originally invented by Victorian Cook Sarah Nelson in 1854, and her exact recipe is still a secret. The shops in the lake district of England, owned by the Nelson family are the only place you can buy the original Grasmere Gingerbread.
The recipe I am sharing with you today is my version of Grasmere Gingerbread. It’s one cobbled together from others I have seen online with a few extra’s of my own. It’s closest I could get to the Sarah’s secret recipe.
If you ever get the chance to visit Sarah’s shop, don’t pass up the chance to go and try the real thing.
Why you’ll love this recipe
Simply put it’s delicious! It is unlike any other gingerbread you will have eaten. Grasmere Gingerbread is a sweet-spicy cross. It's soft and melty on the base, and crumbly on the top. It has warm ginger flavour notes but doesn’t burn.
Grasmere Gingerbread will keep for a few days in an airtight container. However, a tip I was given whilst waiting in the queue outside that little house, was if you pop it in the microwave for 20 seconds it’ll revive it to a warm delicious treat.
You’ll need the following ingredients to make my version of Grasmere Gingerbread.
Plain Flour. You don’t need any baking powder in this recipe, so a plain or all-purpose flour will be perfect. You can also use a gluten-free alternative.
I used light or soft brown sugar. It has a more caramel flavour, and helps to give the gingerbread a nice chewy texture.
I used a combination of 2 spices. Ground ginger was obviously the star, but I also added ground nutmeg. The Ginger flavour in my recipe is subtle. It's enhanced with a sprinkling of Nutmeg which always pairs and elevates a gingerbread's flavour. You can add more ginger to your shortbread, or even add cinnamon or mixed spice. It really depends on the levels you prefer.
Bicarbonate of Soda
Bicarbonate of soda will help the mixture remain soft when baked.
I used brown butter to give the recipe a more nutty flavour. However, if you can’t be bothered with browning butter and leaving the melted butter to set you can use regular butter straight from the fridge.
I would advise using a block butter for the fat content. If you need a dairy free option use a vegan butter block such a Flora Plant B+tter.
Ony add milk if you are using browned butter. I used semi-skimmed milk, but you can use whichever you have including a milk alternative like oat milk, soya milk or a nut milk.
If you are not using brown butter you won’t need the milk in the recipe
Grasmere Gingerbread Technique
This recipe is extra easy to make. I made mine by hand in a large mixing bowl. However, if you don’t want that kind of effort you can mix it all in a food processor.
First pre-heat you oven to 160c fan, 180c, 350f or gas mark 4.
Line a square cake tin with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.
In a large bowl (or food processor) add the flour, sugar, spices and bicarbonate of soda. Mix the dry ingredients until well combined.
Add the butter and milk. Either rubbing between your fingertips, or by using a pastry cutter, cut all the ingredients together until you have a mixture that resembles rough breadcrumbs.
If using a food processor pulse the mix until you have a rough breadcrumb texture.
Remove 4 heaped tablespoons of the mixture and place to one side.
Pour the rest of the mix into the bottom of your lined tin and press down lightly with the back of a spoon, making sure you press the mixture into all the corners of the baking tin. It’s a little like making shortbread. The crumbly mix will turn into a moist biscuit in the oven.
Sprinkle the 4 tablespoons of reserved crumbs evenly over the mixture in the tin.
Using a sharp knife, score the top where you will eventually cut it when it comes out of the oven.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and using a sharp knife cut right through where you have scored. Doing this will ensure it doesn’t break and crumble when you try to cut it when it’s fully cooled.
Leave in the tin and allow to cool fully, before removing it from the tin and breaking it into the pieces you’ve cut.
Grasmere Gingerbread FAQs
If kept in an airtight container it should last up to 5 days. However, if you feel it may have gone a little stale revive it in the microwave for 10-20 seconds.
Yes. If you swap the butter for a plant-based butter is vegan.
Yes. Swap out the regular flour for Gluten Free Flour.
Grasmere Gingerbread is a treat. It’s like a cross between a cookie and a cake. It’s crumbly, it’s warming and it’s great with a cup of coffee or tea. Alternatively, why not serve it a little warm with some custard.
The top of this recipe has some of the mix saved to use as a crumble topping. This is great if you're using it as a stand alone cookie. However, if you leave the crumble topping off, this would also be a great base for something like Millionaire Shortbread, or similar. If you decide to do that just use all the mix in the base and press down into the pan.
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Grasmere Gingerbread Recipe
- 1 mixing bowl
- 1 8" Square Baking Tin
- 225 gms Plain Flour
- 110 gms Light Brown Sugar
- 1.5 tspn Ground Ginger
- 0.25 tspn Ground Nutmeg
- 0.5 tspn Bicarbonate of Soda
- 125 gms Brown Butter Or use Unsalted butter and leave out the milk
- 2 tspn Milk
- Preheat your oven to 160c fan, 180c, 350f, GM4
- Fully grease and line your tin with greaseproof paper or baking parchment
- In a mixing bowl, weigh out your flour, light brown sugar, ginger, nutmeg and bicarb
- mix together until well combined
- Add the butter and milk, and using either a pastry cutter, or your finger tips, rub together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
- Remove 4 tablespoon of the mixture and put to one side
- Pour the rest of the mix into your tin and lightly press down to level it
- Sprinkle the other 4 tablespoons of mix over the top
- Score out your cut lines with a sharp knife and then bake for 30-35 minutes
- Once the Gingerbread is golden brown, with a crumbly crust remove from the oven
- Before setting it aside to cool get a sharp knife and cut through your score lines. Trying to cut this when cool will just result in a cracked and crumbly mess
- Put to one side to cool fully before removing from the tin
- This will stay fresh in an airtight container for several days