Recipes Remade | Malinda Russell's Drop Ginger Cake

Time Period
1861 to 1876
Media Type
Holiday & Traditions
Matthew Guillen

The Recipes Remade video series explores Virginia's food and beverage history through the adaptation of historic recipes for the modern kitchen. Join members of our staff as they recreate recipes from our collections and discuss how they relate to our present culinary culture. See the original recipes that inspired us and step-by-step demonstrations for making them yourself.

In this video, VMHC Reference Coordinator Matthew Guillen takes on a traditional holiday recipe from the mid-1800s by Malinda Russell for Drop Ginger Cake. Follow along as he talks about challenges like how to work with source material that gives no ingredient measurements or cooking temperatures, how current kitchen tools compare to those of the past, and historic ingredients and their counterparts today.


Drop Ginger Cake

Based on a recipe by Malinda Russell (c. 1866)
Makes 12 cookies

2½ cups (304g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp ground ginger
5 Tbsp (68g) salted butter
½ cup (190g) molasse
½ cup (60g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
⅓ cup (73g) sour cream

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and ground ginger. Melt the salted butter and molasses over medium heat until just combined; remove from heat and set aside. Beat together the sugar and egg, and then mix in the sour cream. Carefully stream the butter and molasses mixture into the sugar, egg, and sour cream mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients until combined, being careful not to overmix.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with butter. Drop small dollops of the batter a few inches apart onto the baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes, until just golden brown on the edges and looking puffy and cracked on top. Let them cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes. Enjoy!