Most eighteenth-century cookies, or "cakes" as they were called in the period, were flavored with spices. Whole or ground caraway and coriander seeds ranked among the most popular, but others were frequently used as well. As in these cookies, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon were added to a variety of baked goods to add a taste of the exotic and depth of flavor to simple preparations. This recipe recalls the crisp Shrewsbury cakes and numerous varieties of gingerbread (more closely related to cookies than cake) that filled the kitchens and shelves of many colonial American homes and bake shops.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

  1. 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  2. 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  3. 1/2 cup Grandma's dark molasses
  4. 2 large egg yolks
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. 2 1/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  7. 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  8. 1 1 /2 teaspoons ground ginger
  9. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  10. 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  11. Lemon Glaze
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Add the molasses, egg yolks, and vanilla extract; beat well.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and nutmeg. With the electric mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix just until combined.
  • Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls 1 inch apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden.
  • Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool about 15 minutes.
  • Prepare the Lemon Glaze: When the cookies are cool, use a small spoon to drizzle the glaze over each cookie top.

  • Many shops that stood in the vicinity of City Tavern carried a variety of imported foodstuffs that were incorporated into the dishes served at this stylish establishment. On April 14, 1790. for example, Cadwalader & David Evans advertised in the Pennsylvania Gazette that "At their Store, the south side of Market street, the second door below Fifth street" they had for sale imported "Pepper, alspice [sic]. ginger, cinnamon [and] cloves," as well as the ever-popular "Anniseed."


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