Before there was a Canada, there were gingerbread cookies. They made their written debut in Canada's first English-language cookbook, The Cook Not Mad or Rational Cookery, dated 1831, and published in Kingston in what was then called Upper Canada. This is a crowd-pleaser of a recipe, baked and offered to visitors to historic museums such as Fort York National Historic Site, where the cookies are cut into the shape of 19th-century soldiers. Cut out any shapes that appeal to you. Makes about 45 cookies.


  • 1 cup (250 mL) butter, softened
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) fancy molasses
  • 4 cups (1 L) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) ground ginger
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) each baking soda, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) each cloves and salt


  • Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper, or grease them.
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy; beat in the molasses.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. In three additions, stir the dry ingredients into the molasses mixture, stirring until the dough is smooth. Divide the dough into 2 discs; wrap and chill until firm, about 30 minutes. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate the discs in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Let warm to room temperature before rolling.)
  • On a well-floured work surface, roll the dough, 1 disc at a time, to 1/4-inch (5 mm) thickness. Cut out shapes-rounds, gingerbread people, stars, teddy bears-and arrange a scant 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets. Reroll scraps.
  • Bake in the centre of a 350°F (180°C) oven until slightly darkened underneath and just firm to the touch, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool. (Make-ahead: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days or freeze for up to 1 month.)