Gingerbread recipes date back hundreds of years, but cake-like versions like this one come into being in the 19th century, with the ready availability of chemical leaveners like baking soda and baking powder.
This recipe is adapted from Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book and Marketing Guide. I stayed as close as I could to the original, substituting baking powder for the saleratus (an early version of baking powder). Like the original owner of the book, I cut the recipe to one third.
This is not as sweet as modern recipes. Most modern recipes add another 1/2 cup of sugar. Personally, I prefer it this way. It is also not as spicy as modern recipes, which would add a teaspoon of cinnamon.
If you look at the original recipe, you notice the complete lack of instructions. This is pretty typical. These books assumed the reader was already familiar with general cooking techniques, and would only explain things that were out of the ordinary. When dealing with recipes like this, I often look up modern recipes that are similar, for things like oven temperature and baking time.