Posted by: marthabernie | September 30, 2014

“MOTHER’s SUET PUDDING” (a very old gingerbread cake recipe)

The photo above is my great grandmother, Rebecca Frances Smith McMenus, in her later years.  I have a crumbling paper cookbook that belonged to her, published in the 1870’s, and I will eventually publish recipes from there.  In the meantime, I am setting out below a recipe which we found among her daughter Annie’s recipes, written by hand and notated, “Mother’s Suet Pudding.”

When reading old recipes, it can be a little bit of a challenge because while they give measurements for ingredients and some instruction as to how to assemble, there are no instructions about pans, oven temperatures, or any of the things we take for granted these days.  Bakers in the 1800’s were left to their own devices.  I imagine this recipe was probably baked in a covered cast iron skillet or dutch oven in the oven of a wood stove, or even above the coals on a hearth.  Hard to know.

Anyway, it’s interesting that this is called a “pudding” as that is what the English and Irish generically call dessert.  This is definitely a cake, a moist and tasty  gingerbread cake with a heavy texture.  I rarely bake with suet so I substituted vegetable shortening.

1 Cup suet

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 Cup molasses

3 Cups flour

1/2 Cup sugar

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Beat eggs and sugar together, then add suet (chopped fine).  Add molasses, then milk, then the flour.  Dissolve soda in a teaspoon of water and add, then add all remaining spices.

NOTES:  This is a heavy batter but when mixing with an electric hand mixer, it turns out very fluffy.  When using a spoon to mix, it makes a heavier batter.  I baked this in a spray prepared bundt cake pan at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes, but test the cake for doneness as all ovens are different.

My mother believed this cake was probably made in a flat pan and served in large squares with whipped cream on top, or with stewed fruit on the side/top.



  1. Hi Martha, I looked through your old pictures from your invitation on the MOLACLED Rootsweb List. I really like the photos and your stories are very well written too. My Ancestors came from the Lebanon area too. I am descended from the Breedlove – Lowrey clan.

    Nice job on the web site.


    • Thanks, Phil. Check back periodically because I have a lot more Laclede County information and photos that I will be posting.


  2. I’ll have to try this! Bookmarked. Thanks for the recipe!


    • You are welcome!


    • It’s really an interesting recipe, especially if you like the flavor of gingerbread.


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