When in Grasmere, Eat Gingerbread!


In a recent National Park Spotlight, British Food and Travel explored the beauty of the Lake District. Since we followed up our exploration of the Peak District with a recipe for Bakewell Pudding, when in the lakes, it’s time for gingerbread.

But this is Britain, which means a very specific gingerbread.

Grasmere gingerbread®. (Yes, it’s trademarked.)

There are many types of gingerbread, from the firm little man-shaped biscuit to the denser, cake. The Grasmere version is neither. It is thin and crumbly, like an oatmeal biscuit.

According to local lore, this specific type of gingerbread was invented in 1854 by Sarah Nelson. It quickly proved so popular that people came from miles around to enjoy this “not quite biscuit, not quite cake” creation. The trademarked product is now available exclusively from Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread shop.

Of course, as with all food lore, the popular story may not be entirely accurate. It seems that local gingerbread was certainly mentioned prior to 1854. William Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy makes mention of it. Whether this was similar to the accepted Sarah Nelson’s recipe, we may never know.

Grasmere-type Gingerbread

The Sarah Nelson recipe is a closely-guarded secret. However, the following adapted from a recipe by Jane Grigson who argues that hers is superior. We have increased the amount of ginger in the recipe. The result is not fiery, by any means. Nor is it too weak to detect.


Grasmere-type gingerbread

125g plain flour

125g oatmeal

125g brown sugar

2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp baking powder

150g butter, melted

Preheat oven to Gas 4 or 180C. Line an 11 x 8 inch pan with greaseproof paper.

Pop the oatmeal in a blender for a few seconds. You don’t want them to be finely ground, but we like the varied texture this creates – crunchy and oaty but not overly so.

In a bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal, sugar, ginger, and baking powder. Pour in the melted butter and mix well.

Press the mixture into the tin, spreading it into a thin layer.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden. Use a knife to score into segments but wait for the gingerbread to cool completely before removing from the tin and breaking up.

Incidentally, this would make a great crumbled topping or an equally delicious cheesecake base.


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