I really debated what dessert would go best with White Christmas. Aside from the malted milkshake, and the General's birthday cake, none are mentioned in the movie. I thought about going the fruitcake route, but I didn't exactly have time for it to soak. And then, when flipping through The United States Regional Cook Book (1947), I ran across a recipe I'd found and wanted to try earlier in the year - "Maple Sirup Gingerbread." Gingerbread is a traditional Christmas food dating back to the Medieval period, and the use of maple syrup (or, in 1940s spelling, "sirup") made the recipe appropriately Vermont-y.
During World War II, maple syrup was touted as a sugar alternative and throughout history it has generally been less expensive than refined white sugar. Not so today, when a quart of maple syrup ranges in price from $15-$25, depending on where you are (which means a cup averages about $5). If you'd rather not "waste" a whole cup of maple syrup on a cake, feel free to use a different gingerbread recipe (may I recommend New York Gingerbread?).
Maple Sirup Gingerbread (1947)
It occurred to me after I started making this that the "sour cream" in the recipe was probably SOURED liquid cream, instead of the thick, dairy sour cream we're used to these days. But I went with it anyway. If you want to try something closer to the original, split the difference and use a half cup of heavy cream and a half cup of sour cream. Aside from that, I made no changes to this recipe, except to make an executive decision about "oblong baking pans" and just do a round one instead. I also don't recommend lining the pan with waxed paper, unless you want the wax to melt into your cake and onto your pans. Parchment is fine, but unnecessary. Just grease the pan well.
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup sour cream
1 egg, well beaten (you don't actually have to beat the egg in advance)
2 1/3 cups sifted flour (ditto sifting)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons melted butter (1/2 a stick)
Blend maple syrup, sour cream, and egg together until smooth. Add dry ingredients and whisk into the liquid ingredients, making sure to stir well. Add butter and beat thoroughly. Pour into greased ROUND cake pan and bake at 350 F for 30-40 minutes, or until the center of the cake springs back to the touch. Loosen the edges and tip out the pan to cool on a rack. Serve warm or cold with plenty of whipped cream.
A word to the wise, you'll note that this recipe ONLY contains ginger, no other spices. But it contains quite a bit of ground ginger, which means the ginger flavor is very forward and in my opinion masks the flavor of the maple syrup, though my husband swore he could taste it. You might want to dial back the ginger a bit if you make it. Either way, it's very good - dense and moist with lots of good gingery flavor and feeling appropriately Christmassy. If you're trying to be healthier, I recommend subbing half of the all-purpose flour with a whole grain one. Spelt or rye would both be nice.
So what do you think? Does Maple Sirup Gingerbread go with White Christmas (1954)? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to follow the White Christmas tag or visit the original menu post for the rest of the White Christmas Dinner and a Movie menu.
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Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.