gluten-free gingerbread

gluten-free gingerbread

(We’re thrilled that this recipe is being featured at’s roundup of holiday recipes for 2009. For more of our featured posts, visit today.)

Gluten-Free Gingerbread
, adapted from November 2009 issue of Gourmet

Rain is hitting the windows on the door behind me so hard it sounds like little pellet guns full of pebbles are being fired at me. For days the wind has blown and blown, taking all the lovely yellow leaves with it. A few weeks ago, the heater was dusty in a corner of the room. Now, it’s on nearly every evening.

Time for gingerbread.

We’ve been cooking out of the November issue of Gourmet all week, instead of a cookbook. Tonight, I intended to tell you all about that experience, and why I love the magazine so much. But I find myself, at the end of the evening, still bereft of words. We’re leaving for a little trip in the morning, and I don’t want to rush this. So tonight, I’ll simply share this instead.

One of the dessert recipes in the November issue was a pumpkin gingerbread trifle. I don’t know about you, but trifles feel like summer to me. That and they have so many cups of custard (or in this case, pumpkin mousse) that eating the trifle would have kept me chained to the couch, in full nap form. So I passed it by when first deciding what to cook this week. Then, the rain started.

Gingerbread, with its densely layered spices and dark molasses promise, seemed just the thing. Since I know that Gourmet recipes work, I felt comfortable converting it to a gluten-free version. I sifted and sniffed the spices, waited for the butter to soften on the counter, dug out the molasses, and started mixing. An hour later, we were holding gingerbread in our hands.

I swear, Danny ate half the pan before bed last night. I mean, I helped too, but he really loved this stuff. “This is good, honey.” I just smiled. I love making him happy with baked goods.

This morning, in dim light, I tried to take a photograph of the gingerbread. Puffed high, light, but still spongy-soft like crackers soaked in milk, this gingerbread is the best I’ve ever made. But on a saucer, on a countertop, it looked like a square of dark on white. The dark skies outside didn’t help. Ready to give up, I brought it into our bedroom, on a table I like to shoot on sometimes. Before I could figure out the aperture, Little Bean grabbed a piece and started eating. I chased her around the room, laughing. Then stopped to look down and took this shot.

Good enough for Little Bean? We think it will be good enough for you too.

1/2 cup quinoa flour
3/4 cup teff flour
1/4 cup oat flour (please make sure this is made from certified gluten-free oats)
3/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
3/4 teaspoon guar gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup molasses
3/4 cup buttermilk (shake it up)
1/2 cup hot water

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 13 by 9-inch pan. Lay down tin foil, with some overlapping on both sides of the pan. Butter the foil.

Combining the dry ingredients. Sift the quinoa flour, teff flour, oat flour, sweet rice flour, and tapioca flour into a large bowl. Add the xanthan and guar gums, the baking soda and powder, and the spices. Whisk together. Set aside.

Creaming the butter and sugars. Put the butter and sugars into the bowl of a stand mixer and run at medium speed until they are fluffy together, about 5 minutes. Plop in the eggs, one at a time, and run the mixer until the eggs are incorporated. Add the molasses and buttermilk. At this point, the dough will look speckled and perhaps even curdled. Don’t worry. This is what is supposed to happen.

Finishing the batter. Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients about 1/2 cup at a time, slowing down to make sure it is incorporated before you add more. When you have finished with the flours, add the very hot water and mix for 1 minute more. It should all look lovely and toothsome now.

Baking the gingerbread. Spread the batter into the pan and even out the top with a rubber spatula. (Don’t worry if you have strange crevices and places that stick up like Alfalfa hair. That’s part of the charm.) Slide it in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool the gingerbread to just-warm in the pan. Remove the gingerbread on the foil, then slide it onto a cutting board. Cut into the desired-size slices.

Feeds about 10. (well, maybe less, depending on how grateful everyone is for gingerbread)

60 comments on “gluten-free gingerbread

  1. sweetpea

    Any thoughts of what to substitute for the oat? It looks so good and I would love to try it but can't eat oat!

  2. Juanita

    Your daughter's beautiful little hands reminded me of the following:

    "Love, with little hands, comes and touches you with a thousand memories, and asks you beautiful, unanswerable questions."
    (from Under the Harvest Moon by Carl Sandburg)

    My students have been writing exams and I have been "stress baking". The comfort (for me) of home-baking and the enjoyment (by my husband) of the results are well worth the effort of gluten-free baking (which, as it turns out, is extremely cathartic).

  3. Engineer Baker

    Serendipity, that's what that shot is. Have a wonderful trip! I'll just be over here, dreaming of gingerbread…

  4. B and B

    We are also mourning the loss of Gourmet. I have subscribed for 30 years. I still am in denial. My husband and I had decided we would adapt that trifle recipe to gluten free and then here it is! Already done for us!! We will be giving this a try during the holidays. Thanks so much.

  5. April

    That gingerbread looks wonderful!! I can almost smell it!! And that picture, just puts the biggest smile on my face. Such little hands, like my little ones. Thank you for your wonderful posts. I look at your blog everyday and you shed such a different light on the most wonderful things in life.

  6. StuffCooksWant

    I simply cannot wait to make this. Every year of my life, my family makes gingerbread with caramel sauce for Christmas. Such a perfect treat for the cold weather, but since finding out that I can't tolerate gluten, I have done without. I am so thankful to have this recipe, so that I can enjoy the warm spicy deliciousness. Thank you thank you!

  7. Lauren

    I don't think I've ever had gingerbread! Sure, some gingerbread cookies, but never the real stuff! This sounds fantastic =D

  8. Shauna

    Sweetpea, oops! I forgot about the oats question, and particularly for you. It's a small amount, but it is a good binder. I would use sorghum instead. Or, perhaps add equal parts of teff and quinoa to compensate? Let me know if that works for you. If so, I'll add it as an alternative!

  9. Johanna B

    Shauna, I've just been diagnosed with Celiac and am so happy to see from your blog that there is more to eating gluten-free than just rice and canned vegetables. I'm going to read your book again. I read it for the first time about a year ago.

  10. Freckled Face Mama

    Chubby little hands holding homemade baked creations make my heart happy. The recipe looks fabulous. Now I need to adapt it to gf, df, sf, low sugar. 🙂 Your creations looks mouthwatering!

  11. Linda

    Thank you so much! I've been missing gingerbread since my Celiac diagnosis and you've given the gift of a recipe for it (tears). Hugs! Lin

  12. Linda

    Thank you so much! I've been missing gingerbread since my Celiac diagnosis and here you've given the gift of a recipe for it (tears). Hugs! Lin

  13. Crystal

    Question for you — when you convert a recipe, how do you decide which flour(s) to combine in which proportions? I've been baking gluten free (very successfully!) for about a year, and am now starting to think about converting recipes.


  14. kate

    Oh. Oh, how I love gingerbread. Squishy and hot out of the oven, with a pat of salty butter melting over the top. Or with a lemon glaze. Or some cinnamon whipped cream.

    Or just all on it's own.

    I'm in the early part of pregnancy right now, and so have been seriously digging ginger-anything (hard candy, ale, cookies, crystallized sharp-bitter slices…). Perhaps this will be on the menu this weekend.

  15. Erika

    BLESSINGS on you for this! It will be our family's 1st GF-holiday season, and we were all bemoaning the absence of the chocolate gingerbread (Nigella's) that I always made.

    I can't wait to get after this one!

  16. Andrea

    I am vastly in favor of a little spice during these months of wet and cold. Thank you for the gingerbread inspiration.

  17. Ann

    Wonderful! This just screams out for some spiced cider. I can't get enough of the warming spices.

    Shauna, it seems like you're using guar gum more often. What is the benefit of using it in combination with xantham gum? I haven't used it before.

  18. elle

    This sounds good! I can almost smell it. Not being a passionate kitchen person, I'm not comfortable fiddling with recipes but… I have no idea where I'd get teff up north of 49. What would you substitute?

  19. Sho


    I have never eaten gingerbread before. It is good to know that this recipe can be the best gingerbread ever. It sounds like you really knew which flours to use.

    Your daughter is growing up in a loving home filled with delicious food. The holidays are approaching, and she is already clutching the gingerbread.

    Take care,


  20. The Wooden Spool

    Shauna! Just made us up a batch of the gingerbread! I used our bundt pan. It turned out just lovely! The smell in the house was almost as good as the cake itself. Mmmmmmm…yummylicious!

  21. Anonymous

    For those asking where to get teff flour, you can get it online through Bob's Red Mill (you can google the web address), or find it in some health food stores or ethnic groceries.
    I'm looking forward to trying out the recipe when I get time to bake with my daughter!

  22. lesbo-kitchen

    I love black pepper in gingerbread. Have you ever tried grated fresh ginger instead of dried? That makes it doubly great, though you may need to reduce the water in the recipe if the ginger produces much juice.

  23. Monique in TX

    Mmm. Now you're halfway to one of the best desserts there is. Make a pan of gingerbread. While it's warm, dump it into a bowl and crumble it up. Add milk and apple juice and some more of the spices. Stir until you have a thick batter. Bake in a pan resting in a larger pan of water, as for a custard. When it's warm and set but still soft, enjoy gingerbread PUDDING. Oh, my. Worth making gingerbread just to do this. Lemon sauce just adds to the glory.

  24. Lauren Denneson

    It is definitely gingerbread weather here in the Pacific NW! I am meaning to put together some ginger cookies soon. Thanks for sharing the recipe and I love the new look of your site!

  25. SarahKate

    What a lovely picture! There is nothing better than the smell of gingerbread baking on a cold day. Gorgeous!

  26. DanielCoffey

    We made a half-quantity of this recipe (converted back to wheat flour since we are not celiac) in an 8" round spring-form (buttered and floured, no foil) and it worked perfectly.

    I also had the great good fortune of making it on the day I had just replaced ALL the spices in my box with fresh ones. The smell in the kitchen was wonderful.

    The gingerbread was light but slightly chewy inside and had a light crunch on the very outside surface. Half of it vanished before it was even fully cool!

    For someone in the UK raised on "Jamaica Ginger Cake", there was simply no comparison.

  27. Emily

    I've never had real gingerbread before, and am really excited to try this! The picture is drool-inducing 🙂 But, I can't find quinoa flour in any of my local stores . . . could I sub in millet?

  28. Anonymous

    I just today saw a menu for an old-fashioned, New Orleans style Reveillon (Christmas dinner), featuring pan-roasted oysters, duck confit, etc. It was the salad description that had me salivating, however. Mixed greens with grapefruit and dried cranberrie, with a grapefruit viniagrette–and gingerbread croutons. Might even be worth make two batches of gingerbread, yes?


  29. Anonymous

    Just found a recipe for an upside down apple gingerbread and really wanted to make it GF for my honey….thanks so much for the doing the legwork for me!!!

  30. Lyndsay

    I am long time reader but have never commented before, and I HAVE to come out of the shadows to comment on this one! I made this for my boyfriend (who has had Celiacs for about 17 years) and he exclaimed that it was one of the best gf baked goods he has ever had! And I've attempted at many in the past…

    I also didn't use the oat flour, wasn't sure if it would make him sick or not. I used some extra teff, followed the rest of the recipe exactly at written, and this gingerbread was absolutely delicious!

    Thank you Shauna, for constantly inspiring me, and helping me to bring the firsts smells of the holidays to our cozy apartment.

  31. Anonymous

    Any advice about how to make it dairy-free? I'd use palm shortening instead of butter, but I don't know about the buttermilk… I've read suggested subs, but they never seem to work. It looks really good!

  32. Tasty Eats At Home

    I love Little Bean's handful of gingerbread in that photo. Precisely how I like to handle my gingerbread! 🙂 This sounds wonderful.

  33. Elizabeth

    I have been looking for a gingerbread recipe to try for the past few weeks. As the weather cools all I want is warm treats and cocoa. Its always hard this time of year to find quality recipes for baking. Thanks!

  34. Laura

    I was trying to find xanthan gum
    and guar gum at my local store, do I absolutely need those? And what do they do?

    Thanks, can't wait to try this.

  35. Trish

    Oooooh…that is such a sweet picture! I am commenting and then going back to read more! I will link you to my little 'growing' area on my side bar for gluten-free.

  36. GoMacro

    If you cannot eat oats I have found almond meal to be a good substitute in many recipes. I use it a lot in my baking

  37. Annie

    Hi Shauna! This looks great! I'm curious as well about what you recommend instead of buttermilk to make this dairy-free?


  38. Dia

    Oh, Shauna, sounds lovely! I LOVE Gingerbread, too!!

    I'd use coconut oil (4 T C oil, 4 T butter) – or all coconut for dairy free, & coconut milk. I've added a bit of lemon juice to coconut milk when I wanted a bit of a curdle – & would use coconut flour (~ 1/4 cup in place of the oat flour 🙂 might need a bit more water as coconut flour is so high in soluable fiber (head over to Vestellasvale. blogspot for more info on health bennies of coconut!)
    trying this soon – maybe for my Red Hat potluck Fri 🙂

  39. Shauna

    Jo, this gingerbread is YUM!

    Diana, it tastes even better.

    Anonymous, that makes me want to keep writing.

    Juanita, that quote has gone up on the wall here. I adore it.

    Niamh, did you make the gingerbread? Did you daughter like it? Feel better?

    Engineer Baker, you found the perfect word, my friend.

    B and B, I still haven’t found the words for the sadness I feel at the absence of Gourmet. I don’t know that I ever will.

    April, I’m so happy the site moves you this way. I love writing it, for the same reason.

    StuffCooksWant, caramel sauce sounds heavenly here. I am so happy that I could help you make gingerbread again.

    Lauren, you’ve never had gingerbread? Goodness, get baking!

    JohannaB, rice and canned vegetables? Pshaw. There is so much more, as you know. (I don’t ever eat canned vegetables, anyway!)

    Tassiegal, Oh goodness, you might have found your own way by the time I left this comment. But you can find teff flour online, and at most Whole Foods. The Teff Company sells it through their website, and Bob’s Red Mill makes it too. It’s worth finding.

    Freckled Face Mama, I want to hear how that adaptation goes!

    Frantic Foodie, oh and the little fingers on your E are so darling.

    Linda, I’m so happy! This gingerbread is just wonderful, too. Let me know how the baking goes.

    KefirGirl, and now that it’s winter, it’s even more perfect.

    Crystal, this is such a good question. I’ll have to write a post about this soon. I’m starting to bake by ratio, which makes a huge difference. Take a look at the post I wrote about the different gluten-free flours. Knowing their personalities usually tells me something. And then some of it is just blind luck.

    Kate, indeed! You have made me so hungry with your descriptions. And I remember those first few weeks of pregnancy. I wanted everything ginger too. It’s a good sign.

    Erika, Oh, that chocolate gingerbread from Nigella! (anything from Nigella, really) You could pretty easily convert that recipe with these flours as well.

    Andrea, spice is a great buffer against the cold winds.

    Ann, that’s a great question about the guar gum. (and I should do a post about this too!) So many people swore that guar gum was wonderful that I started playing with it. I don’t like it alone – the baked goods came out too dry. And did you know that more than 2 teaspoons of it in a recipe can give you bad diarrhea? (yikes.) But combining it with xanthan seems to make more magic happen. So I’m playing.

  40. Shauna

    Elle, as I wrote, you can order teff online, and you should! It makes every quick bread hold together better, soft and pliable. Do you have some almond flour? That might do the trick.

    Sho, Goodness, you must make gingerbread this season. Promise me you will.

    The Wooden Spool, I’m so so happy you loved it. Doesn’t the smell of the house make you feel good?

    Molly, thank you.

    Anonymous, ah yes! I’m so glad to see you answered the question before I could. We love Bob’s Red Mill around here.

    Lesbo-kitchen, I adore black pepper in gingerbread too. It’s just the tiniest bite we need. (I’m thinking about playing with a tiny bit of cayenne and white pepper too, for an even bite throughout it.) I love fresh ginger, but it might be a bit too wild here. If you try it, let me know.

    Monique in TX, good god. You have left me breathless. Sounds so good. Thank you.

    Lauren Denneson, thank you. And did you try the ginger molasses cookies I posted a few weeks ago?

    Julie, thank you. I have to admit that I come back to look at it often. It might end up being our Christmas card this year.

    SarahKate, yes. That smell.

    DanielCoffey, I love that you made a wheat-flour recipe by converting from a gluten-free recipe. Yes! And so glad that you loved it.

    Emily, my dear, you and several other people have never eaten gingerbread, which is just making me sad. Please do promise you’ll make this soon. You can make quinoa flour by grinding the grain in a good blender and sifting it through a sieve. But millet would probably work too.

    Anonymous, Oh my, that sounds good too.

    Lyndsay, yay! I’m so happy your boyfriend loved it. Teff really is the miracle ingredient in quick breads (good call to not give him the oat, if you have any doubt). I love that we know now that gluten-free baked goods can be spectacular, not pasty or like sawdust. I can’t wait to hear more about your baking for him.

    Anonymous and Annie, I haven’t tried this dairy-free yet, but I want to. I’m going to try some goat’s milk powder that we just bought. If you can’t have that, what about soy milk powder with a touch of lemon juice inside? I know that many folks have left comments here about making “butter”milk by using the lemon juice trick with other forms of milk. Please let us know how it goes!

    Tasty Eats at Home, me too!

    Elizabeth, Do let me know how this went for you.

    Laura, You do need the gums. However, if you can only find xanthan gum, that would work here. The gums replace the binding quality that gluten has. They do a fairly good job of replicating it. Without any of the gums, the baked goods kind of fall apart. You can certainly order them online.

    Trish, I’m so glad you enjoyed the photo. And thanks for linking to me.

    Dia, I’d love to hear more about how to make up for the way coconut flour sucks all the moisture out of recipes. I’ve tried using it several times and it’s just a wreck for me. But knowing how you do it would help. Yes, coconut milk would be wonderful here!

  41. Missramsey

    A very common way to serve Gingerbread where I'm from is to plate it in a pool of warm lemon sauce or warm rum cream sauce. Or a blob of lemon curd on the side.

  42. shelley

    I love the memories that come flying back from the smell of gingerbread! I made gingerbread men every year for my daughter’s November birthday…

  43. caitlin

    So I went and bought all of the ingredients for your all purpose flour mix, but sadly, none of your recipes call for it (at least the ones that I’d like to make). Example; World Peace Cookies, Gingerbread and Sugar Cookies….Suggestions? I’d sure like to use this all purpose flour mix 🙂
    Caitlin Boyce

    1. shauna

      Sure, Caitlyn! You can use the AP mix for any baked good you want. If it’s written in grams, use that many grams. If it’s written in cups, use 140 grams for every cup. That’s all you need!

  44. kp

    I was given some gingerbread cookies as a holiday gift which left me appreciative and disappointed. I love gingerbread almost as much as my body hates gluten. So when I got home after smelling these delicious devils the whole way: I had to make some gingerbread I could eat! Granted it was 1 am and I think I put too much flour in the batter somewhere along the line. But despite my worst efforts at following your clear directions I did get (though slightly lighter in color) a delicious gingerbread. Whenever I am looking for a gf recipe that works I always end up on your site. Thanks!

  45. NGK

    Hi, so like you, I am trying to avoid gums now. Would this work with your ap mix and just leave out the gum? I so want gingerbread with hot rum sauce for dessert at Christmas.

    Thanks for all that you do. I think your writing is some of the best food writing on the web, gluten or not.

  46. Erin

    thanks for your great recipe! I changed it up a bit to make it vegan: to replace eggs I subbed in 1 Tbsp of arrowroot powder (egg replacer) + 1/4 Cup of soymilk, for the buttermilk I subbed in 3/4 Cup of soymilk + 1.5 Tsp. vinegar. I also didn’t have some of the flours (quinoa and sweet rice) so I used regular rice flour and a bit more teff flour. Turned out great- nice and moist and great spicy gingerbread flavor!

  47. Janine

    This recipie has become our family’s “go to” recipe! THANK YOU THANK YOU this is just THE BEST, I have substituted a range of flours (whatever GF I have in the cupboard basically) and also substituted butter milk with greek yoghurt on many occasions – it works perfectly every time. Thanks so much. x

  48. Roberta

    Thank you so much shauna. You have really saved my life. I have never known such inspiration as I have found in you. I’m pregnant, and considering naming my own daughter shauna. Thank you, and god bless

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