The holiday season is at our door! There’s no better time to hunker down in the warmth of your kitchen and enjoy the company of friends and family. Did you know that Mary Ball Washington, George Washington’s mother, loved to entertain? One of her most famous recipes was a gingerbread. Tradition has it that she served it to Marquis de Lafayette, who visited her here in Fredericksburg. The occasion earned the it the nickname, “Lafayette Gingerbread.” 



Mary Ball Washington’s Gingerbread aka. “Lafayette Gingerbread.”

From the cookbook, “Dining With The Washingtons.



1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

1 cup molasses

Scant 2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest



  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch-square cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl beating by hand ( or an electric mixer ), combine the butter and brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the molasses, and continue to beat until well combined.
  3. Sift the flour with the ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.
  4. Alternately add the eggs and flour to the butter mixture, beating very well after each addition.
  5. Add the orange juice and zest, and continue beating for several minutes until the batter is smooth and light.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the cake on a rack to cool completely in the pan before slicing.


If you’re interested in learning more about Mary Ball Washington be sure to visit the Mary Washington House, as well as George Washington’s Boyhood Home at Ferry Farm. You can see where she made her legendary gingerbread and hosted parties, in person!


You’ll also want to mark December 2nd on your calendar, for the Mary Washington House Holiday Open House. 


Tour the Mary Washington House by candlelight in the spirit of an 18th century Christmas. Shop for unique gifts in the gift shop while sipping hot cider and sampling Mary Washington’s famous gingerbread. 


Want even more gingerbread?? Ferry Farm’s 32 Annual 2nd Gingerbread Contest and Exhibit takes place from Dec 02, 2018 (12:00 pm) to Dec 30, 2018 (4:00 pm). They also have a Gingerbread House Construction Workshop, on November 17th. It would be a great opportunity to take your Mary Ball Washington gingerbread skills to the next level!



George Washington’s Small Beer Recipe



One of the nation’s first home-brewers was none other than George Washington! While we’re sure he enjoyed beer, General Washington probably brewed for necessity as much as for sport. In the 1700s and earlier, beer was a means of potable water. Did you know man was brewing beer as far back as 5th millennium BC, in Iran? It’s one of the oldest man-made drinks in the world. Water borne diseases can quickly become dangerous and, in 18th century Fredericksburg, were easy to contract. Fermented drinks were a much safer way to stay hydrated. This was probably on Washington’s mind more than flavor profiles were. 


The ingredient that stands out most in his recipe is molasses. This acts as the sugar in the ferment and, without a doubt, gives the brew a unique taste. That being said, George Washington’s recipe, like other early American brews, does not reflect the flavors we expect from today’s beer. 


 They were typically called “weak” or “small” beers, referring to their low alcohol content, and were almost soda-like.”  –American Home Brewer’s Association


Classic beer ingredients simply were not readily available year-round. Hence, the use of molasses. Many people who have brewed his recipe, do not find it appealing. We’ll let you be the judge, though!








To Make Small Beer

From George Washington’s diary, which can be found in the New York Library. 


Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste.–Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Molasses into the cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. Let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask–leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working–Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed.



Want to grab a drink at George Washington’s little brother’s tavern? Charles Washington built the now iconic Rising Sun Tavern around 1762. It’s still a great place to meet up with friends and enjoy a beer… just maybe not one brewed using his big brother’s recipe.  



Written by, Brenda Sapanghila


*Image of gingerbread from 

Last Updated:
December 14, 2018