for those of you making gingerbread...

That's what I'm up to tonight. I do like to bake with old, familiar recipes, which means using my American cookbooks. As we've seen before, this can get you into trouble. So, for those of you making gingerbread in the wrong country tonight, here's a public service announcement:
(BrE) golden syrup = (more or less) (AmE) light molasses
(BrE) treacle = (more or less) (AmE) dark molasses
Back to the kitchen...

Postscript (the next day): The gingerbread went down well with the Sunday lunch crowd (though next time I'll double the ginger in it), and happily there are two pieces left for Better Half and me to eat at our leisure. But I shouldn't have been surprised when the stuff that I called caramel sauce was requested by the English lunch guests as toffee sauce.


  1. Hmm, my can of Lyle's Golden Syrup is somewhere in between light molasses and Karo corn syrup, and tastes more like the latter -- there's no real molasses flavor in it (though it's nowhere near as flavorless as Karo). Am I confused?

    And is treacle pronounced "trick-le" or "treek-le"?

  2. They're not the same (that's why I said 'more or less'), but it works as a recipe substitution. You'd have to find a pretty speciali{s/z}ed shop in the UK to find something label(l)ed 'light molasses'.

    On the second point: 'treek'.

  3. I know this isn't really relevant, but I could really do with a good gingerbread recipe... please?!

  4. Is that soft gingerbread, as in gingerbread, or crunchy, as in gingerbread men?

    PS if you are a ginger fancier, messrs Marks Expensive do a plain-chocolate covered ginger biscuit that Dearieshe rates awfully highly.

  5. My gingerbread recipe is the one in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, which is the cookbook I grew up on.

    It's soft gingerbread--i.e. a cake, which I plan to serve with a caramel sauce and cream.

    It's a little lighter than it would have been with molasses, but I've also noticed that the gingerbread men at the local supermarkets and bakeries are lighter than American ones, so perhaps they're using golden syrup too! On the soft/crunchy point, though, American gingerbread men are not typically crunchy...since American cookies are generally softer than British biscuits.

    And just for completeness's sake, I should link back to the mention of various other kinds of ginger cookies back here.

  6. I always just get a mix for gingerbread.

    Golden syrup growing up in Michigan was corn syrup, that's all. (As in syrup made from maize.)

  7. I'd never seen anything called golden syrup until I moved out of the US. Lyle's Golden Syrup is, like molasses, a sugarcane product.

    Corn syrup is much rarer in the UK than in the US.

  8. One can get both golden syrup and treacle here in the States through specialty stores and Our local grocery store stocks both.

  9. What about light and dark brown sugar?

  10. demerara or muscovado?

  11. There's an entire post in sugars--so please let's not get into it here. It's enough to say that an American baker in the UK will be able to spot the stuff that s/he needs, as the brown sugars come in clear plastic wrap, just like in the US.

  12. Some odds and ends:

    According to Wikipedia, golden syrup and molasses are products of two different stages of the sugar refining process.

    Golden syrup (same stuff as in the U.K.) is used in Western Canada and Louisiana. Also in the southern U.S. there is sorghum molasses, made from the sorghum plant.

    I always have heard dark molasses called blackstrap molasses. (I'm from California.) Anyone know why it's called that?

    It sounds like a mix of treacle and golden syrup might make a good approximation for gingerbread.

    If you look at the word "syrup" too many times, it starts to seem really strange.

  13. Corn syrup has been my latest cooking concern... My family granola recipe doesn't turn out quite right with golden syrup but I've decided to live with it rather than resorting to imports from friends and family (such importation is now limited to cheap "maple" syrup in our household).

    Light molasses is available at some of the larger Afro-Caribbean shops in my area (north london) (see also canned black beans, okra, and various other things that are very useful in Southern, Cajun and Mexican recipes).

  14. If a British recipe from the 1940s calls for "syrup", does one assume that means "golden syrup"?

    1. Syrup to me is plain sugar dissolved in water - standard syrup would be equal weights. Heavy syrup would have 2:1 or even 3:1 proportions.

  15. you have seriously just changed my life. in the u.s., i make these ginger bread peanut butter cookies that require molasses. the past few years, my mother had shipped me molasses because i can't find them here. Treacle! Hurrah!

  16. Just stumbled on this and saw ally's comment, and "do with" sounds awfully strange to these American ears. In my dialect, both of those words require objects.

  17. Gingerbread, like crumpets/pikelets/muffins, is a minefield. There's the biscuity gingerbread offered to tourists in search of Wordsworth's home at Grasmere, and then there's the cakey gingerbread. But it doesn't end there because there's the cakey gingerbread made in a cakey way by creaming butter and sugar and beating in eggs, treacle, flour and ginger. And then there's the gingerbread my Nanna (have we done names for one's grandparents yet) from Maryport used to make and which I still make occasionally when I can be arsed (qv) in which milk, butter and treacle are melted together before adding to flour and ginger to make a batter. The best part of this last is licking the bowl out afterwards.

    Regarding Anon's last comment, have we covered 'doing' yet? When I lived in London and had money I had somebody who 'did' for me, ie cleaned and tidied once a week.

  18. Anonymous

    ... saw ally's comment, and "do with" sounds awfully strange to these American ears. In my dialect, both of those words require objects.

    The object of the two-word verb do with is a good gingerbread recipe.

    I suspect you don't have difficulty with the two-word verb (aka 'phrasal verb') do without, which also takes an object.

    There's a different sense of do with ewhic is less mainstream. I can't be doing with this = roughly 'I don't have the patience for this'.

  19. Extremely late to the party, but I'm wondering if cooking golden syrup in New Zealand just a little bit longer would give me more of the American's Grandma's Molasses "light molasses" flavor. From what I've read, the process and flavor scale would go from cane juice - golden syrup - light molasses - dark molasses - treacle - blackstrap molasses? It's the same product to start, but sugar content lessens with process. Is Are the sugars burned out?

    1. Making the trad Australian Anzac biscuits - found I had no Golden Syrup. Substituted treacle. My father was very pleased - what they should taste like. I still use treacle. Anzacs should be made with rolled oats, flour, sugar and a hot toffeish mix of melted butter, and treacle plus a teaspoon of bicarb soda -mix while fizzing. Results in flat biscuit, rather sustaining. keeps very well.


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)