The Original, Definitive and Incontestable Stage Planks Recipe

This recipe for “Gingerbread Without Butter or Eggs” was first published in The Picayune Creole Cookbook, c. 1901.

1 cup molasses, 1 cup sour milk, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 8 tablespoons shortening, 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda.

Melt the molasses, shortening and ginger together and blend well. When thoroughly melted and warmed, beat for 10 minutes. (While the original recipe as printed omits the use of the sour milk, let’s assume it’s added before the flour.) Dissolve the soda in 1 tablespoon boiling water and add to the molasses mix. Then add just enough of the sifted flour to make a stiff batter, beating thoroughly and vigorously. Pour into several greased shallow pans and bake for ten minutes in a quick oven.

This bread makes the famous “Stage Planks”, or ginger cakes, sold by the old darkies around New Orleans in old Creole days, to those of their own race and to little white children. The ancient Creoles, fond of giving nick-names, gave to this stiff ginger cake the name of “Estomac Mulâtre”, or “The Mulatto’s Stomach”, meaning that it was only fit for the stomach of a mulatto to digest.

The cookbook does not include an icing recipe, but I’d suggest a royal icing. Pink, of course.

11 Replies to “The Original, Definitive and Incontestable Stage Planks Recipe”

    1. I did not write this recipe. It was written by Lafcadio Hearn sometime in the 1890s. Racist epithets are, sadly, a enmeshed in the American vocabulary, as they are in most others. As a journalist, it’s contingent upon me to accurately reproduce citations. I’m sorry you were offended.

  1. I noticed as well that the offensive language and that it was a quote-and no it was not just the times. Black folks even then didn’t care to be called “darkies” and didn’t call ourselves such as word. Generally journalists put a more direct statement at the beginning of a quote or at least quotation marks around quote to indicate that the following words are not their own but a quote. It was cited at the beginning but it was definitely eye-opening to me a Black Mississippian that there was not a more noticeable indication of a quote. Almost as if the journalist wanted to raise eyebrows by the statement or at least didn’t care. I am happy for the recipe and of course I was raised eating stage planks so thank you for the information but remember when quoting someone else’s words especially when they contain incendiary language-and yeah, to a Black person “darkie” is incendiary in any tim-to indicate clearly that this is a period piece. It helps folks to hear what I presume you want to convey; the history and tender memory of this wonderful treat from our beloved Southland. God bless and keep us all!

    1. To be quite honest, I never thought this post would ever get the traction it has, being among if not the most accessed consistently since 2012. So you people tell me if my punctuation is racist. My intent certainly was not.

      1. In this instance and without appropriate context, I would remove the word. It reads like a slap in the face. Its harmful. It’s also not integral to the story or recipe.

        The least we can do while existing on this planet together is try not to harm one another. In that vein, I strongly suggest you remove the word or provide the appropriate context.

  2. I would just ignore the above “woke” crowd. I grew up in a town that was over 60% black and around 35% white. Of all the close friends and distant acquaintances regardless of race, not one of them is as sensitive as these people.

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