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.

Please note that I did not write this recipe. It was written by Lafcadio Hearn sometime in the 1890s. Racist epithets are, sadly, enmeshed in the American vocabulary, as they are in most others, but as a journalist, I’m obligated to accurately reproduce citations. My apologies to anyone who takes offense.

“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.

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

  1. I’m wondering if i can buy these plank. Cookies. I know them as Rock n Roll with the Pink icing on front side..if you know where i can buy this item..let me know.
    Thank you

    1. I did not write this recipe. It was written by Lafcadio Hearn sometime in the 1890s. Racist epithets are, sadly, 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. History offends some people- those close to New Orleans appreciate their heritage and history and are not offended if from the area. Only generations directly from New Orleans and surrounding areas understand this. The French Creole and Mulatto identities that come out of this area are cherished and respected- beautiful people with beautiful stories. They will use them term themselves when telling stories. Just FYI.

  2. 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. I see quotation marks around the entire recipe, preceded with the notation that it originally appeared in the Picayune Creole Cookbook. What more could the journalist have done to make it clear that the recipe was quoted from an historical publication? I see no offense intended, nor should any be taken by rational, clear-thinking people.

    2. Thank you Mr Christopher Newsome for bringing to front the language we as Americans are trying to reconcile with. If one can make note concerning addition of sour cream that was omitted then surely one could address the antiquated terms within.

    3. I agree with you. It’s was a very loose quote and the citations and dormant were not distinct enough for me not to take offense.

    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.

          1. Jesse, you did set up the appropriate context. It is very clear that you were speaking of a historical time, when those words were used and no one batted an eye.

    2. Loved these cookies as a kid
      could not remember name .
      # original recipes
      # original penny candy
      Please bring back original recipe
      “Salerno “butter cookies
      Thankyou
      Lauri

  3. 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.

  4. I’m a Black southern Gentleman and I am eating. A stage plank at this very moment! I grew up ln the Mississippi Delta in the early 60’s. And worked professionally in Detroit most of my working years . Now retired in Mississippi and I love our history! Thanks sir!

  5. Can the shortening be butter? I’m vegetarian and do don’t use lard and I hesitate to use hydrogenated oil like Crisco.
    Thanks

    1. Butter is fine. They just might have a little more rise and be a little drier than they would otherwise. You could try cutting the butter with coconut oil to the same effect. Can’t make any guarantees though.

  6. You know, I didn’t take offense at the article, I don’t think that he was being racist, he repeated the jargon at the time, which was so common and used, and accepted by the white people who used it to referenced us. We grew up reading articles that referred to us as”coons”, “niggers” “ pickaninnies”, “monkeys “, and the list goes on, he put it in the context that it was delivered, you seem to want to whitewash the ugliness of our humiliation, it’s time people stop trying to apologize for the life that white people imposed on a group of GOD’S creation. It stinks to high heaven, “let it stink”, no one rescued us from it, and still don’t today. The majority of them still don’t think that we are human. What did they do to CHRIST, we will all answer to GOD for what we have done. Ow, thank you so much for the recipe, I am 70 years old and , I survived all of this common reality, but I never gave any human credit for what GOD did for us, and I don’t copy , or want to be accepted by any fallible human, that I am always copying them. I didn’t mean to preach, I have survived so much, and I want so much for Black people to stop giving so much of their existence to white people and others. Thanks again for the article.

  7. Shortening — in a 1901 cookbook — would be anything from butter to bacon grease to lard. Crisco (the first all vegetable shortening) wasn’t around back then. Butter results in a crumbly cookie. Lard and rendered fat yields a chewier cookie that holds its shape better, so this recipe probably called for animal fat kept aside just for baking. I have cookbooks with measurements of “wine glass” instead of pints or ounces…

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