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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

Mrs. Coughran's Southern Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce

This afternoon I saw the sad news that Mrs. Coughran had passed away. Her daughter Jessica was one of my best friends when we lived in base housing at McClellan Air Force Base in North Highlands, California. Being Air Force kids, we weren't neighbors for long.

The Coughrans PCS'd (permanent change of station) to Germany and my dad got out of the Air Force and we moved to the Monterey Peninsula. Eventually the Coughrans landed in Texas and Jess and I have kept in touch for the past four decades. I haven't seen her in person since she and Owen flew out for my wedding, but thanks to social media, we can still see the happenings in each other's lives.

In Mrs. Coughran's honor, I decided to (re)share this post. This was the first cake that launched me down my love affair with gingerbread. Seriously. I remember walking into the Coughran residence and being enamored with the aromas as the cake baked. Then, Mrs. Coughran gave me a slice with a beautiful blanket of that lemon sauce. Oh, my gosh. I was a goner.

It's a wonderful thing when you can pinpoint the exact moment when you fall in love, right? I started with her recipe and made a few small changes, including adding in candied ginger chips, lemon zest, and few more ground spices. But it was still, as her recipe declares, "Good Stuff!"


makes three small cakes


  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, melted

  • 3/4 cup organic dark brown sugar, lightly packed

  • 3/4 cup unsulphured molasses

  • 2 eggs

  • 1-inch knob fresh ginger, grated

  • 2-1/2 cups flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground all-spice

  • 1 cup boiling water

  • 1/3 cup candied ginger, roughly chopped

  • Also needed: three cake pans, buttered and lined with parchment paper; powdered sugar, optional

Lemon Sauce

  • 2 cups organic granulated sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cubed

  • 1 cup boiling water

  • zest and juice from 2 organic lemons



Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and all the ground spices. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until lightened and fluffy. Beat in the molasses, eggs, and grated ginger. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Then, while stirring constantly, incorporate the boiling water to create a batter. Stir the candied ginger into the batter, then divide evenly between the cake pans.

Place the cakes into the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for five minutes before inverting. Remove the parchment paper and let cool completely on wire racks.

Lemon Sauce

In a mixing bowl that fits snugly over a saucepan, beat together the eggs and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Fill the saucepan with water but make sure that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the mixing bowl.

Add in the cubed butter, boiling water, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Whisk until the butter is melted. Nestle the bowl over the saucepan and bring the water to a bowl. Cook in the double boiler until desired thickness. I wanted mine really thick to use as a frosting of sorts. Let sauce cool. Once the cakes and sauce are cooled, it's time to it all together.


I opted to cut one of the cakes into heart-shaped pieces for decoration, but you can make a three-layer cake if you like.

Place one of the cakes on a serving platter. Spoon the cooled sauce on top of the cake and spread to within 1/2-inch of the edge. Place the second cake layer on top. Spoon more sauce over that and spread all the way to the edge.

For the heart-shaped pieces, I sprinkled powdered sugar over the top to give it contrast. Serve immediately.

Sending lots of love and prayers to you all. Jessica, Owen, Joanna, and Lynn, I will be making this cake again soon and will think warmly of your mom as I do.

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