Today the ladies of the baking club decided unanimously that they would like to bake a gingerbread for afternoon tea. After mixing the gingerbread and placing it in the oven, we discovered whilst chatting over a cup tea, that an early form of gingerbread can be traced to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians who used it for ceremonial purposes. Gingerbread made an appearance in Europe when 11th Century Crusaders brought back ginger from the middle east for the aristocrats' cooks to experiment with. An early European recipe for gingerbread consisted of ground almonds, stale breadcrumbs, rosewater, sugar and ginger mixed together to form a paste which was then pressed into wooden moulds. These works of art served as a storyboard that told the news of the day for example a new king, queen , emperor or possibly a religious symbol. In the 16th Century, the English replaced the breadcrumbs with flour and added eggs and sweeteners, resulting in a lighter gingerbread. The first gingerbread man was accredited to Queen Elizabeth 1 who presented them to visiting dignitaries in their own likeness.
Gingerbread tied with a ribbon was popular at fairs and when exchanged became a token of love. Today gingerbread contains ginger, sometimes cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom or anise, sweetened with a combination of dark brown sugar and black treacle, whereas a cake contains ginger and no black treacle. Later in the afternoon a wonderful aroma wafted along the corridor, with everyone waiting in anticipation for a slice.