My mother’s glazed ginger shortbread

Last week, after a long battle with Parkinson’s, my mother died. My editor let me write this tribute to my Mum, in my food column, “The Dish,” in the Kingston Whig-Standard.


My mother, Barbara Mary (King) Sutcliffe somewhere in the north of England

As I sat with my mother towards the end of her life, I couldn’t help but think of the times we’d spent together in the kitchen, of the meals we’d shared and dishes we’d cooked together. Of Christmas dinners past, and Thanksgivings, and roast lamb Easter dinners.

I was recalling hundreds of images of my mother in the kitchen. Of her putting down preserves for the winter. Jars upon jars of chutneys and jams sealed with wax, and pickled beetroots — her favourite. Or rolling pastry for meat pies. Making ginger shortbread or Yorkshire Parkin, and stirring the Christmas pudding mixture and fruit cake, long before winter set in.

I was thinking of my mother picking blackcurrants, and gathering baskets of strawberries to make jam, or gathering wild crabapples for crabapple jelly. Of her making fudge, peering at the old candy thermometer with its microscopic numbers. Of Sunday night dinners of roast beef and Yorkshire puddings covered in gravy; fish on Fridays; and the ambitious dinner parties she threw for friends with homemade chicken liver pate, savoury soufflés and Beef Wellington. Once she made a Charlotte Russe d’Erable — a luscious cream and maple centre surrounded by ladyfingers standing upright around the edge. My father dubbed it “tombstone torte,” a name that stands to this day.

A food column might be a strange place for an obituary or In Memoriam piece, but the truth is, food stories are the real stories of our lives. [To read the full story, please follow the link here to the Kingston Whig-Standard.]

My Mother's Glazed Ginger Shortbread

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

For the shortbread:

  • ½ cup + 1 tbsp (127 grams) butter, room temperature or slightly softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • pinch of salt

Using a hand-held electric beater, mix together the butter and sugar. Add the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt and mix until crumbly. Press the mixture into a lightly buttered 8-x8-inch square pan or, as my mother used, an 8-inch tin pie plate. (I use a glass pie plate.) Bake at 350 F for about 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set to cool.

For the glaze:

  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp Lyle’s Golden Syrup (corn syrup will do in an emergency)
  • 2/3 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch of salt

Melt together the butter and Lyle’s Golden Syrup on the stove, or in the microwave. Add the icing sugar, ginger and pinch of salt. Stir until mixed. Spread over slightly cooled shortbread. Cut in thin wedges (or bars if you used a square pan). Store in an airtight tin. Serve with a good cup of tea.


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