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Happy World Gingerbread

Bring on the holidays with this fragrant, tender gingerbread. The ingredients come from all over the world but play well together, hence the name Happy World. Gingerbread comes from Armenia and then from France. My version uses the maple syrup from my northern childhood and sorghum from my Southern life now. The spices were first used in India and the Middle East, olive oil comes from the Mediterranean, and bananas were first cultivated in Malaysia.

Spread the joy by sharing snack cake with friends or tucking pieces into a lunch bag. Your body will be happy that it tastes so good yet is made with whole grains, little oil, and has no cholesterol. Perfect for Christmas and Winter Solstice parties.

Happy World Gingerbread is made with white whole wheat flour, sorghum, maple syrup, citrus zest, and olive oil. Egg free, dairy free, cholesterol free and absolutely tender and delicious.

Happy World Gingerbread

Active time: 30 minutes. Total time: 90 minutes. Yield: 16 servings.

Ginger bread on a Christmas plate for holiday buffets or giving. Make this thrifty, healthy cake for your Christma parties. Vegan, no milk, no eggs, no butter.


  • 3 tablespoons dried coconut (15 grams)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (300 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 banana (small)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, approximately
  • 2/3 cup sorghum
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon orange or lemon zest
  • peanut oil, vegetable oil, or cooking spray for baking pan


This recipe start by making just enough homemade coconut milk for the cake. You'll never notice the coconut shreds in the cake, so leave them in to save time and add nutrition. If you'd rather start with pre-made coconut milk or other plant milk, see the notes below.

  1. Put coconut and water in food processor fitted with the stainless steel blade, reserving some water for a final swish of the food processor. Process on high for about ten seconds. (See notes if you'd rather just use pre-made coconut milk.)
  2. Heat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9x13x2-inch pan. I use peanut oil, but other vegetable oil, shortening, or baking spray will also keep the cake from sticking to the pan.
  3. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt. Pulse the coconut mixture a few times to help it break down into coconut milk.
  4. Slice banana into a measuring cup that holds 3/4 cup, mashing it down as needed so all the banana is under the 3/4-cup line. Pour olive oil over banana to the 3/4-cup line. Add banana and oil to coconut mixture. (The exact ratio of banana-to-oil doesn't matter much here, but you're aiming for results that look approximately like the photo.)
  5. Put sorghum, maple syrup, and orange zest into the food processor with the coconut milk and process briefly until smooth. Pour liquid into flour mixture, pour the reserved water into the food processor and give it a little whirl, then add that liquid to the rest. Stir until nearly smooth. A few small lumps are fine; stirring activates the gluten and makes the cake tough if you beat it for more than about fifty strokes.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, until top is a rich brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes.
  7. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature. Store any extra covered at room temperature for up to four days or well-wrapped and frozen for up to a year.


  • Using pre-made coconut milk. Use 3/4 cup coconut milk in place of dried coconut and water. Mix the wet ingredients in a bowl instead of the food processor for easier cleanup.
  • For a richer flavor but more fat, skip the banana and use a total of 3/4 cups olive oil. I'm going to try this will a full 3/4 cups of mashed banana or sweet potato too for a no-added-fat version. Stay tuned. Let me know in the comments if you try it first!

Reader Comments (5)

Would love to try this but stumped by the sorghum. Is there anything (maybe rice syrup?)I can substitute?

Dec 21, 2012 | Registered Commenterbostonannie

Do you mean Sorghum flour or syrup?

Dec 21, 2012 | Registered Commentersioboop

I used Muddy Pond liquid sorghum, which resembles golden molasses. I got mine at Whole Foods. You can buy it online,but not in time for Christmas!

I love this sorghum and am trying it in all sorts of recipes. It works well instead of honey in my Good Whisk Bread.

As for substitutes, try golden or light-colored unsulphured molasses, honey, or even just more maple syrup. Please share your results in the comments.

I took a plate of this gingerbread to a party last night. It barely made it to the buffet table and people begged for the last piece. I just had a piece for breakfast, too!

Dec 23, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Watson

Here's a good article on the health benefits of sorghum and substitutions.

And here's a nutritional comparison. Sorghum is high in antioxidants and trace minerals.

Dec 23, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Watson

Made this tonight with 3/4 cup of mashed banana instead of added oil, 1 1/3 cups maple syrup (since I didn't have sorghum syrup on hand), clementine zest, and canned lite coconut milk. It was excellent!

Dec 5, 2013 | Registered Commenterjn4jenny
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