The Golden Compass | Ma Costa’s Gingerbread

Ma Costa's Gingerbread inspired by The Golden Compass. Recipe by The Gluttonous Geek.

Before the dust ultimately settles on this past year, I figure that brush the dust off a century’s old gingerbread recipe for a book that deals with, among other things, dust. The book I’m talking about is The Golden Compass

Click here to skip to the recipes for Ma Costa’s Gingerbread and Gingerbread Pudding!

Blood and Water

The first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials follows Lyra Belaqua — a girl raised by Oxfordian scholars in a 1910’s-style alternate universe of England. The only family she knows of is her Uncle Asriel, who only rarely visits the university between his trips up North to study the Northern Lights. I bring this up because, between all the Miltonian themes of innocence and religion, one I feel that largely gets overlooked is the concept of family.

Without giving away too many spoilers, Lyra’s parents only see her as an asset. The scholars and kitchen staff of Jordan College, the gyptian families she plays with, and even the armored bear she eventually befriends are the ones who treat her as one of their own. 

The gyptian Ma Costa, for example, keeps a vigilant watch on Lyra as she grows up. We find out later that she was her former nursemaid, but her relationship highlights that family is not defined by birth. Family is the support network that cares for and loves you despite that time you sunk their houseboat into the canal.

We see Ma Costa serve Lyra warm gingerbread on three different occasions. So I thought that this simple dish would be a perfect addition to serve your family, both born or adopted, while watching some episodes of His Dark Materials.

Gingerbread and Jenniver

I started with a gingerbread recipe from 1910 as my base. Of course, you need to keep a couple of things in mind when recreating a historical recipe. Oven thermostats were not conventional at the time. The recipe states to bake this molasses-laden confection in a “very moderate oven,” which means roughly 350°F. Pan-size standards? Also, not that common. I used a standard 9-inch round cake pan.

Beyond that, with Pullman’s gyptians representing a mix of Traveler and Romani society, I incorporated peppercorn and cumin — both massively common on the latter’s cuisine. We see the gyptians drinking “jenniver,” which is likely this world’s equivalent of gin. That’s why I also ground some juniper berries for that herbal, resinous flavor that goes so well with ginger. 

From a folkloric standpoint, though, black pepper and juniper protect against negative energies. Ginger enhances love. And cumin, a favorite of Egyptian deities, promotes peace and happiness. Given Ma Costa’s relationship with Lyra, it appears that gingerbread may serve more purpose than the simple sweet treat for a child.

That said, she serves her “hot gingerbread” each time. You absolutely need to serve this dish warm, otherwise, it will dry out on you. Not to worry, though! That’s why I also included a recipe for gingerbread pudding that uses the leftovers to make a moist and delicious snack that’ll keep for far longer.

Sing for your Supper!

If you plan to cook the recipes off the site, keep scrolling. However, while access to recipes on the blog will always be free, I now have printable PDF recipe cards and thematic cook-along Spotify playlists as rewards for those who choose to support the blog.

The printable recipe card and playlist for Ma Costa’s Gingerbread will be available as a $2 donor reward on my Ko-Fi page until Monday, January 27th, 2019, at 8 pm EST.


You can instead join my Patreon community at the “Sing for your Supper” level ($1/month) for access to the playlists or the “It’s All in the Cards” level ($5/month) or higher for access to ALL of my blog recipe cards and playlists. Patrons of all reward tiers will even receive a welcome gift of my Lord of the Rings recipe cards and playlists from January 2019 to get you started.


The gyptian Gourmet

Ma Costa's Gingerbread inspired by The Golden Compass. Recipe by The Gluttonous Geek.

Ma Costa's Gingerbread

Serves 6-8.

Equipment: Oven, stand or hand mixer with mixing bowl, coffee or spice grinder, 9-inch diameter round cake pan, spatula, and cooking spray.


  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 5 Tb unsalted butter
  • 1 cup molasses3 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp juniper berries
  • 1/2 black peppercorns
  • 4 and 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup whole milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and coat the inside of the cake pan with cooking spray.
  2. Cream the butter and brown sugar on medium using the stand mixer until fluffy. 
  3. Grind the juniper berries and peppercorn into a powder with the spice grinder, then add it, two eggs, and the molasses to the mixer bowl. Beat until smooth.
  4. Whisk or sift the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Turn on the stand mixer on low and gradually add the dry ingredients into the batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth over with the spatula. Then beat the remaining egg and milk in a separate dish and pour it over the batter. Finally, gloss over the mixture with a spatula to distribute it.
  6. Bake the gingerbread 25-30 minutes in the oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool 3-5 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serve warm with butter or honeyed ricotta and candied ginger.

Ma Costa's Gingerbread Pudding

Serves 4-8.

Equipment: Oven, mixing bowl, cooking spray, 8″x8″ baking dish, spatula, and wire whisk.


  • One batch of Ma Costa’s Gingerbread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup dark beer
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tb brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of kosher salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and coat the inside of the baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the cream, eggs, brown sugar, beer, cinnamon, and salt in the mixing bowl until uniform and frothy.
  3. Stir the gingerbread cubes into the bowl and continue to coat until they soak up most of the batter.
  4. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and smooth over with the spatula.
  5. Bake in the oven 20-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool the dish for 5 minutes. Serve scoops of the bread pudding with whipped cream, ice cream, jam, or honeyed ricotta.

The Gluttonous Geek