This easy-to-make gingerbread cake, super moist and rich with warm spices, features swirls of cinnamon molasses frosting and mini gingerbread cookies on top. Everyone will love this gingerbread dessert this holiday season!
Whenever I think of top Christmas desserts, gingerbread cake is always on my mind! Well, after sugar cookie bars of course! With warm spices, robust molasses, and a super fluffy texture, this is the best gingerbread cake that is just begging to be served after your Christmas dinner!
Why We Love Gingerbread Cake
- Easy to make, bake, and decorate!
- All of the flavors of your favorite gingerbread cookies but in cake form.
- Perfect for holiday gatherings like Christmas, and Thanksgiving, or even as a birthday cake for the ginger molasses lover in your life!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Molasses: Unsulphured molasses, like Grandma's Molasses, provides the classic rich and sweet gingerbread flavor. Avoid using stronger and more bitter blackstrap molasses. If you prefer a milder molasses flavor, consider trying our molasses cookies or chocolate pecan cookies!
Spices: Classic gingerbread flavors are added like ground ginger, allspice, nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon. All of these spices contribute to a ginger cake that is warm, cozy, and full of flavor.
Sour cream: Like in our sugar cookie cake, the acidity in sour cream is needed to provide proper leavening and extra moisture, resulting in a super tender and moist cake.
Brown sugar: Both light brown and dark brown sugar can be used.
Hot water: Molasses is very thick, which is fine for recipes like iced oatmeal cookies, but not for cake! Hot water is a key addition to the batter to ease the distribution of thick molasses and achieve a soft, moist cake texture.
Find the full ingredient measurements and instructions in the recipe card below!
Step 1: Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.
Step 2: Combine the wet ingredients. Whisk together the melted butter, vegetable oil, sour cream, eggs, milk, molasses, and vanilla extract.
Step 3: Whisk together the batter. Whisk the dries into the wet until just combined- it's normal for the batter to be clumpy. Then, use a rubber spatula to fold in the hot water until just combined.
Step 5: Make the molasses frosting. Cream the butter in a stand mixing bowl or with a hand mixer until smooth, then mix in the powdered sugar, molasses, heavy cream, salt, and cinnamon. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.
Step 6: Decorate the gingerbread cake. Spoon the frosting over the top of the cooled cake. Use the back of a spoon to create swoops and swirls in the buttercream. Garnish the top of the cake with mini gingerbread cookies and enjoy!
It's hard to say what frosting goes best with this cake- there are so many options! Feel free to skip the molasses buttercream and try these ideas instead:
Christmas Decorating Ideas
We wanted to keep the decorations simple for this gingerbread cake, but you can easily dress it up or down for your next holiday party. Here are some ideas for decorating the top of the cake:
- Top with sugared cranberries, shredded coconut (to look like snow!), festive sprinkles, chopped candied pecans, or mini gingerbread men cookies.
Expert Tips for a Moist Cake
- Use a kitchen scale. Baking with a scale is much more accurate than cup measurements. To convert this recipe, click the "metric" button next to the ingredients title on the recipe card. If you do not have a scale, use a spoon to fluff the flour first, then spoon it into your measuring cup.
- Use room temperature ingredients. This creates a smooth, fully blended batter that will result in a uniform texture and even baking.
- Dont overmix the batter- mix the batter just until the ingredients are combined. Overmixing can lead to a dense or tough texture.
- Be mindful of the bake time- overbaking will lead to a dry and crumbly texture.
I have not tested this batter in cupcake form yet but I'd love to hear how they turn out if you try it!
Double the recipe and bake it in a 9x13 pan; watch the bake time as it made need a few minutes longer.
Yes! Store any leftover cake slices in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Store leftover cake slices in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also store it at room temperature but the cake will dry out quicker.
You can bake the cake the day before, wrap it in plastic wrap and store it at room temperature. The next day you can add the frosting and decorate it!
This is likely caused by incorrectly measuring the dry ingredients, overmixing the cake batter, or overbaking the cake.
Gingerbread Cake Batter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour *See notes below for measuring*
- 1 cup light brown sugar packed
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- ¾ teaspoon cloves
- ¾ teaspoon nutmeg
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 1 cup sour cream room temperature
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup whole milk room temperature
- ⅓ cup unsulphured molasses
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup hot water
Molasses Cinnamon Buttercream
- 12 tablespoon unsalted butter softened
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- Pinch fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Before you start. Line a metal 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C.
- Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup light brown sugar, 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon allspice, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoon ground ginger, ¾ teaspoon cloves, ¾ teaspoon nutmeg
- Combine the wet ingredients. Whisk together the melted butter, sour cream, eggs, oil, milk, molasses, and vanilla extract.8 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 cup sour cream, 2 large eggs, ¼ cup vegetable oil, ¼ cup whole milk, ⅓ cup unsulphured molasses, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Whisk the wet and dry ingredients together. Whisk the dries into the wets until just combined. It’s ok if the batter has some clumps!
- Fold in the hot water. Then fold in the hot water until just combined.¼ cup hot water
- Bake the gingerbread cake. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the pan cool on a wire cooling rack for 30 minutes, then carefully lift up the parchment paper to remove it from the pan and let it cool completely on the rack.
- Make the frosting. Cream the butter until smooth, then mix in the powdered sugar on low speed. Once combined, increase the speed to medium and beat for 2-3 minutes until the buttercream is light and fluffy. Mix in the molasses, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt and mix until combined.12 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses, 1 tablespoon heavy cream, Pinch fine sea salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Decorate the cake. Spoon the frosting on top of the cooled cake, using the back of a spoon to create swoops and swirls in the frosting. Garnish with mini gingerbread men cookies, sprinkles, sugared cranberries, etc. Cut into 16 servings and enjoy!
The calorie information provided for the recipe is an estimate. The accuracy of the calories listed is not guaranteed.