I love baking with spices during the holidays. This moist and beautiful Gingerbread Cake is seriously one of my favorite things to bake in December. This one is made with ground spices, such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I love all the festive feels, the amazing cozy flavors, and just how moist the cake layers are. It is also very easy to make, believe it or not! You’ll love it.
I’m usually intimidated by cakes, but lots of practice and recipe testing have actually really made me love baking and decorating cakes! You get this feeling of satisfaction and fullness once you’re done. It feels so good and it’s very fun!
I made an amazing gingerbread cake last weekend and I felt so happy. It was almost like therapy! This gingerbread cake is moist and full of aromatic flavors, and frosted with the most delicious cream cheese frosting ever. So good!
The cake layers can and should be made 1-2 days ahead of time, and refrigerated. This will make sure that they are cold enough so that the frosting doesn’t melt when assembling the cake…meaning it’s a great make-ahead recipe!
I decorated my gingerbread layer cake with sugared cranberries and fresh sprigs of rosemary. Let me show you how to make the cake!
Not going to lie, it is not a short ingredient list. You can find all the specific ingredient quantities and all that in the recipe card all the way below, but I wanted to provide and overview here:
For the gingerbread cake layers:
- Flour: I used all-purpose flour.
- Baking powder and baking soda: To help the cake rise and brown properly.
- Salt: To bring out the flavors.
- Ground ginger: The main spice in gingerbread cake. You’ll need about 1 tablespoon.
- Ground cinnamon: Also another main spice, about 1.5 teaspoons needed.
- Ground nutmeg: For additional aromatic flavors.
- Ground cloves: For additional aromatic flavors.
- Unsalted butter: It needs to be softened and at room temperature so that it can be creamed with the sugar.
- Light brown sugar: For sweetness. I used light brown sugar, but dark brown sugar will work too.
- Molasses: For that distinctive and deep molasses flavor in gingerbread.
- Eggs: To give the cake structure.
- Vanilla extract: For flavor.
- Whole milk: For moisture and fat.
For the cream cheese frosting:
- Cream cheese: Use whole fat cream cheese for best results, softened.
- Unsalted butter: It has to be softened so you can whip it with the softened cream cheese.
- Confectioner’s sugar: For sweetness and body.
- Vanilla extract: For flavor.
- A pinch of salt: To bring out the flavors.
To decorate the cake:
I used fresh rosemary sprigs and sugared cranberries to decorate my gingerbread cake. For the sugared cranberries, you only need fresh whole cranberries and granulated sugar. More info in the recipe card!
How To Make Gingerbread Cake
There are 3 parts to making this gingerbread layer cake: 1) baking the cake layers, 2) making the cream cheese frosting, and 3) assembling and decorating it.
It does take time, but it is pretty straightforward. Definitely a weekend project!
Below is an overview of the entire process broken into sections. The specific recipe instructions can be found in the recipe card below per usual.
Bake the Cake Layers
- Prepare the pans: I used two 9-inch round pans. Butter the pan. Cut out parchment paper circles to line the bottom.
- Cream the softened butter and sugar: This will aerate the mixture and help your cake layers rise beautifully. It will also make them less prone to getting dense.
- Add the eggs: One at a time to make sure they properly mix.
- Add the dry ingredient mix and the milk: Alternating, to make sure both get evenly and properly added to the batter. You should have an evenly mixed batter at this point. This batter shouldn’t be too thin or too thick…just somewhere in between.
- Bake! At 350 degrees F. 20 minutes after they are out of the oven, carefully remove them from the pan and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Wrap each one with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Make the Cream Cheese Frosting
- Mix the cream cheese and unsalted butter until creamy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the powdered sugar on low speed. Then increase to medium high speed and mix until light, fluffy, and creamy.
- Mix in the vanilla extract and salt.
I would not recommend making the frosting ahead of time. You want it to be soft and creamy so you can frost the gingerbread cake easily. This means that it needs to be made right before frosting. Making the frosting ahead would necessitate refrigerating it, which would harden it and change the texture.
Assemble the Cake and Decorate
Now that you have the cake layers and the cream cheese frosting make, all you have to do is frost the cake and decorate it! You can decorate it however you want. I went for a simple rustic style, and added sugared cranberries and rosemary sprigs on top.
Tools I’d recommend to assemble the cake: cake stand and an offset spatula. I also ran a bench scraper to straighten the sides a little bit (optional).
Make The Cake Layers Ahead
I’d highly recommend baking the cake layers the day before so that the cake has enough time to cool completely. Frosting a warm cake, even if it’s slightly warm, would most certainly result in disaster. The frosting will melt. Definitely plan ahead and don’t rush!
I like to refrigerate the cake layers so that they are somewhat firm. It will make assembling and frosting the cake SO much easier. Don’t worry, it won’t turn out dry! Just wrap the baked cake layers with plastic wrap before refrigerating (wait for them to cool on cooling racks before wrapping though).
Tips for Frosting the Cake
- Decorate your cake on a cake stand, so you don’t have to move it later.
- Put 4 pieces of parchment paper on the cake stand before assembling the cake, kinda forming an overlapping square on the edges of the cake stand. This way, you can pull out the parchment paper after you’re done frosting, and not have any messes on the cake stand.
- Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting.
Decorating The Cake
Decorate the cake however you want! I decorated mine with sugared cranberries and fresh rosemary sprigs.
Other ideas to decorate the cake:
- Use gingerbread cookies or your favorite holiday sugar cookies
- Top with praline pecans
- Use cranberries and rosemary to form a “wreath”
I just love this gingerbread cake so much! It is definitely not a quick recipe, but it sure is satisfying to finish it.
The cake layers can and should be made ahead of time, and stored in the fridge for up to 2 days. The frosting is all about mixing. Then…the fun part: assembling and decorating!
Make this amazing gingerbread cake for the holidays. Your house will smell absolutely amazing and feel so cozy. Happy baking!
More delicious holiday baking ideas:
- Cranberry Orange Pound Cake
- Apple Bundt Cake with Maple Glaze
- Pumpkin Cake Roll
- Pecan Pie Bars
- Lemon Ricotta Cookies
- Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies
Tips for Success
- Bake the cake layers the day before so it has time to cool completely. After they have cooled completely, wrap each one with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
- Make the frosting right before frosting the cake. You need the frosting to be creamy and easily spreadable.
- To avoid a mess when decorating, overlap 4 strips of parchment over the cake stand, on the edges. Once you’re done frosting the cake, simply pull out the parchment paper, and you’ll have a clean cake stand.
For the cake layers
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger (yes, tablespoon)
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature (2 sticks)
- 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¾ cup molasses
- 1 cup whole milk
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 16 oz whole fat cream cheese (softened)
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 6 cups confectioner's sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- A pinch of salt
Sugared cranberries and decoration
- 1 ½ cup fresh cranberries
- ⅓ cup water
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar, plus ½ cup (divided)
- A few fresh rosemary sprigs
Make the sugared cranberries
- In a small saucepan, dissolve ⅓ cup water with ⅓ cup granulated sugar over medium heat. Bring to a low simmer and then turn off the heat. Add the cranberries and stir to coat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cranberries from the pan (leave the liquid behind) and transfer them to a cooling rack. Let them cool completely for at least 1 hour.
- Then, roll the cranberries on the remaining ½ cup of granulated sugar until coated. Note: These can be made ahead, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Bake the cake layers
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease two 9-inch round non-stick pans with butter. Line the bottom of each pan with a round piece of parchment paper.
- Dry ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and ground cloves. Set aside.
- Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer (paddle attachment), cream the 1 cup of softened unsalted butter with the 1.5 cups of light brown sugar for 2-3 minutes on medium-speed until creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on medium speed. Mix in the vanilla extract and molasses.
- With the mixer on medium, mix in the dry ingredient mixture and the milk, alternating, until evenly combined and no pockets of flour remain. Scrape the sides of the bowl if needed. Do not overmix.
- Divide the batter equally into the 2 prepared pans, smoothing out the tops. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Let them cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Then remove them from the pan carefully and let them cool completely on a cooling rack. Wrap each one with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days.
Make the cream cheese frosting
- When ready to assemble the cake, make the cream cheese frosting. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer (whisk attachment), beat the softened cream cheese with the softened butter for 2-3 minutes until light and creamy.
- Add the confectioners sugar on low speed. After the sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla and the pinch of salt, and increase to medium-high speed and mix for 2-3 minutes until creamy and smooth.
Assemble and decorate
- Trim the top of the cake layers, if needed. Sometimes, cakes will have a slight dome. Use a long serrated knife to trim that dome off. This will provide stability to the cake as you stack the cake layers.
- In the center of a cake stand, put a dollop of the frosting to help the cake stay in place. Place one of the cake layers on top. Tip: before you put your first cake layer, overlap 4 strips of parchment over the cake stand, on the edges. Once you're done frosting the cake, simply pull out the parchment paper and you'll have a clean cake stand.
- With an offset spatula, spread frosting over that first cake layer, about ⅓ inch thick. Then, cover with the other cake layer, gently pressing down a little bit.
- Frost the top and then the sides of the cake evenly, using the offset spatula to create a rustic style pattern, if desired. If you lined the edges of the cake stand with parchment paper, gently pull them out.
- Decorate the top with the prepared sugared cranberries and fresh rosemary sprigs. Slice and serve. Enjoy!
- Special equipment: 9 inch round baking pans, electric or stand mixer, parchment paper, plastic wrap, cooling racks, cake stand, offset spatula.
- Do not frost the cake if it’s still warm. This will cause the frosting to melt and ruin the entire cake. I’d recommend refrigerating the cakes for 1-2 days.
- Make the frosting right before you’re ready to assemble the cake. This way, you’ll ensure that the frosting is soft and easily spreadable.
- Storing: Refrigerate leftovers, preferably using airtight containers or a cake storage container.