This beautiful gingerbread layer cake is moist, delicious, and full of holiday flavors. It is made with incredible aromatic spices, such as ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. It is a great make-ahead cake recipe.
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.
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.
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, increase to medium-high speed and mix for 2-3 minutes until creamy and smooth.
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 ½ 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!