This Gingerbread Cake is perfect for the holidays! A moist and delicious ginger cake with a tangy cream cheese frosting.
My piping game is not on point — I seriously need to spend some time practicing. It would help if my hands weren’t totally shaking any time I try to pipe something.
I could never be a surgeon or a professional Jenga player. Needless to say, the most tedious and frustrating part of this gingerbread cake was the gingerbread houses.
What I thought would be a quick, easy, adorable addition turned out to be a huge pain in the butt. Mostly due to my impatience, which is nothing new!
I always have a hard time trying to decide how I want to decorate my cakes. I usually end up on Pinterest, disillusioned and grumpy, searching for ideas.
The inspiration for this gingerbread cake came from this adorable one that I came across. SO cute right?? Her gingerbread houses are clearly homemade, but there was no way I was doing that.
Mini Gingerbread Houses
So there I am, 10pm on a Tuesday night, and I’m searching online for mini gingerbread houses, wondering where I can get them asap locally.
I can’t even remember how I knew that you could buy a mini gingerbread house kit. Maybe I had seen it somewhere before? No idea.
These were easier to find than expected, but of course, I was panicked about it since I had a schedule I wanted to stick to. I was thisclose to heading to Walmart at 10:30pm to check if they had them.
Sanity kicked in and I waited till the next day and got them at Michaels. Of course, I’m seeing them everywhere now!
The fact that the gingerbread kit came with pre-made royal icing was a bonus. This was going to be so easy! (Yeah right).
I separated all the pieces and trimmed them so they were perfectly straight and the same size. You don’t need to do this, but it certainly helps with assembly and getting a cleaner look.
I piped the details of each side and roof before assembling the houses, as I figured it would be easier that way (it was, for the most part).
The issue came with the waiting time.
You had to wait like an hour (at least) for the icing to dry so you could assemble the houses. Then, once the sides were put together, you were supposed to wait like 3 more hours before putting the roof on – what?! Who has that kinda time/patience? Not I.
I did wait a good hour and was pretty proud of myself for even lasting that long. To no surprise, the houses weren’t quite set and were wobbly as I was putting them together. For the most part, it went ok, except for the ONE house I wanted to be perfect: the damn A-frame.
This one was the trickiest to put together because it doesn’t have 4 walls standing so you can just slap the roof on. It had to be assembled in one go.
Decorating these pieces in advance made it harder to put this one together. Now that I think about it, I probably should have read the instructions on how to put this one together properly. Meh. Anyhow, it was a mess.
The front and back kept sliding inwards, and I hadn’t let the decorations on the roof dry enough, so I was making nice dents in them. SIGH. Finally, it was standing on its own and I left it… for about an hour (NOT long enough).
I still had to put the finishing touches on it — the icing around the front (which I scraped off 3x because I didn’t like it) and the icicles (which you can’t even really tell are there). Needless to say, the stupid thing collapsed on me multiple times, and I ended up having to take it apart altogether and redo it.
Why is nothing easy? Oh yeah, because I rush and don’t follow instructions.
ANYhow, after spending WAY more time than expected on these houses, I had finally finished them and left them to set properly overnight.
I wasn’t going to use the A-frame on the cake after all since I wasn’t happy with how it turned out, but it was really the only one that fit properly on this 6″ cake. Plus, I still think it’s the cutest one. So, despite it not being perfect, there it is, perched on top of this Gingerbread Cake.
I used Wilton petal tip #102 (I think? I’m also terrible at writing things down – it was either #102 or #103) to do the front of the houses, but otherwise, I used the small round tip that was provided in the kit.
I love how well the petal tip worked! This was actually the first thing I tried on the A-frame, but I decided I didn’t like it, scraped it off, tried a couple other ways, scraped those off, and redid the ruffle… again. FML.
How to Make this Gingerbread Layer Cake
House decorating issues aside, I’m pretty happy with the way this Gingerbread Cake turned out! It is a simple and delicious recipe. The key thing is to use the right molasses. Do not use blackstrap. Blackstrap molasses is way too strong and will overpower the cake.
We can get fancy molasses here in Canada, but if you can’t find that regular unsulphured molasses will work too. If the only thing you can find is blackstrap then use half blackstrap and half golden syrup. If you can’t find molasses at all, treacle is a great substitute!
Cream Cheese Frosting
The frosting is a simple and delicious cream cheese frosting. I have since revised the recipe for the cream cheese frosting I use, but either one is equally delicious.
The little rosemary trees are my favorite part! Really, this Gingerbread Cake would look just as pretty with just a rosemary tree forest and no house at all. Maybe an idea for a cake next year.
This Gingerbread Cake is honestly one of the best things I’ve ever had. It tastes like a Starbucks gingerbread loaf, but a million times better.
The tangy cream cheese frosting pairs so well with the sweet spice cake. A perfect cake for your holiday celebrations!
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I convert this recipe?
- The recipe as-is will also work in two 8″ pans. For three 8″ pans, 1.5x the recipe. Baking time may need to be adjusted.
- To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so. The recipe will make 18-24 cupcakes depending on size.
- For other conversions go here. Bake time may vary depending on pan size.
- Baking time will vary if you change the pan size. Every oven is different so I can’t say for certain what you’ll need to adjust it to. Be sure to check on the cakes while they are baking.
Can I make it in advance?
- The cooled cake layers can be baked ahead of time, double wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 3 months. Take out 2-3 hours before assembly.
- The frosting can be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated for 1 week or frozen for 3 months. Bring to room temp and rewhip before using.
- The finished cake (whole or sliced, stored airtight) can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Can I get the measurements by weight/grams?
- There is a Metric option in the recipe card. If you click it it will convert everything to grams.
- This conversion is done automatically and I cannot guarantee the accuracy but many readers have had success using the metric option on my recipes.
What if I don’t have buttermilk?
- Buttermilk is not optional and cannot be swapped for milk as it will affect the overall result.
- For best results, use actual buttermilk, but if you don’t have any you can make your own at home by combining 3/4 cup of milk (whole milk ideally, but I often just use 1%) with 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or vinegar and letting it sit for 10mins.
Why can’t I use Blackstrap molasses?
- Blackstrap molasses is quite a bit stronger than the fancy molasses I’ve used here. It will overpower the flavor. If that’s all you can find I recommend using half the amount of molasses and adding an equal part of golden syrup. Unsulphured molasses should work fine.
- If you can’t find molasses at all, treacle is a great substitute.
Tips for this Gingerbread Cake:
- Dec 15, 2019 – Recipe revised to make taller layers. The layers should bake up to be 2″ tall in three 6″ cake pans.
- This recipe uses fancy molasses, which is a lighter, sweeter molasses. Do NOT use blackstrap molasses. If that’s all you can find, use half blackstrap and half golden syrup.
- If you have gingerbread spice mix you can use 3 3/4 tsps of that instead of the spices in the cake batter.
- If you plan to make gingerbread houses as decoration, learn from my mistakes and let them set properly between stages.
- Learn how to keep your cakes moist using Simple Syrup.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, see my tips here.
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar lightly packed
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 3/4 cup fancy molasses do NOT use blackstrap, see FAQ section of post
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup buttermilk room temperature
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 8 oz cream cheese full fat, room temperature
- 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour three 6″ cake rounds, line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Add sugars and beat on med-high until pale and fluffy (2-3mins).
- Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add molasses and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
- Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition. Do not overmix.
- Spread batter evenly into prepared pans. Smooth the tops with a spatula.
- Bake for approx. 30-35mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
- Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy (2 mins). Add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Add vanilla and beat until fluffy (3 mins).
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with 2/3 cup of frosting. Repeat with remaining layers and apply a thin coat of frosting all over the cake to crumb coat. Chill for 20mins. Frost the cake with a rustic pattern using the remaining buttercream.
- Top with gingerbread and sprigs of rosemary if desired.
Updated Nov 1, 2022. Originally published Nov 27, 2016.
If I substitute dark brown sugar for molasses do I omit where it calls for brown sugar so there isn’t too much
Hi Kathy! You can’t substitute the sugar for the molasses. It won’t give the same result flavour or texture wise!
Baked this cake for Christmas day and everybody loved it. It’s a keeper. Thanks for the recipe.
Hi Giuseppe! Thanks for the wonderful feedback. I’m so happy everyone loved it.
I made this recipe 2 Christmas’s in a row and made it totally gluten and dairy free. It was fabulous! Everyone raved about it!
Hi Kathy! So happy to hear that. Thanks for the feedback!
How can I keep this moist when I make 1-2 days ahead!
Hi Rinda! 1-2 days should be fine and the cake should not dry out. It’s a very moist cake but if you’d like to make sure it’s extra moist you can use simple syrup on the cake layers when stacking: https://livforcake.com/simple-syrup-recipe/
I am so excited to make this for my mom’s 70th tomorrow. I had a really hard time deciding between gingerbread and the caramel gingerbread. Do you think the gingersnap cookie layer would go good in this cake?
Hi Jessica! For sure! I think it would be delicious 🙂
Farmer Sam says
You should buy a mini gingerbread house pan from Nordicware. They turn out perfect and beautiful and all you have to do is add some icing or decorations if you choose to. No assembly required.
Hi Farmer Sam! That would definitely have made the whole process easier 🙂 I love the Nordic Ware Bundt pans. I have the pine forest one but not the gingerbread.
Can this be used for cupcakes… If so what would be the temp and time for cooking.. Thanks 🙂
Hi Michelle! For sure, I talk about this in the Tips section above the recipe: To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so.
This worked so well with Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour instead of All Purpose Flour.
Hi Karen! Awesome, thanks for your tip!
This was a very nice cake with a nice crumb. For the fancy molasses substitution, I used half Grandma’s molasses and half dark corn syrup (which has molasses as an ingredient). It definitely was not too “molassesy”. I might even try 3/4 molasses, 1/4 dark corn syrup next time. I made it for my daughter’s 13th birthday; our family loved it! I used 2 8″ cake pans. Many thanks!
Hi Juliana! So happy you all loved it. Thank you for your tips!
Made this as a Christmas cake, used the cream cheese frosting as just a filling and then covered the cake in a Swiss meringue. It was so tasty! 100% will make again
Hi Maddy! So glad you loved it! Thanks for the feedback 🙂
Hi Olivia, I want to make this cake for Christmas dinner dessert. How far in advance can it be made? Thanks!
Hi Lindi! You can make both components well in advance otherwise the finished cake will be fine for 2-3 days in the fridge 🙂
For the Cake: Cool the layers, double wrap in plastic wrap, freeze for up to 3 months. Take out 2-3 hours before assembly.
For the Buttercream: Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for 1 week for freeze for 3 months. Bring to room temperature and rewhip before using.
Thank you so much for letting me know. Looking forward to making this for Christmas!
Let me know how you like it! 🙂
I want to make this cake this weekend for Christmas and I can’t find fancy molasses. Would unsulfured molasses work the same/ what adjustments should I make if I use unsulfured molasses?
Hi Sarah! I *think* that should work ok. If you taste the molasses and it isn’t too strong/bitter (blackstrap would be) then it should be fine. Or you can use part molasses and part golden syrup to tone it down.
Its on amazon i just bought it
Newbie here. If I’m doing two 8” instead of three 6” do I need to adjust temp or baking time? And forgive me in advance if it’s on your website somewhere & I didn’t find it. I did download your ebook!
Hi Stephanie! The temperature would stay the same but baking time may be slightly shorter. And no worries at all, it’s a great question. I hope you love this cake and the book!!
If it is for family, I have been known to glue gun small gingerbread houses. 🙄
Haha! I don’t blame you ONE bit. I don’t think I’ll ever bother again.
I have been waiting for 9 months to make this gingerbread cake. Love it!!! Do you think it would work well in a 9″ stoneware bundt pan?
Hi Mary! I think it should work fine! Be sure to increase the baking time. Let me know how you like it! 🙂
Thinking of doing a lemon & ginger cake for my friend.. thought I’d use this cake base with zest & juice of lemons.. then fill with lemon curd with some diced stem ginger.. but not sure on the icing flavour or style for around the cake.. also currently having a horrendous heatwave in England so wouldn’t want one too hard to work with.. something to make it feel more summer vibes than Christmas vibes. Any suggestions?
Hi Liz! I think a cream cheese frosting would be delicious as it pairs well with lemon and gingerbread, but it is on the softer side for sure, so may not be best for the heat 🙁 Mind you any buttercream is a challenge in the summer!
Hi, I would like to make this recipe in two 9 inch pans. Should I double the recipe for that?
Hi Sankavi! You could for sure, but you may need to increase the recipe somewhat. Converting pan sizes is always tricky. Here’s a site I use as a guideline: http://www.joyofbaking.com/PanSizes.html I would maybe 1.5x the recipe.
Hi I have a question! I’m making this but I’ve noticed you used buttermilk and brown sugar but no baking soda, I am just wondering why? I’m wondering weather I should add a little or not.
Hi Evelina! I use baking powder instead of baking soda. I would not add any to this recipe.
I am unable to find Fancy in stock anywhere. Will Barbados molasses work?
Hi Stacey! I haven’t tried it so I can’t say for sure. If you try a taste is it very bitter or does it have some sweetness to it? If the former I would use half molasses and half golden syrup.