Elegant & Simple Gingerbread Cake Recipe

Elegant & Simple Gingerbread Cake Recipe

Testing three different recipes yields a bakery quality holiday cake perfect for sharing or snacking.

A silver square tray with a gingerbread cake dusted with powdered sugar

Why this recipe works:

  • I tested three recipes before finding this combination of simple ingredients which make for a potent and flavorful cake.
  • Five spices- black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and dry mustard make an incredible smokey, spicy and sweet cake.
  • The touch of coffee, vanilla and buttermilk means this cake is rich and moist.
  • Baking in a shallow square cake pan instead of a loaf pan means the cake bakes more quickly and will be less likely to dry out.
  • Dusting with confectioner’s sugar elevates this simple cake into something extraordinary.
piece of gingerbread cake on a white plate with a fork topped with cream

Baking notes and credits:

This recipe is a combination of three recipes I tested. The first recipe was by Dorian Parker who used to work as a caterer with Martha Stewart and Sara Foster. I liked her recipe, but it called for two loaf pans to bake the cakes. It took forever and the end result was a bit dry. But- I loved her use of dry mustard and coffee. It gave the cake an unusual smokey and deep spicy taste which I really liked.

A collection of silver trays and bowls filled with spices, flour, cream, coffee and dry baking ingredients

Next I reached out to my trusted New York Times Recipe group on Facebook. We discussed David Lebovitz’s recipe at length, but it was almost too simple. I tried it out and it was good- really moist, but… required fresh ginger. I needed a bit more simplicity.

So then I made the third cake in a square pan, dusted with cocoa powder. Added in buttermilk, keep the dry mustard and coffee and added in ground ginger instead of David Lebovitz’s fresh. I loved the taste of fresh ginger, but I felt it made the recipe a bit more difficult if my readers do not have ginger at home.

five silver teaspoons filled with spices
this recipe is loaded with spices
 silver tray with light brown sugar and butter
Softened butter is a must

I always have fresh ginger- I highly recommend grating in fresh ginger, but if you do not have it- the ground ginger (provided it is fresh and hasn’t been sitting in your pantry for three years) is wonderful, warm and earthy.

No one used vanilla and I found adding in my own vanilla paste was a nice touch.

a square baking dish dusted with cocoa powder
Dusting you pan with butter, flour and finishing with cocoa powder means you will not have white edges to your cake

Elegant & Simple Gingerbread Cake Recipe

This simple cake has anything but simple flavor. I use 5 spices plus molasses, coffee, buttermilk and vanilla to make a fantastic snacking cake to give to friends or just to serve with afternoon tea. Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. Most of these are dry ingredients.
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: British
Keyword: cake, gingerbread
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 389kcal


  • 2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting pans
  • 3 ½ cups All purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP Baking powder
  • ½ tsp Baking soda
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1 tsp Ground Cloves
  • 1 tsp Ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp Dry mustard
  • 12 tsp Unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups Light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 large Eggs, beaten
  • 1 ½ cups Mild molasses, Do NOT use black strap
  • ½ cup Brewed strong coffee
  • ½ cup Buttermilk or plain greek yogurt
  • 1 TBSP Vanilla Paste
  • ¼ cup Confectioner’s sugar- for dusting
  • 1 cup Whipped, heavy cream lightly sweetened


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour two 8″ x 8″ square baking pans or round cake pans. Dust lightly with cocoa powder to prevent cake from having white streaks.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, dry mustard and pepper in a large bowl.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until fluffy and pale yellow. Add in the sugar and beat for two minutes on medium speed. Add in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Pour in the molasses in a steady stream until fully incorporated. Stir in the coffee, Buttermilk and Vanilla paste -mix for 1 minute on low.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add in the flour mixture until it is just combined with the wet ingredients Do not over mix. Scrape down the sides with a spatula and finish stirring by hand to prevent over-mixing.
  • Pour the mixture evenly into the two prepared cake pans. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean or with just a few crumbs. If the cake is browning too quickly, place a piece of foil over the top to prevent drying out.
  • Remove cakes from the oven and set to cool on a wire rack. Invert onto a serving tray to serve after 10-15 minutes of rest. Once completely cooled, dust with powdered sugar using a doily to create a beautiful sugar pattern. Serve with whipped cream or salted caramel ice cream.


  • The cake is fantastic warm, but can be difficult to slice.
  • Purchase doilies from the grocery store or from my Amazon Store- click on Shop on my website.
  • If you do not have buttermilk, room temperature yogurt works fine.
  • Make certain your spices are fresh. this greatly affects the flavor of the cake.
  • Back strap molasses is too bitter for this recipe. Use a mild molasses.
  • Nutrition

    Calories: 389kcal

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