Elegant & Simple Gingerbread Cake Recipe
Testing three different recipes yields a bakery quality holiday cake perfect for sharing or snacking.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Elegant & Simple Gingerbread Cake Recipe
- 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.