Table of Contents
  1. This is an easy yet delicious snack cake for Christmas.
  2. Everything you’ll need to make this recipe.
  3. Here’s how to make this recipe.
  4. These pro tips will make this recipe a success.
  5. Frequently asked questions about this recipe.
  6. You'll love these other holiday desserts.
  7. Watch how to make this recipe.
  8. Have I convinced you to make this recipe?
  9. Gingerbread Spice Cake Recipe

This gingerbread spice cake is one of the recipes my grandma loved to make during the holidays. While she prepared a hard sauce, this molasses-forward cake is topped with a cream cheese frosting that brings the whole thing together. If you’re looking for a full-flavored recipe to bake this holiday, this is the one to prepare!

This is an easy yet delicious snack cake for Christmas.

Gingerbread is a term that’s used loosely during holiday baking. The word evokes a seasonal feeling, but what is it? Gingerbread should include ground ginger and can include a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and anise. Often gingerbread is sweetened with molasses and brown sugar. Both give the traditional dark color and a sweet depth of flavor. This recipe is an old family staple that my great Grandma Hirschey would make. The flavors are the same that she used, with an updated cream cheese frosting. The sweet tang of the cream cheese balances the heavy molasses cake for a festive and seasonal treat.

Wood cutting board with square gingerbread spice cake topped with sugared cranberries sitting on piece of white parchment all on marble surface with small bowl of cranberries and green garland.

Everything you’ll need to make this recipe.

  • Molasses adds a definitive richness to the cake without adding too much sweetness. In fact, molasses could even be said to contain some bitter notes. And while that may sound a bit scary, the molasses is what gives this cake so much of its flavor and dark color.
  • Baking soda is the leavener of choice that’s employed in this recipe. The baking soda reacts with the molasses to create the rise the cake needs.
  • Ground ginger will provide the underlying gingerbread flavor that’s essential in this recipe. It will play well with the molasses and impart the perfect amount of spice to the cake.
  • Ground cloves add just a hint of spiciness that’s welcome during the holidays. Cloves can be overwhelming, so make sure to measure precisely when adding to the batter.
  • Brewed coffee brings out the richness of the gingerbread and molasses. For those that do not like coffee, do not fear. There is no resulting coffee flavor in the cake. It’s purely used as a heightener of the other flavors in the recipe.
White marble surface filled with all of the ingredients needed to make a gingerbread spice cake including molasses, eggs, spices, flour, sugar, coffee, and more.

Here’s how to make this recipe.

  1. Mix together the wet ingredients. In a large bowl, add the butter and sugar. Using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Once creamed, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is evenly mixed. Add one egg at a time and mix each one into the butter and sugar mixture until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again, then add in the molasses and vanilla extract. Mix those two ingredients into the batter until homogenous.
  1. Add in the dry ingredients. To the wet batter, add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and while mixing, slowly pour in the brewed coffee. 
  1. Bake the cake. Once all of the ingredients are evenly mixed, pour the batter into a greased 9×9 baking dish. Using a spatula, smooth out the top of the cake. Bake at 350°F for 40 to 50 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean. Once fully baked, remove it from the oven and let it cool for two hours while preparing the frosting.
  1. Prepare the cream cheese frosting. In a bowl, add the cream cheese and butter. Using a hand mixer, mix those two ingredients together until combined and light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the powdered sugar, cognac (or vanilla extract), and salt. Mix all of the ingredients together with the cream cheese mixture until fully incorporated and smooth. Give the frosting a few final turns with a spatula or spoon to ensure everything is fully mixed.
  1. Frost the cake. Once the cake is fully cooled, add all of the cream cheese frosting on top. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting to an even layer. Serve immediately.

These pro tips will make this recipe a success.

  • Allow the butter and sugar to cream for a full three to five minutes. Allowing the mixture to work in air over this amount of time will create a lighter and fluffier mixture that will lead to a better cake once baked.
  • While some recipes would have you alternately add the dry ingredients and the brewed coffee to the wet ingredients, this recipe simply combines them all and mixes everything. It worked for my grandma, and it’ll work for us too!
  • To keep the cake’s density light, do not overmix it with the hand mixer. Mix the brewed coffee and dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined, then finish mixing with a spatula or spoon. This controls the amount of air that’s worked into the cake and results in the perfect texture.
  • For this recipe’s butter and cream cheese, make sure they are all at room temperature. This will ensure that they cream together when mixed. Simply set the butter and cream cheese out on the counter about 30 minutes to an hour before preparing the cake.
  • Make sure that the cake is fully cool before adding any of the frosting to the top. If there is any warmth to the cake, it will cause the cream cheese frosting to melt, which will thin it out and cause it to weep.
Square of gingerbread spice cake topped with cream cheese frosting and sugared cranberries sitting on piece of parchment on wood surface with the rest of the cake in the background.

Frequently asked questions about this recipe.

Can this recipe be made using a stand mixer rather than a hand mixer?

Yes, this can be made in a stand mixer or even with no mixer at all. Just as when using a hand mixer, if using a stand mixer, make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

Could this cake be enjoyed without the frosting?

The cake has a strong depth of flavor, and the sweet frosting balances out the bitter notes. If the frosting is omitted, try making a traditional hard sauce or lemon curd to serve alongside the cake.

Can this cake be baked, frosted, then frozen?

Yes! Simply prepare the cake as normal, including adding the frosting, then slice it into individual pieces. Place each individual piece in an airtight container and place it in the freezer.

How long does this cake last once baked?

Once frosted, the cake should be placed in an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator or the freezer. In the refrigerator, the cake will last seven days. In the freezer, it will last up to three months.

Do I need to use coffee?

The coffee brings out the molasses flavor and does not produce a coffee-flavored cake. If you are worried about caffeine, you can use decaf coffee, or water can be used in place of the coffee.

This gingerbread spice cake is one of the recipes my grandma loved to make during the holidays. While she prepared a hard sauce, this molasses-forward cake is topped with a cream cheese frosting that brings the whole thing together. If you’re looking for a full-flavored recipe to bake this holiday, this is the one to prepare!

Watch how to make this recipe.

More Christmas desserts

Have I convinced you to make this recipe?

I hope you make this recipe and put some food on your table. Leave a comment and share a star rating so you let others know how much you love this recipe. This helps show others that this is a recipe they too can make, enjoy, and love!

Square of gingerbread spice cake topped with cream cheese frosting and sugared cranberries sitting on piece of white parchment paper on wood cutting board with rest of the cake in the background.

Gingerbread Spice Cake

5 from 4 votes
This gingerbread spice cake is one of the recipes my grandma loved to make during the holidays. While she prepared a hard sauce, this molasses-forward cake is topped with a cream cheese frosting that brings the whole thing together. If you’re looking for a full-flavored recipe to bake this holiday, this is the one to prepare!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Cooling Time 2 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 5 mins
Servings 12 servings

Ingredients

For the cake

  • ½ cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • ½ cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup brewed coffee

For the frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese room temperature
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar sifted
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1-2 tbsp cognac (optional) (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

Instructions
 

For the cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×9 baking dish with butter or nonstick spray and set it aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition to evenly incorporate. Once the eggs are added, beat in the molasses and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth.
    ½ cup unsalted butter, ½ cup white granulated sugar, 2 large eggs, 1 cup molasses, 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. At a low speed, beat slowly while adding the brewed coffee in a steady stream. Once all the coffee and dry ingredients are incorporated, fold the batter a few times by hand to ensure everything is evenly mixed.
    2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, 1 ½ tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 ½ tsp ground ginger, ½ tsp ground cloves, ½ tsp kosher salt, 1 cup brewed coffee
  • Pour the prepared batter into the baking dish and bake in the preheated 350°F oven until the cake is domed and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean, 40-50 minutes. Once the cake is baked, remove it from the oven and set it aside to cool for 2 hours before frosting. Once the cake is cooled, frost and serve.

For the frosting

  • In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until it is soft and smooth, 2-3 minutes. Add the cognac (or vanilla extract), powdered sugar, and salt. Beat it slowly until the powdered sugar is incorporated and smooth.
    8 oz cream cheese, 2 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar, 1-2 tbsp cognac (optional) (or 1 tsp vanilla extract), ¼ tsp kosher salt

Notes

  • Allow the butter and sugar to cream for a full three to five minutes. Allowing the mixture to work in air over this amount of time will create a lighter and fluffier mixture that will lead to a better cake once baked.
  • While some recipes would have you alternately add the dry ingredients and the brewed coffee to the wet ingredients, this recipe simply combines them all and mixes everything. It worked for my grandma, and it’ll work for us too!
  • To keep the cake’s density light, do not overmix it with the hand mixer. Mix the brewed coffee and dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined, then finish mixing with a spatula or spoon. This controls the amount of air that’s worked into the cake and results in the perfect texture.
  • For this recipe’s butter and cream cheese, make sure they are all at room temperature. This will ensure that they cream together when mixed. Simply set the butter and cream cheese out on the counter about 30 minutes to an hour before preparing the cake.
  • Make sure that the cake is fully cool before adding any of the frosting to the top. If there is any warmth to the cake, it will cause the cream cheese frosting to melt, which will thin it out and cause it to weep.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 420kcal
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Difficulty Easy
Method Baking

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Kaleb

I’m Kaleb! I'm not a chef, professional baker, landscaper, or designer, but I like to play each on Knollgate Farm. Come join me on my journey and let's learn together!

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3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Excellent. Served the cake with whipped cream and everyone loved it. Rich and dark and cake was moist and delicious. Coffee in place of water elevated the taste.

  2. 5 stars
    Kaleb, this looks great! I made something similar recently for my client and she loved it! Now we will do your recipe! I am a personal chef to a very high maintenance woman and it’s the best job in the world. You, indirectly, have been a player in my success as I have used dozens of your recipes to assure she is kept well fed and having a new array of wonderful things to nosh on daily! Thank you!
    Cheers!