Sweet molasses and warming spices come together to create the ultimate holiday Classic Gingerbread Cake!!
It's Christmas time which only means one thing. Well two things. One, we are stuffing our faces with cookies on repeat. And two, this classic gingerbread cake is warming not only our bellies but our souls. Its comfort in cake form. Something we all need a little extra of right now. I feel like if Christmas had a scent, gingerbread would be it. The spices entangle the senses and surround you like a warm hug. And lets not forget about the star of the show, molasses. Its sweet, its smoky, and oh so perfect for creating the most epic holiday cake.
Gingerbread is a pretty big deal in our house. My Aunt Clara was famous for her gingerbread. Everyone raved about how moist, epically spiced, and just how plain good it was. So naturally, I had to try my hand at her recipe. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint. One bite, and I could see what all the hype was about. Every morsel was perfection with the right amount of ginger to sweetness There's something about a vintage recipe. You can taste the love and the thought in each bite.
Tips for baking soft Classic Gingerbread Cake
- Granulated Sugar - Before settling on granulated sugar, I first tried using light brown sugar. My thought was that the flavor of the brown sugar would marry beautifully with molasses and spices. Although it was a good combo, I found that brown sugar did not impart the sweetness I was looking for so I decided to go with granulated instead.
- Molasses - There are many different types of molasses, each of which has a distinct flavor. I used Grandma's unsulphured molasses in this recipe. We will get in a little more detail about different types of molasses below!!
- Spices - Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves are the standard spices when baking your standard gingerbread. Aunt Clara used a teaspoon of each in her recipe, but I find that clove can be very overpowering when used in a large amount. I cut back and used ½ teaspoon instead. I also increased the ground ginger from 1 teaspoon to 1 ½ teaspoon to get more of that ginger flavor.
- Hot water - When making the batter for this gingerbread cake, you will notice that it is very thick. Hot water is used to help thin the batter. It also helps loosen the strands of gluten in the flour ensuring a lighter textured gingerbread.
Types of molasses
- Unsulphured vs Sulphured Molasses - Unsulphured molasses is made from the juice of sun-ripened sugar cane. The sugar cane is cut, crushed, and the juices are extracted. The extracted juices are boiled down creating a rich, thick syrup. During this first boiling process, only a small amount of sugar is extracted resulting in the dark liquid that is molasses!! Sulphured molasses is made from sugar cane that has not yet matured. Because of this, it is treated with the preservative sulphur dioxide during the sugar extraction process. This second boil makes sulphured molasses darker in color, less sweet, and it has a more pronounced and slightly chemical flavor.
- Dark or Robust Molasses - Dark molasses results from the second boiling of sugar cane. It is less sweet, thicker and darker in color than light molasses.
- Blackstrap Molasses - Blackstrap molasses results from the final boiling of molasses. Blackstrap molasses is the darkest and thickest of the three. It is less sweet and has an almost bitter flavor. It is also the healthiest because it retains its vitamins and minerals!! Blackstrap molasses is better utilized in savory dishes.
Choosing the right molasses can be daunting. But unsulphured molasses is usually the way to go in most baking recipes.
How to make Classic Gingerbread Cake
- In a medium size bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth.
- Add egg and molasses and mix until combined.
- Add flour mixture to wet mixture in three batches and mix to combine. To ensure the flour is incorporated, I find it easiest to mix first with with a handheld mixer then finish with a spatula. Because the batter is thick, adding the flour in batches will ensure the flour is fully incorporated.
- Once the flour is combined, slowly add hot water and mix until smooth. Batter will be very thin.
- Pour into prepared 9 x 13 pan and bake!!
How to store
This gingerbread cake is the ultimate Christmas cake so don't be surprised if you don't have any leftovers. However if you do, it is best stored in an air tight container at room temperature for up to four days or in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze in plastic bags until you are ready to enjoy!! Make sure you allow your cake to cool until it is room temperature before freezing. When you are ready to enjoy, thaw your cake in the refrigerator or at room temperature. I suggest microwaving for at least ten seconds after its thawed because gingerbread is always at its best when its warm.
How to serve
There are so many ways you can serve gingerbread. This is a choose your own adventure kind of cake!! You can serve it with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, a dollop of mascarpone, or get a little crazy and frost it with a little buttercream. Many vintage recipes also call for a little lemon glaze on top. My favorite way to eat gingerbread however will always be plain, or with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. I like to taste the spices and molasses without anything getting in my way.
Also a must, eating it right after it slight cools. Nothing can compare to a warm, fluffy soft slice of gingerbread straight from the oven. I'm getting excited just thinking about it. So do yourself and your family a favor this Christmas and make this gingerbread cake. I promise it will taste like Christmas with every bite!!
Classic Gingerbread Cake
- 9 X 13 cake pan
- ½ cup unsalted butter 1 stick
- 1 cup molasses unsulphured
- 1 large egg beaten
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 ½ cups flour sifted
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Pre heat oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Grease a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, cream together granulated sugar and butter until light and fluffy
- Add slightly beaten egg and molasses, mix well until combined.
- In a medium size bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
- Add dry ingredients to wet mixture in three batches. Stir to combine with spatula, batter will be thick.
- Slowly add hot water to batter and stir and until smooth. Batter will be very thin.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Allow cake to cool slightly in pan on wire rack. Slice into sqaures and serve warm with whipped cream, powdered sugar, or vanilla ice cream. Or eat it plain!!
Looking for more holiday bakes? Be sure to check out my Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies!!