This old-fashioned Gingerbread Cake is perfectly spiced with ginger, cinnamon, and rich, delicious molasses. A sweet and simple holiday classic from my mom’s recipe binder.
It’s Christmas which means it’s time to bring out the big guns. In my kitchen, that means Mom’s recipe binder.
Let me try and put into words my feelings for this truly beloved Gingerbread Cake recipe.
It brings back a flood of memories of not just the holidays but specifically, Sunday evenings when Mom would frequently pull her freshly baked gingerbread out of the oven. There was no special gathering, no party, just the family on a random Sunday night. I always suspected it was her way of softening the blow as the weekend was ending and school was just hours away. And, man did it work!
Taking a bite of this cake is like stepping back into the past for me. A flood of warmth, love, and comfort.
Table of contents
- Butter: Mom’s original recipe and many others from back in the day, called for shortening instead of butter. I substitute butter and it works beautifully for this Gingerbread Cake.
- Molasses: I use Grandma’s Original Unsulphured Molasses. See below for more molasses details.
- Large egg
- Hot water: I use my tea kettle to get the water boiling but you can boil it in the microwave or any which way you’d like.
- Dry Ingredients: All-purpose flour, granulated sugar, and baking soda.
- Spices: Ground ginger, cinnamon, and a little salt.
- Optional Toppings: Powdered sugar and whipped cream.
The Best Molasses for Classic Gingerbread Cake
To create true, old-fashioned gingerbread flavor, you want to be sure you’ve got the right type of molasses for the job.
This recipe calls for regular, unsulphured molasses like the Grandma’s brand pictured above. It is plenty deep, dark, and flavorful but believe it or not, it is considered to be light molasses in comparison to the dark variety (sometimes labeled as “full flavor” or “robust”) or blackstrap molasses. The darker varieties are less sweet and even somewhat bitter and while some taste buds may be very happy with that, I’d highly recommend going with basic, unulsuphured molasses for the most crowd-pleasing result.
How to Make Gingerbread Cake
- Wet Mixture: Use an electric mixer to cream together the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the molasses and egg and beat until well combined.
- Dry Mixture: In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, ground cinnamon, and salt. Use a spoon to blend the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
- Hot Water: Add the hot water and stir until you have a smooth, silky, but thin cake batter. After you add the hot water it’s going to look like a hot, soupy mess and you might think I’ve lead you down the wrong path, but I promise it’s going to be wonderful! Pour the batter into a greased 10-inch baking dish.
- Bake: Transfer the gingerbread to a preheated 325 degree F oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Tips for the Best Gingerbread Cake
Measuring Cup Hack: When measuring sticky ingredients, like molasses, coat the inside of your measuring cup with nonstick cooking spray for easy release of the molasses into your mixing bowl. It works like a charm and the frugal mom in me rejoices as every last drop glides right out of the cup and into my recipe. When spraying, make sure you hold the cup over the bowl or over the sink – not over your kitchen floor – or you’ll be slip, slidin’ away…
Use Hot Water: Adding hot water to the batter enhances the depth of flavor. It also helps dissolve the molasses more effectively.
Baking Time and Temperature: The total baking time will depend on the size of your baking dish, your individual oven, and the precise distance from the Earth to the Moon as well as a variety of other immeasurable items, so when you feel it’s looking good, please check it by inserting a toothpick in the center. When it comes out clean, you are good to go. Overbaking can dry out the cake, so use a toothpick or cake tester to check for doneness.
Big Batch: For a large group, this recipe can be doubled and baked in a 12- x 17-inch rimmed baking sheet. You’ll end up with lower profile “sheet cake” style gingerbread that will serve 16 to 20 people, depending on how you slice it. Follow the recipe as directed but reduce the baking time to approximately 26 to 30 minutes.
One of the keys to my happiness in life is serving this gingerbread slightly warm so even if I’ve baked it the day before, I like to pop individual servings in the microwave for just 10 to 15 seconds to warm the cake ever-so-slightly.
Where there’s gingerbread, there must be freshly whipped cream. This is not negotiable.
It is our routine to sprinkle the still slightly warm gingerbread with a bit of powdered sugar (make it snow!) and add a dollop of homemade whipped cream. Trust me… it’s a beautiful thing.
Gingerbread Cake holds up very well and may even taste better the next day as the flavors richen. Store any leftover cake in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week.
I hope you’ll try Mom’s recipe this holiday season and create some sweet and lasting memories for your own family.
More Old-Fashioned Holiday Treats
- Pumpkin Gingerbread
- Jam Thumbprint Cookies
- Cranberry Swirl Bundt Cake
- Eggnog Thumbprints
- Chewy Iced Molasses Cookies
- ½ cup butter, softened
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsulphured molasses, I use Grandma’s Original Unsulphured
- 1 egg
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- powdered sugar and whipped cream, for topping
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Coat a 9- or 10 inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Use an electric mixer to cream together the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the molasses and egg and beat until well combined.
- In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Use a spoon to blend the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Add the hot water and stir until well incorporated and the batter is smooth. Pour into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- It is delicious served slightly warm, topped with powdered sugar and whipped cream!
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.