A classic gingerbread cake, from a vintage recipe. Served warm, topped with warm caramel sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.
For me, there is nothing that captures the holiday season on a plate better than warm gingerbread. It’s such a wonderful thing to have around for a festive dessert or simply a special treat anytime.
This vintage recipe makes a truly classic gingerbread cake, that is beautifully moist, nicely spiced and features a generous molasses flavour. Classic gingerbread is not a sweet cake, so I love to pair it with a sweet sauce, such as the caramel sauce I’ve used here. Finish off your cake with a dollop of whipped cream and enjoy.
There is no single flavour that captures the holiday season for me more than warm gingerbread.
This recipe makes a large 9×13 cake, but it keeps very well at room temperature and can also be frozen and enjoyed as needed from the freezer.
Ingredient Notes for Old-Fashioned Gingerbread Cake
Molasses: You’ll absolutely want to use “Fancy” molasses for this cake and not the harsher flavoured Blackstrap or Cooking Molasses (which is a blend of Fancy and Blackstrap Molasses), which will produce a quite bitter cake.
Brown Sugar: You can use light or dark brown sugar here. For my cake here, I used half light and half dark. Keep in mind that dark brown sugar has more molasses flavour, so if you want to keep your cake lighter on the molasses flavour, use light brown sugar.
Cook’s Notes for Old-Fashioned Gingerbread Cake
I love a perfect square of gingerbread, so I like to line my baking pan with parchment so I can lift it out once cooled and trim the thin edges away (make great little snacks or cut them up and make a trifle dessert with them!). Simply trim away the outside edges by 3/4-1 inch, then cut the remaining cake into neat squares about 3 1/2 inches square.
I find the caramel sauce the perfect, sweet compliment for the lightly sweet cake. For the whipped cream, I go with a just a bit of sugar to sweeten, so the overall dessert doesn’t tip too far to the sweet side. If you’d like to skip the sauce, just go with a more generously sweetened whipped cream to balance it out.
The caramel sauce can definitely be made ahead and refrigerated. It will firm up in the fridge, but just needs a quick warm in the microwave or a small saucepan to liquify it again.
Do follow the recipe instructions as written, even though you may find yourself wondering why you can’t just add the cinnamon and nutmeg with the ginger into the dry ingredients (I’ve always wondered :). Likewise, be sure to take the time to beat the eggs in a small bowl before adding to the batter. I don’t claim to completely understand why it’s done this way, but the great results speak for themself, so I follow them to the letter.
Other Sauce and Topping Options for Your Gingerbread Cake
Go a little boozy with a Buttered Rum sauce or simply add some rum or bourbon to your caramel sauce.
Lemon sauce is a classic with gingerbread cake.
Try a classic vanilla sauce, such as Creme Anglaise.
Some people love the combination of peaches with gingerbread and top it simply with drained canned peaches.
More Gingerbread Flavoured Recipes You Might Like …
Classic Gingerbread Cake
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 cup butter or vegetable shortening
- 1 cup brown sugar packed, light or dark or a mixture
- 1 cup Fancy molasses
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp fine salt
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 large eggs well beaten before adding to batter
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar packed
- 3 Tbsp dark brown sugar packed (or use more light brown sugar if you have no dark brown sugar)
- 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream 35% b.f.
- Pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 325F (not fan assisted). Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan or two 8-inch square pans. Line with parchment paper if you'd like to easily remove your cake(s) from the pans after baking.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and ginger. Set aside.
- (Start heating the 1 cup of boiling water for the next step)
- In a large bowl with an electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar, until well creamed, 1-2 minutes. Add the molasses, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt and blend until well combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
- In a medium bowl, pour the boiling water over the baking soda, then add to the molasses mixture, stirring to combine. Add the dry flour mixture, stirring until well blended. Add the well-beaten eggs and mix well.
- Pour batter into the prepared pan(s). Bake for 50-60 minutes for a 9x13 cake or 35-45 minutes for two 8-inch pans, or until a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Serve warm or cold with just whipped cream or made the Caramel Sauce to serve on top, as well.
- For the caramel sauce: Combine butter, brown sugars, cream and salt in a medium saucepan on the stove-top over medium heat. Stir until butter melts and mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 4 minutes, or until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Use immediately or remove to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed. Sauce will solidify when chilled, but will liquify again once reheated. Re-heat in the microwave or a small saucepan.