Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream

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This gingerbread layer cake with cream cheese buttercream is perfect for the holidays!

This gingerbread layer cake with cream cheese buttercream is perfect for the holidays!

It’s finally here, the only show-stopping dessert you need this holiday season. This beautiful gingerbread layer cake is exactly what you should be serving guests at your next dinner party or gathering. The recipe is adapted from my favorite magazine Bake from Scratch and I’m officially obsessed! I think this is the best gingerbread cake I’ve ever tasted, with wonderful molasses and spiced flavor, but still so light and tender. I frosted the whole thing with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting and added sugared cranberries and herbs for a little flourish of red and green.

Get ready to wow everyone with this cake, it’s sure not to last long! 

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This gingerbread layer cake with cream cheese buttercream is perfect for the holidays!

My goal with this layer cake was to keep it as simple as possible. I wanted an elegant dessert centerpiece fit for the holidays that wouldn’t take hours to make and put together. This time of year is busy enough! The cake recipe is straightforward and I used just one recipe for the filling and frosting— homemade couldn’t be any easier.

The frosted cake is beautiful all on its own, but to add a final festive touch I topped mine with sugared cranberries, sage leaves, and rosemary sprigs. If you’ve never made sugared cranberries, they’re so fun! Plus they’re super simple and delicious too. A perfect pop of color and flavor.

Notes about this recipe

  • I use coffee in this cake to help add more depth of flavor to the molasses and spices in this cake, but it doesn’t add any detectable coffee flavor. If you are opposed to using it, simply swap for water (since coffee is just flavored water).
  • This cake can be baked in either 8 or 9-inch round pans. 8-inch will be taller, 9-inch will be wider and shorter. You can use 2 or 3 pans, depending on the look you’re going for: double layer (2 pans), triple layer (3 pans), or quadruple layer (2 pans, then slice each layer in half). Baking times will vary slightly, and cakes are done with the edges pull away from the pan, and the center springs back when gently pressed. Bake cakes only on 1 rack placed in the center of the oven. If baking more than 2 layers, bake in 2 shifts.
  • For easy assembly, I completely chill cake layers ahead of time. I usually bake cake layers one day and assemble the next, but a few hours in the fridge will also work. See also, my tips for storing cake layers.
  • Butter cakes have superior flavor to those made with vegetable oil, but the downside is that they can dry out. To combat that, brush cake layers with simple syrup during assembly. It’s optional, but it’ll keep things moist, which is especially beneficial if you’re making this cake a day or more in advance. I’ve included a recipe for a brown sugar rum simple syrup that also adds a bit of flavor as well as moisture.
  • If you need a little help frosting your cake like a (semi) pro, see my full tutorial.
  • For all of my cake tips, see my post on how to build a layer cake. It includes tips on how to prep cake pans, how to bake flat even cake layers, and my favorite cake tools.

This gingerbread layer cake with cream cheese buttercream is perfect for the holidays!

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Gingerbread Layer Cake

This gingerbread layer cake with cream cheese buttercream is perfect for the holidays!

Ingredients:

Gingerbread cake layers:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 226 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (426 grams) light or dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (255 grams) molasses
  • 3  3/4 cup (450 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1  1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1  1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1  1/2 cup (375 ml) brewed coffee

Cream cheese buttercream:

  • 8 ounces (226 grams) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 226 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 6 cups (681 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out (see Notes)

Rum simple syrup (optional):

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (53 grams) light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon spiced rum

Sugared cranberries and herbs (optional):

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) water
  • 1  1/2 cup (300 grams) granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 cups (200 grams) fresh cranberries
  • Sprigs of rosemary and/or sage leaves

Directions:

To make the cake layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two or three 8 or 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease with butter and flour or non-stick baking spray.
  2. Beat the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until pale and creamy, about 3-4 minutes on high.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing and scraping the bowl down after each addition. Mix in the vanilla and molasses.
  4. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Add to the molasses mixture in 3 additions alternating with the brewed coffee. Scrape down the bowl as needed, and mix only just combined.
  5. Divide the cake batter between the prepared cake pans. Bake until edges pull away from the pan and the centers of the cake bounce back when gently pressed, about 25-30 minutes.
  6. Let cakes cool in the pan 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Make ahead: Cake layers can be made in advance. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the fridge for 1 month or more.

To make the buttercream:

  1. Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
  2. Add the powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla bean seeds and beat on high speed until light and creamy, 2-3 minutes.

To make the simple syrup (optional):

  1. Heat the water, brown sugar, and rum over the stove or in the microwave until sugar is dissolved.

To assemble the cake:

  1. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or plate and brush with some simple syrup, if using. Cover with approximately 2/3 cup of the buttercream.
  2. Repeat with remaining cake layers.
  3. Frost assembled completely with buttercream, as desired. Decorate with sugared cranberries and herbs, if desired.
  4. Store cake in fridge until ready to serve.

To make the sugared cranberries and herbs (optional):

  1. Heat the water and 1/2 cup of the sugar over the stove or microwave until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add cranberries and stir until completely covered with the syrup. Remove cranberries with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack set over a sheet pan. Repeat with rosemary sprigs and sage leaves.
  3. Let dry for at least 1 hour.
  4. Toss cranberries and herbs with remaining sugar until completely covered. If making in advance of decorating cake, be sure sugared cranberries and herbs are completely dry before storing.
Notes:
  • In place of the vanilla bean, you can instead use 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste.
Recipe adapted from Bake from Scratch.

Have you tried this recipe?

I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below, send me an email, or take a photo and tag it on instagram with #completelydelicious.