Confession: I think store bought cake mixes are better than making it from scratch. First of all it’s so much easier. Second of all, devil’s food or even butter cake are just heavenly from a mix.
But gingerbread is the type of cake that must be made from scratch! It’s just a must. Fresh & fancy spices are imperative to making the perfect gingerbread cake!
It also happens to be remarkably easy. And Traditional Gingerbread Cake is perfect with no frosting. I dusted mine with powdered sugar. So there’s one less step with this recipe than most other recipes. If you want to get tips and tricks for your own Traditional Gingerbread Cake Recipe, keep reading and if you are looking for the easy printable recipe scroll to the bottom.
About those Spices
Gingerbread is one of my favorite flavors and I especially love when it has a bit of kick. Like this cookies for example. They are made with a bit of black pepper and cayenne which makes them truly special! We’re not going to add cayenne to this recipe, but we are going to add just a pinch of black pepper. It was traditionally used in gingerbread and I’m just not sure why that tradition has faded away.
You should also never trust a recipe that leaves out the cloves! Cloves are an essential part of the flavor balance. I’m a big fan of cloves in this Banana Bread recipe too. The spice blend in this reminds me of gingerbread!
So what is Molasses, anyway?
Molasses, otherwise known as treacle, is just amazing. It’s the by-product of sugar making! To remove sugar from sugarcane, first the cane is crushed to remove all the juice. Then the juice is boiled until crystals start to form – later becoming sugar. The crystals are removed from the juice and what remains is a sticky, gooey, often dark brown liquid called molasses.
There are many different types of molasses – blackstrap, sulphured and unsulphured, light and dark. Although blackstrap is not really used for baking, the rest of them are just fine. I’m personally a fan of unsulphured (not preserved with sulphur) and dark (it has a full, robust flavor.)
Why am I adding boiling water?
Look, I have to be honest. I just don’t know! It seems like there is a decent amount of moisture being added through the butter and egg. Perhaps less than a normal cake, but still some. And if we’re going to add moisture – why not just add the applesauce? It sounds like a flavorful alternative. And why are there no other cakes that I am aware of that use boiling water?
So my best guess is that it’s just an easy way to add moisture that doesn’t disrupt the spices but that applesauce would work too. Perhaps the water even helps activate the spices. If anyone has the answer, please let me know.
Should I add frosting?
I didn’t add frosting but “yes” is still a perfect answer! Frosting is delicious with everything (am I right?!?) So why not this Traditional Gingerbread Cake Recipe. I would recommend a simple drizzle of crunchy frosting, much like this. But you could also add this Vanilla & Honey Buttercream Frosting which would be wonderful too!
If you decide to dust your with Traditional Gingerbread with powdered sugar like I did, dust it through a paper doily to make a gorgeous pattern. Or use a fine mesh colander like I did.
Traditional Gingerbread Cake Recipe
- 1/2 cup butter softened
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar light is fine too
- 1 cup unsulphured molasses
- 1 large egg
- Powdered Sugar for Dusting optional
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ginger
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup applesauce optional but adds a sticky, flavorful, moistness to the cake
- Preheat your oven to 350° F. Use a 9x9 baking pan. I used a round, but you could use a square too. Butter the pan and dust it in flour. Set aside.
- Combine the butter and sugar using a Kitchen-Aid or other mixer. Beat until fluffy.
- Add the molasses and stir again until blended.
- Next add the egg and vanilla extract and mix again.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt.
- In small batches, add your dry ingredients to your sugar and butter mixture. Mix the ingredients in thoroughly, but be careful to not overblend.
- Slowly stir in the boiling water and applesauce.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake!
- Bake at 350°F for around 40 minutes, turning halfway through cooking time. The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool before dusting or slicing. To dust, use a fine mesh colander and a tablespoon or two of powdered sugar. Gently tap the sugar through the colander across the cake.
Let’s Stay Friends!