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Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Similar to many gingerbread recipes, the flavors of this cake tend to mature and improve over time. Freshly baked, it boasts a light and airy texture. However, allowing it to rest for a day, securely wrapped, works magic on its moisture levels, enhancing its richness as the warm spices intensify. Regardless of when you choose to indulge, this cake exudes a comforting and delightful appeal, making it an ideal addition to your holiday table. Moreover, if gingerbread cookies for decorating the base are not on hand, there's no need for concern. This cake possesses enough standalone charm to impress on its own.



  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (see Cook's Note)
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the baking pans
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger  
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda  
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon   
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg  
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves  
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt  
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar  
  • 2 large eggs  
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract  
  • 3/4 cup unsulphured molasses  
  • 1 cup boiling water


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature  
  • One 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature  
  • 4 cups (1 pound) confectioners' sugar  
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract  
  • Milk, as needed for thinning


  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips  
  • 20 to 24 mini gingerbread men cookies, depending on size  
  • Red, green and white nonpareils, for sprinkling

Special equipment:

a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip or a plastic ziptop bag


  1. For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each with a parchment round.
  2. Stir together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a large bowl and set aside. 
  3. Combine the brown sugar and butter in another large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as needed, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined (it's fine if the mixture looks a little curdled). 
  4. Stir the molasses into the boiling water in a large spouted measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the molasses mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, increase the speed to medium and beat just until smooth.  
  5. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 22 to 27 minutes. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans on a wire rack. Once cool, invert the cakes onto the rack, then peel off and discard the parchment.  
  6. For the frosting: Combine the butter and cream cheese in a clean mixer bowl. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the confectioner's' sugar, beating until combined. Add the vanilla and gradually increase the speed to high. Beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, adding up to 1 tablespoon of milk if needed so the frosting is spreadable.  
  7. Place one cake layer flat-side down on a cake stand or platter. Top with about 3/4 cup of the frosting, spreading almost to the edges using an offset spatula. Place the remaining cake layer on top, flat-side up. Spread the remaining frosting on the entire cake and smooth the top and sides with the offset spatula. Refrigerate the cake while you decorate the gingerbread cookies. 
  8. For the decorations: Meanwhile, microwave the white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl until just melted. (Alternatively, melt the chips in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; do not let bowl touch the water.) Let cool slightly and put into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip (or use a plastic ziptop bag with the corner snipped off). Pipe eyes and smiles on the gingerbread cookie faces.
  9. Arrange the merry gingerbread men side by side around the bottom edge of the cake, pressing in slightly to adhere. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the nonpareils.