Gingerbread Cake

A slice of gingerbread cake along with pecans and walnuts, symbolizing the chopped nuts in the cake.

This recipe cooks up a moist, medium-density cake with mild spice and a slightly crumbly texture. I adapted the recipe from the ATF Gingerbread Cake in Melissa Gray's All Cakes Considered. The author selected the name based on the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tax and Firearms on account of the dark beer and chunks of crystallized ginger that characterize the cake. I initially adapted the recipe (and made it gluten free) using Redbridge beer (a lager) and powdered ginger in addition to only a few julienned crystallized ginger candies. The resulting cake was statuesque, chewy-dense, and so robust it bordered on harsh. We consumed half the cake or less.

I poked, prodded, nibbled, conjectured, and settled on halving the recipe (except the one egg,) adding nuts to the batter, and subbing in Coca Cola for the beer. (I also contemplated using orange juice, cold coffee, and/or apple sauce.) Then I slapped the slimmer batter into a 9" round pan to reduce its height (the original crammed twice the batter into the same dimensions.) Something interesting happened to the cake's texture along the way. It lightened, and crumbed a bit immediately after cooling. Served the next morning, the molasses did its work and the cake firmed into the chewier texture befitting a good gingerbread. I served it two ways--with a powdered sugar finish, and with a not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting crowned with more nuts. You could easily double the recipe for a layer cake or for a 9" x 13" sheet.

—  Jessica

Gingerbread Cake Ingredients
Amount Measure Ingredient
Butter (I used salted butter and omitted the dash of salt from the original recipe)
1 Tablespoon
Dark brown sugar
1 Small or medium
1/2 Cup
1/2 Cup
Regular (not diet) Coca Cola or other cola
1-1/8 Cup
Your favorite gluten free cake flour
1 teaspoon
Baking soda
1/2 teaspoon
Guar gum (Guar produces a springier texture, but if you don't have this, you can use Xanthan gum instead.)
1/2 teaspoon
Ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon
Cinnamon (You can use more.)
1 teaspoon
Powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon
Ground allspice
3 slices
Candied ginger, finely diced (or chunked, julienned, etc.) I purchased a package of quarter-size rounds from Trader Joe's.
1/3 - 1/2 cup
Chopped nuts (I used half pecans and half walnuts; raisins could sub in, too.)

Preheat your oven to 350° F. I prefer the convection setting for baking pans less than 4" in height.

If your cake pan is not non-stick, spray the bottom and sides with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, stir together gluten-free flour, baking soda, guar gum, spices, and candied ginger. Set aside.

Using beaters and a work bowl, add the butter and set beaters to medium speed. Beat until the butter breaks up. Add the brown sugar and cream--this should not take long. Beat in egg, molasses, and cola for about a minute. Batter will be wet and lumpy.

Now add the dry ingredients from the small bowl. Scrape the batter from the beaters, and mix in nuts by hand. Spoon into the 9" round cake pan or an 8" square. Check the cake at 25 minutes and bake longer if necessary. The cake will be done when a stainless steel cake tester comes out clean when it has been inserted into the center of the cake.

Remove the cake from the baking pan and let it cool thoroughly on a cooling rack before frosting it with cream cheese frosting or dusting it with powdered sugar. As with most GF cakes, this one will taste best in the first two days. After that, it may need a quick zap in the microwave to revive it before eating. If it's frosted when reheated, you may need to redistribute the glaze.


Cream cheese frosting
Amount Measure Ingredient
1/2 stick
1/2 package
Neufchatel cheese (light cream cheese - 4 ounces by weight)
3/4 Cup
Powdered sugar (more or less to taste)

With beaters, cream the butter, if not softened to room temperature. Then beat in the cream cheese until you get a smooth paste. Add the powdered sugar and when incorporated, taste. I prefer mine not-too-sweet, but adding more sugar will make the cream cheese both sweeter and more voluminous. Some recipes call for half a 16 oz. box of powdered sugar for this amount of butter and cream cheese. We used significantly less and still produced enough frosting to generously frost the cake. If doubling the cake recipe for a layer cake, you'd do well to double the frosting as well.