This Gingerbread Cake has three deeply-flavored gingerbread cake layers filled with cranberry jam and a silky cream cheese and mascarpone frosting. Decorate this winter wonderland cake with sugared rosemary trees and cranberries. Prepare to wow your guests this holiday season with this show-stopping dessert!
This recipe was originally published in December of 2018. I’ve just updated it with new photos, and added the cranberry jam between the layers. The rest of the recipe has not changed.
Why you’ll love this recipe:
- Moist Gingerbread Cake Layers – Three moist cake layers are full of molasses, ginger, and warm spices for that classic gingerbread flavor!
- Cranberry Jam – Use your favorite homemade or store bought cranberry jam between the cake layers.
- Creamy Frosting – This frosting uses cream cheese, mascarpone, and butter for the creamiest frosting that’s perfectly balanced.
- Butter – I always use salted buter for the best flavor, but feel free to use unsalted butter if you prefer.
- Molasses – You can find this in the baking aisle at the grocery store. Do not use blackstrap molasses – it’s different than regular molasses and will make your cake taste unpleasant.
- Cream cheese – Use the full fat, block-style cream cheese.
- Mascarpone – This can be found near the specialty cheeses (blocks of cheese, not near the packaged sliced cheese).
- Buttermilk – Use lemon juice and regular milk to make buttermilk – details in the recipe card below.
- Dairy-free – Use your favorite dairy-free substitutes to make this cake dairy-free.
- Mascarpone – You can sub cream cheese in the same amount as the mascarpone if desired.
How to Make this Recipe Step-by-Step:
Step 1: Make the Gingerbread Cake Batter. Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the eggs, vanilla, and molasses. Then, alternate adding the dry ingredients (whisked together in a separate bowl) and the buttermilk to your molasses mixture.
Step 2: Bake. Divide the batter evenly between three prepared cake pans, and bake as directed in the recipe card below. Let layers cool completely on a wire rack.
Step 3: Make the Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and mascarpone for 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar in 3 additions, then mix in the vanilla and a pinch of salt. You’l have an incredibly creamy frosting!
Step 4: Assemble & Frost the Cake. Place a cake layer on your stand or cake turntable, and spread it with some of the frosting. Pipe a border of frosting around the edge of the cake layer, then spread 1/2 cup of cranberry jam or cranberry sauce (homemade or store bought) inside this border. Repeat with the remaining cake layers. Chill the cake between each layer to help stabilize things. Apply a light layer of frosting to the top and outside of the cake for a naked look, using a cake scraper to help smooth and/or remove frosting where desired.
Step 5: Make the Sugared Rosemary & Cranberries. Make a simple syrup of sugar and water on the stovetop, then use this simple syrup to coat your rosemary and cranberries before rolling them in granulated sugar. Use these to decorate your cake!
This is the perfect cake for any holiday gathering, or to serve with your Christmas dinner! It looks elegant, but the decorating techniques are really quite simple – and the ginger flavor is incredible. Even beginner bakers can make & decorate this cake! It’s the time of year for all things festive – and I hope this gingerbread cake recipe is at the top of your baking list!
Expert Success Tips:
- Cake Batter – Be sure to follow the mixing directions in the recipe for the cake. Mixing things in their proper order, for the proper amount of time helps avoid a dense cake.
- Sugared Rosemary – Let the simple syrup cool a bit before adding the rosemary, so it doesn’t turn brown in the heat.
- Flour – Spoon & level your flour for best results. Scooping the measuring cup directly in will lead to too much flour. Or use a scale, and weigh 135 grams of all-purpose flour per cup.
- No-Stick Cakes – To grease and flour a cake pan, rub shortening all over the inside of the pan with a paper towel, then add flour to completely coat the shortening, tapping out any excess. It never fails!
- Sugared Rosemary & Cranberries – These can be made a day ahead! Store the in an airtight container in the fridge, with a small bowl of uncooked rice in the container to prevent them from getting soggy.
- Cake Layers – Bake and cool the cake layers at room temperature, then place each on a dinner plate and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Store at room temperature for 24 hours before assembling the cake.
- Frosting – Frosting can be made 1-2 days ahead and stored in the fridge in an airtight container. Let it sit out at room temperature for a bit to soften before using. Use a mixer to help smooth it back out.
- Cranberry Jam – Feel free to use a homemade cranberry sauce in place of store bought jam! My cranberry sauce recipe works beautifully.
- Frosting – Feel free to sub cream cheese in the same quantity as the mascarpone if you prefer not to use the mascarpone.
- Caramel Sauce – I think a drizzle of my salted caramel sauce would pair deliciously over a slice of this cake!
Serving + Storing this Recipe:
Once fully assembled, I recommend chilling the cake for at least 30 minutes to help everything set up before slicing and serving. Store leftovers, with plastic wrap over the cut side of the cake, in the fridge in an airtight container for 4-5 days.
(The links below are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you make a purchase using that link.)
- Offset Spatula – Offset spatulas make frosting a cake so easy! They can also be used for spreading cake and brownie batters evenly.
- Cake Turntable – If you make even a few cakes a year, a cake turntable makes the frosting process a breeze!
- Piping Bag & Piping Tip – I like to use a reusable piping bag and a Wilton 1A or 2A piping tip for piping the borders between layers, but you can use a plastic bag with the corner snipped off in a pinch. I used a Wilton 1M piping tip for the swirls.
- White Sparkling Sugar – This adds a pretty sparkle to the top of the cake and looks like a fresh snowfall!
More Gingerbread Recipes to Love:
- Best Soft Gingerbread Cookies (Vegan option!)
- Gingerbread French Toast
- Overnight Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls
More Layer Cake Recipes to Love:
- White Forest Cake
- Perfect White Birthday Cake
- Caramelized Winter Wonderland Cake
- Peach Cobbler Cake
- German Chocolate Cake
- Raspberry Chocolate Ganache Cake
- Best Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Did you make this recipe? Snap a photo and leave a comment!
Gingerbread Cake with Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting
For the Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour can sub all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 and 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 cup salted butter, softened at room temperature
- 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature room temp
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup molasses not blackstrap!
- 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature see note if you want to use regular milk
For the Frosting
- 1 and 1/4 cups salted butter, softened at room temperature (2 sticks + 4 tbsp)
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese no need to soften!
- 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 and 1/2 tbsp milk
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
For the Sugared Cranberries + Rosemary Trees
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar, for rolling
- 7 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
For the Cranberry Jam filling
- 1 cup cranberry jam I just used store bought! Mine was technically a jam, but the canned cranberry sauce should also work.
- Make the Sugared Cranberries + Sugared Rosemary Trees: Mix water and sugar in a medium pot on the stove. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for a bit before dipping the rosemary in the mixture (this helps keep the rosemary from browning). Set aside on a plate or small pan lined with parchment paper to dry for 15 minutes. Next, add the cranberries into the mixture in the pot. Cover with a dish towel and let sit 10 minutes. Remove cranberries (save the syrup!) and set on a piece of parchment paper to dry for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour before sugaring. (I've made these in a rush before and only waited 15 minutes and they turned out just fine.)After the dry time is up for each element, roll in a bowl of granulated sugar and set on a new, dry piece of parchment paper and let set 10 minutes before using or storing (see make ahead tips below).
- Prep: Grease + flour three 9-inch cake pans and set aside. Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Make the Cake Layers: Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl (flour through nutmeg, as listed above). Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream softened butter with a hand mixer. Add sugars and mix on high for about 2 minutes, until well creamed together. Add the eggs, 2 at a time, and mix on medium until just combined. Add molasses + vanilla and mix until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula. Mix in 1/3 of the flour mixture on low speed. Add 1/3 of the buttermilk, then mix on low speed. Repeat until everything is mixed in and just incorporated. Evenly distribute the batter between your prepared pan (use a kitchen scale or eyeball it). Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until cake layers look just done and a toothpick comes out clean or with moist crumbs, not thick wet batter.Let cake cool in the pans 10 minutes, then invert onto cooling racks. Let cool completely before frosting or storing.
- Make the Frosting: In a large mixing bowl, cream softened butter, cream cheese, and mascarpone together with an electric mixer for 2 minutes on high speed. Mix in the powdered sugar, 2 cups at a time, until well combined. Add milk, vanilla, and salt and mix until well combined. Add up to 1/2 cup additional powdered sugar if the frosting is too thin or could use a little extra sweetness.
- Assemble + Frost Cake: Place one cake layer on your cake stand, and spread with 1 and 1/4 cups of the frosting, spreading the frosting out and a bit over the edges of the cake. Pipe a border of frosting around the edge, and then add 1/2 cup of the cranberry jam. Spread it evenly with an offset spatula within the piped border. Add the second cake layer and smooth the frosting overhang around the sides to seal the layers together. Chill for 5-10 minutes, then repeat with second layer. Add the top cake layer upside down to create a level top to your cake. Use remaining frosting to cover the top of the cake and dot the bare sides of the cake in random places, all the way around. Use a cake smoother/scraper to smooth the dots of frosting by holding it against the side of the cake, and slowly turning the cake and pulling the cake smoother towards you while turning the cake the opposite direction. Continue until desired naked cake effect is reached. Create swirls on the top of the cake using a spoon, and decorate with the trees (place the sprigs upside down to make trees) and cranberries. Sprinkle with white sanding sugar for a fresh snowfall effect.
- Serve + Store: Chill the assembled cake for at least 30 minutes before serving. Store leftovers tightly covered in the fridge for 4-6 days.
- Make Ahead Tips: The frosting and cake layers can be made a day in advance, along with the sugared cranberries and rosemary trees. Make cake layers and let cool completely. Place each on a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Store at room temp until ready to use. Cover frosting tightly and keep in fridge – take out a little bit before frosting the cake so it's not solid as a rock and un-spreadable. Sugared cranberries + rosemary can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge, in an airtight container with a small bowl of rice inside, to prevent sogginess.