Spicy Gingerbread Cake

December 12, 2012

Isn’t it funny how tastes change how our tastes change when we get older? Take beer and coffee. Both of them are prime examples of the kind of foods that we grow into liking. Remember in college, how girls used to wrinkle their nose and say “I don’t like the taste of beer”? Now a days, everybody I know is a beer connoisseur or some kind of coffee expert! I’ve seen friends of put away pints of super-hoppy double-IPAs, licking their lips with relish, when four years ago they couldn’t even handle the taste of Corona Light... too funny.

Gingerbread is one of those flavors and foods I kinda grew into — these days, I can't get enough of its rich, complex flavor:

But let me tell you, I really hated gingerbread as a kid. My mother wasn’t a baker, so I remember being incredibly excited when I saw a pack of homemade gingerbread men at my fourth-grade bake sale. I wish I had a picture of the cookie — it was your quintessential gingerbread man, right down to the gumdrop buttons and white gel frosting. I’d never had a gingerbread cookie before, so I didn’t know what to expect. My fourth-grade self could barely contain my excitement at the cookie.

But then I bit into it. I almost immediately spat it out. What was this black magic? The cookie was, well, spicy — cookies weren't supposed to be spicy — and didn’t taste at all like the chocolate chip cookies and Oreos that my fourth grade self always wanted. I guess that was the moment that traumatized me, because from that point on, I always avoided ginger-flavored desserts and baked goods.

It wasn’t until my time in San Francisco that I began to realize that ginger baked goods weren’t the root of all evil. My friend Matt and I sometimes went to Chow, a restaurant in the Castro neighborhood known for its mediocre food, but fabulously gorgeous waiters. Although I enjoyed our eye candy, I always left the restaurant particularly wanting. Until I tried their signature dessert, ginger cake with salted caramel and pumpkin ice cream. It was then that I realized how good ginger cake could be — dark, spicy, and complex, perfectly complemented by the sweetness of the caramel and pumpkin.

And this gingerbread cake is all those things:

I didn't succeed in finding Chow's recipe online, so I went ahead and chose a recipe from another one  San Francisco's famous and beloved staples: a bakery called Miette.

I'm pretty sure my fourth-grade self would have wrinkled my nose at this cake — it's got all the flavors I grew into the last few years. With lots of ginger, dark molasses, spicy cloves, and even stout beer(!), this gingerbread cake packs a lot of dark, spicy flavor. Thanks to the stout beer and molasses (the secret ingredients), it's also incredibly moist, which is key for any ginger-baked good. The cake gets its sweetness from the cream cheese frosting, which is the cream cheese frosting of my dreams: creamy and sweet, but with a slight tangyness.  

Keep in mind this recipe makes two petite cakes — one for sharing, and one for yourself.

Spicy Gingerbread Cake
(Adapted from Miette)




For the Gingerbread Cake:
(makes two 7-inch cakes)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons stout beer (e.g. Guiness)
  • 3/4 cup dark molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
(makes about 3 cups, enough for a generous layer of frosting on both cakes)
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons (5 1/2 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 cups (1 lb.) cream cheese, at room temperature


For the Gingerbread Cake:
  1. Liberally butter two 7-inch cake pans and dust with flour. Tap out the excess flour.

  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons stout beer and 3/4 cup dark molasses, bringing to a boil. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon baking soda — be careful and whisk constantly, as the mixture will foam up when ou add the soda! Remove immediately from heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

  3. Preheat the oven to 350 (F). 

  4. Sift together 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside.

  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine 2 eggs, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Whisk on medium speed until well combined and lightened in color, about 3 to 4 minutes. 

  6. Once the sugar and egg mixture has lightened, slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup vegetable oil and beat until combined. 

  7. Once the oil has been combined, reduce the mixer speed to its lowest setting and slowly add the stout and molasses mixture (from the second step). Once the stout and molasses mixture has been added completely, stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scape down the sides of the bowl.

  8. Turn the mixer back on to its lowest speed and slowly add the dry ingredients (the flour and spice mixture from the fourth step), beating until just combined. 

  9. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula, and fold the batter by hand a few more times with the spatula. Strain the batter through a medium-mesh sieve into a clean bowl, and divide it between the prepared pans.

  10. Bake until nicely risen and lightly browned at the edges, about 45 to 50 minutes for the cakes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Run an offset spatula around the edges of the pans, then invert the cakes onto the racks and let cool for another 20 minutes. 

  11. When the cakes are completely cooled, top off with cream cheese frosting (recipe follows).

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons butter with 1 cup powdered sugar.  Beat until completely smooth and glossy.

  2. Add 2 cups cream cheese to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until combined. Use immediately.



  1. I didn't like gingerbread until just a few years ago and now I am in love with the spiced flavors! I have to try this cake! YUM.

  2. Yum. I love trying new recipes!

  3. I, like you, didn't care for gingerbread as a child. Now,one of my favorite cookies is molasses, which if you don't know, is like a chewy gingerbread. Over the weekend I had lunch at Mama Mia Trattoria and for dessert I ordered the Gingerbread Roulade. It was served with pumpkin ice cream and apple compote. It was very yummy. I look forward to trying this recipe for gingerbread cake.

  4. Seriously? Yum! I so can't bake but would love a slice or two. :)

  5. Our squares are neighboring on FG and because I've wanted to buy the Miette cookbook and b/c I love your green cakestand and b/c I love a good gingerbread cake - I had to click over. It looks phenomenal!

    And love your description of the Chow waiters :)

    1. Too funny — late last night, I was reading some article by the Huffington Post where they talk about their favorite food bloggers, and you were one of them! They linked to your blog in the article, so I definitely spent some time on your site gawking at all your beautiful pictures and yummy looking recipes. Thanks for taking the time and stopping by mine!

  6. OMG your photos are so beautiful! Love that green cake stand and the colors!! Wherever you learned food photography did a good job! ;)

    1. Thanks! I'm actually a self-taught photographer, so if you look through my blog, you'll see that the pictures are sometimes hit-or-miss. I tend to do a lot of my photos in natural light, so as you know (being a Portland blogger and all :-) ) , Portland winters are not doing me any favors with its constant rain. But I'm still learning!

      I also love your blog -- I've clicked on some of your posts on Portland Blogger Facebook group. Dressmaking/fashion isn't my forte, so I'm super impressed by some of the projects I see on your blog! Keep up the good work!

  7. Oh, this looks heavenly! I think I'm going to give it a try!

  8. Funny thing because I have actually always loved gingerbread since I was a kid (it reminded me of holidays spent with my Dutch family!) I suppose that since I cannot remember the first tiem I ate it I just assumed it tasted great haha.

    I LOVE the idea of the stout beer though- I'd never heard of that before. Will definitely be trying it in my next gingerbread.

    ps. I found your blog via foodgawker and LOVE the photographs.

  9. I love gingerbread!!! I'm going to have to try this recipe! I also adore your cake stand!


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