Gingerbread Layer Cake

We’ve turned the holiday favorite into an elegant layer cake that’s over-the-top delicious with a generous swoop of old-fashioned caramel frosting.

Gingerbread Layer Cake

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Active Time:
28 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 43 mins

If you’ve typically enjoyed gingerbread as an unfrosted snack cake, this layer cake version will be a real treat. We stay traditional to the classic gingerbread ingredients and flavors—lots of ground ginger and other warm spices, plus a good dose of molasses—but we give it the layer cake treatment to make it feel a little more special. We use a standard layer cake method, creaming together butter and sugar, adding eggs, and incorporating dry ingredients for a tender, moist crumb.

Now, where we differ from classic gingerbread tradition is by adding our special Southern spin: a rich, luscious Southern caramel frosting. The sweetness and richness of the frosting perfectly balance the cake’s spicy notes, creating a holiday dessert that’s truly memorable.

Read on for all you need to know to re-create this sweet stunner. 

Gingerbread Layer Cake Ingredients

Most of the ingredients for the cake and frosting are standard baking staples: all-purpose flour, leaveners, different sugars, and dried spices. A few ingredients deserve a special call-out:

gingerbread cake ingredients

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

  • Unsalted butter: We use unsalted butter and add our own table salt, which offers greater control over the final flavor of the cake and the frosting. For the cake, make sure the butter is softened properly, or it won’t cream well with the sugar.
  • Room-temperature eggs: We specify using eggs that are at room temperature for a good reason. If you add refrigerator-cold eggs to the creamed butter and sugar, they will chill the butter, causing the fluffy, aerated mixture to “break” and become curdled. Room-temperature eggs, on the other hand, will incorporate smoothly. If you’ve forgotten to bring your eggs to room temp, simply place them in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes. 
  • Molasses: This dark, sticky syrup has a rich, sweet, slightly tangy, faintly bitter flavor and is a major contributor to gingerbread’s character. Be sure to choose unsulphured molasses (likely what you’ll find most readily), and avoid blackstrap, which has a strong bitter edge.
  • Evaporated milk: We knew we wanted to use evaporated milk for the caramel frosting because its concentrated, almost caramelized flavor would be ideal there. We decided to also use it in the cake for more richness (it worked beautifully), and to help you use up most of the can.  

How to Make Gingerbread Layer Cake

For the cake part, you’ll follow a pretty traditional layer cake method. First, you’ll whisk together the dry ingredients.

whisking dry ingredients together

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Then, you’ll cream together softened butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. After that, you’ll beat in room-temperature eggs, one at a time, and then beat in some molasses. At that point, you’ll add the dry ingredients and beat until the batter is well incorporated.

molasses cake batter

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

You’ll divide the batter between two cake pans and bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center either comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs clinging. You’ll cool the cake layers briefly, then remove them from the pans and allow them to cool completely.

Once the cake is cool, you’ll start the frosting; you don’t want to start it ahead because it will set up fairly quickly. The frosting starts with melted butter that’s cooked and combined with dark brown sugar and evaporated milk until you get a smooth, homogeneous mixture. You’ll transfer the mixture to a large bowl, stir in vanilla and salt, and then beat in powdered sugar until the frosting is smooth.

brown sugar in melted butter

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

About a third of the frosting goes onto the bottom cake layer and then chills for a few minutes to firm up. The top cake layer then goes on top, and the rest of the frosting is spread over it. We only frost the tops of the cake layers, leaving the sides bare; since the caramel frosting is so rich, we don’t want to overwhelm the cake.

slice of gingerbread cake

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

How to Store Gingerbread Layer Cake

Keep the cake covered, and store it at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. If you still have some left, you can stash it in the fridge for up to 5 days; for the best flavor and texture, bring it to room temperature before eating.



  • Cooking spray

  • 3 cups (13 oz.) all-purpose flour

  • 1 Tbsp. ground ginger

  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • 3/4 tsp. salt

  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda

  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 3/4 cup unsulphured molasses

  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk


  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter

  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk

  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 1/2 tsp. table salt

  • 2 1/2 cups (10 oz.) powdered sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottoms of pans with parchment paper and coat paper with cooking spray.

    parchment paper in cake rounds

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

  2. To prepare cake, whisk together flour, ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, and cloves in a medium bowl.

    flour and spices in bowl

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

    Place softened butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

    mixing egg into butter and sugar

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

    Beat in molasses. Beating at low speed, add flour mixture and milk alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat until a smooth batter forms.

    mixing milk into batter

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

  3. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, spreading into an even layer.

    cake batter in cake rounds

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

    Bake at 350°F until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs clinging, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove pans from oven; cool cake layers in pans for 5 minutes.

    round cake layers on cooling racks

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

    Run a thin knife around the outside edge of each pan; invert cake layers onto a wire rack and cool completely, about 45 minutes.

  4. When cake is cool, prepare frosting. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and milk; bring to a boil.

    whisking brown sugar frosting

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

    Cook, whisking frequently, until sugar dissolves and mixture is well incorporated with no butter separation. Pour mixture into a large bowl; stir in vanilla and salt. Beating with a mixer at low speed, gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth.

    brown sugar frosting with hand mixer

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

  5. Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand or platter; spread 1 cup frosting almost to edges. Refrigerate for 5 minutes to set the frosting.

    cake layer with frosting

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

    Arrange the other cake layer on top. Stir remaining frosting, or whisk if it has started to set. Pour remaining frosting on top cake layer, spreading just to the edges. Allow frosting to set before cutting, 10 to 20 minutes.

    frosted cake

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

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