My mother has been talking about this cake since last summer. "Kristi, you need to make a gingerbread cake with lemon sauce. You gotta do it."
Apparently, this cake was a staple in her childhood. A moist cake full of seasonal spice, topped with a dollop of whip cream, and drenched in a flavorful lemon sauce. Served warm, the cake absorbs the sauce, allowing the bright citrus to liven up the rich spice of the cake. Alone, the cake and sauce don't have a lot of sweetness. By topping it with a sweetened whipped cream, you add a layer of sweat creaminess that makes this cake irresistible.
The Evolution of my grandmother's recipe:
My grandma loved baking, but she was a busy woman with a houseful of kids, a full time job, and a handful of a husband [Happy Jack, as people liked to call my grandfather was a wonderful man with the go-go-go of the Energizer Bunny].
Needless to say, her original recipes are few and far between, and a lot of the recipes I remember from her come from a cookbook that has been passed down through the women in my family.
It has so many wonderful recipes, but there is something about the cakes they used to make that are just a bit dry. I've updated the recipe a bit to help keep the feel of the cake the same while making it moister.
Key Ingredients for the Gingerbread Cake:
- Butter: Originally, the recipe called for ⅓ of a cup of butter. I upped the quantity to ½ a cup. Doing so allows for more fat in the cake. The more fat, the more flavor and moisture.
- Sugar: While I kept the amount of granulated sugar the same, I added a ¼ cup of brown sugar. Because "gingerbread" gets its color and rich flavor from molasses, adding a dark brown sugar will only add to that final robust flavor.
- Eggs: I doubled the eggs for the recipe. A second egg will add more fat ( fat = moisture and flavor), but it will also serve as a leavening agent, lifting the cake to a lighter texture.
- Oil: I love adding 2 tablespoon of oil to almost every cake I make. I find it is the difference between a super moist cake and a decently moist cake.
- Spices: The original recipe only called for 2 teaspoon ginger and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. This is not nearly enough of a flavor punch! I used 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground cloves, and ½ teaspoon allspice. By adding more spices and increasing the amount of ginger, the final flavor comes out more well-rounded and impactful.
- Molasses: While I didn't change the amount of molasses in this recipe, I do think it's important to talk about how not all molasses is created equal. A good molasses is so thick, it is slow to pour out. One of my favorite's is Grandma's Molasses. It's rich and full of flavor. For this cake, I used half molasses and have sorghum. While similar and flavor, I find sorghum thinner and a bit more sour. It helps balance the flavor of the spices really nicely, especially if you use whole milk instead of buttermilk in the cake. If you do use buttermilk, I'd highly recommend sticking with all molasses, which has a sweeter flavor.
Key Ingredients for the Lemon Sauce:
This gingerbread cake would be nothing without the lemon sauce. Essentially, it's a thinned out lemon curd, and you'll want to drench everything in it.
- Eggs: The recipe only uses the egg yolks. The yolks add a creamy texture while also developing a beautiful yellow color.
- Sugar: While the lemon will provide a tartness to the sauce, the sugar binds with the eggs to create a curd like texture.
- Cornstarch: While you can whisk to your hearts content and make an old fashioned sauce, I like to cheat a little and use cornstarch. It helps bring everything together a bit faster with a bit smoother consistency.
- Butter: Not only adding flavor, the butter aides in thickening the sauce as it cools.
- Lemon: Using both juice and zest, the lemon serves as the core flavoring for the sauce. You want it bright and bold! Don't be afraid to add more lemon juice and less cream to really increase that sour punch. Also, the zest will stay in the sauce, making it have little clumps. If you want a perfectly smooth sauce, let it cool completely and strain to remove the zest.
- Heavy Cream: This helps make the sauce more opaque, while thinning it out. Up until this point, you've essentially made a lemon curd. You could leave the cream out and spread curd on the cake. That would be delicious and multi-functional because then you'd have curd for scones or toast. But, I prefer to thin it out, so it really absorbs into the cake.
I hope you enjoy this gingerbread cake with lemon sauce as much as our house did!
--Love and butter, Kristi
Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Sauce
- ½ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- 2 cups cake fl our
- 2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- ⅔ cup molasses
- ¾ cup buttermilk or whole milk
- 2 tablespoon oil
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter cold
- 2 medium lemons (the zest and juice)
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and line an 8x8x2 inch cake pan. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars for 6-8 minutes, until light and u y. Add eggs one at a time.½ cup unsalted butter, ½ cup granulated sugar, ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, combine fresh ginger, milk, oil, and molasses. Alternate adding dry and wet ingredients into the stand mixer until fully incorporated.2 cups cake flour, 2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground cloves, ½ teaspoon allspice, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 large eggs, ⅔ cup molasses, ¾ cup buttermilk or whole milk, 2 tablespoon oil
- Pour batter into cake pan and bake 45-55 minutes, until a knife put into the center of cake comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
- In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients except heavy cream. Turn heat to medium low and begin whisking. After about 5-6 minutes, the mixture will begin to thicken. Add in milk and continue to mix for another 3 minutes. Pour over individual cake slices, serving hot.½ cup granulated sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 large egg yolks, 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 2 medium lemons, ¼ cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoon cornstarch