Gluten-Free Gingerbread Layer Cake With Chocolate Buttercream

December 12, 2022
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Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 40 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 12 to 16
Author Notes

This deep moist chocolate cake with a gingery kick seems like the perfect thing to whip up during the depths of winter to warm your cake loving soul. However, I find myself making it at all times of the year for friends who love to throw out conventions and have gingerbread no matter what time of year it is. The baking spices complement the rich cocoa cake perfectly, and the fluffy buttercream—topped with the sugary crunch of candied ginger—is a crave-able foil for the moist comforting cake.

This chocolate gingerbread cake reminds me of the soft spiced ginger cookies in German Christkindl markets that are often dipped in chocolate. Two types of ginger are used to achieve the flavor: the dried ginger adds a rounded spice flavor, while the candied ginger adds not only some spicy heat but some textural contrast in the moist fluffy cake. The ginger flavor will develop some as the cake sits, so I like this cake better on the day after baking.

As the cake is an oil-based cake, it has a much softer richer texture than butter-based cakes, and a longer shelf life as well. The olive oil doesn’t taste of olives at all, but you can use another neutral oil of your preference, such as sunflower oil.

While this is a wintertime showstopper, it is also simple enough to put together with the kids, as I often do. There’s just enough measuring and whipping to keep them interested and the spicy sweet flavors appeal to adults and children alike.

The simple American-style chocolate buttercream is a winner and can be used for many other applications as well. If the buttercream stiffens up as it sits, feel free to add a tablespoon more of milk at a time to reach the consistency you desire while re-whipping. If it seems a bit loose, add one tablespoon of powdered sugar at a time to thicken. Don’t skip the salt in the frosting, it really balances out the sweetness from the sugar and is crucial to a balanced flavor in the end.

This cake is best served at room temperature. The frosted cake can be stored in an airtight container for up to 48 hours at cool room temperature and up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Once the cake is cut, press plastic wrap or beeswax wrap up against the cut portion to prevent it going stale. If the cake is in the fridge, remove and let warm to room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving. —Rachel Ciordas

What You'll Need
  • Cake
  • 2 cups (260g) One to One Gluten Free Flour Blend (Bob’s Red Mill and Better Batter have worked well)
  • 3/4 cup (63g) Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for dusting pans
  • 1 cup (200g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (8g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (6g) baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (4g) ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon (3g) ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1g) freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon (8g) Diamond Crystal Kosher salt
  • 1 cup (227g) hot water (or coffee)
  • 1/2 cup (113g) cold water
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (100g) mild tasting olive oil (or a neutral oil like sunflower oil), plus more to grease the pan
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 batch chocolate American buttercream (below)
  • 3/4 cup (138g) candied ginger, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • Chocolate Buttercream
  • 6 cups (681g) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup (227g) softened unsalted butter OR for non-dairy, use organic palm shortening or non-dairy butter
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) whole milk or non-dairy milk
  • 3 ounces (85g) dark chocolate or chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 tablespoons (11g) Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon (3g) Diamond Crystal Kosher salt
  1. Make the cakes. Heat the oven to 350ºF, placing an oven rack in the center of the oven. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans with olive oil and line with parchment or dust lightly with cocoa powder. Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add the wet ingredients, making sure to break up the eggs, and whisk together until smooth and combined. Divide the batter equally among the two pans (650g per pan, if using a scale). Tap each pan lighting against the surface of your work table to eliminate any air bubbles. Bake the cakes for 25 to 30 minutes until they spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the pans on a cooking rack and let cool completely before turning the cakes out.
  2. While the cakes bake, make the buttercream. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using an electric mixer), whip the butter and the sugar until fluffy, then add the rest of the ingredients and beat on slow speed for 1 minute, then increase to medium high speed and beat until light and creamy.
  3. Place one layer of the cake on a plate or a cake board. Transfer ⅓ of the chocolate buttercream on top. Sprinkle half of the candied ginger in the buttercream between the cake layers. Stack the other cake layer on top. Spread the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the layer cake with an offset spatula. If your kitchen is warm and the cake seems too soft to frost, refrigerate for 20 minutes before continuing to frost the cake. Use the reserved half of the ginger on top to decorate.

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