Lemon Gingerbread Cake


Dec 17

Gingerbread cake layers with lemon curd filling and whipped lemon mascarpone frosting.

The idea for this cake came from my mom. She recently told me that one of her favorite holiday desserts is gingerbread cake with warm lemon sauce. I was actually surprised to find out it’s a very traditional dessert for Christmastime. I had no idea! When I think of gingerbread flavors during this time of year, I usually think of gingerbread cookies. I’ve also never thought of using lemon with gingerbread.

My Take on this Classic Holiday Dessert

This flavor combination intrigued me, so I thought about how I’d recreate it in the form of a layered cake instead of the traditional 9×13 pan. Of course, I didn’t want to use a warm sauce on this cake, as it would create too many structural problems. Instead, I made a batch of homemade lemon curd, which would hold up better within the cake layers.

I then thought about the frosting, which in it’s traditional form, would just be whipped cream dolloped on a square of gingerbread cake and lemon sauce. The idea of a whipped frosting sounded perfect for this rich, flavorful cake, but I didn’t want it to be overly sweet. I thought about using cream cheese, but then remembered mascarpone cheese. I love mascarpone cheese. It has a slight tartness and sourness to it, that I think pairs beautifully with this cake and filling.

Decorating Tips

There’s a couple reasons I decided to make this cake with six thin layers instead of the typical three layers. The first and most important reason is that I wanted there to be plenty of lemon curd in this cake, but knew that adding too much curd in between the layers would compromise the structure. If I just used three cake layers, I’d have to add about a half cup of curd in between the layers and it would end up making the cake feel wobbly when you frost.

The second reason for using six thin cake layers is purely aesthetic. I just love how it looks when you slice into the cake!

I mean, come on! How gorgeous is that!

Another quick note about decorating this cake – make sure to chill the cake in the freezer after you’ve stacked the layers and before you frost the outside of the cake. This helps the crumbs to stay in place, so that when you go to frost the cake in a semi-naked style, you don’t get crumbs in your way. (The recipe has just enough frosting to add rims of frosting between the cake layers and to get a semi-naked coat of frosting on it. If you want your cake to be completely covered with frosting, and no layers showing, I’d suggest doubling the recipe).

Final Review

To be honest, I was skeptical about this flavor combination, but decided to try it since it’s one of my mom’s favorite desserts and I trust her opinion about food just as much as my own. Per usual, I made sample bites with cake scraps and leftover filling and frosting. With one bite, I was sold and couldn’t stop snacking! I love this cake, and will likely be making it every Christmas from here on out. It’s so festive and just so delicious.

Hope you love it as much as I do!

Happy baking!

 

Lemon Gingerbread Cake

Yield 1 6-layer, 8-inch round cake

Gingerbread cake layers with lemon curd and whipped lemon mascarpone frosting.

Ingredients

For the Gingerbread Cake (recipe adapted from Tessa Huff)

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, room temperature

FOR THE LEMON CURD

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs, plus 3 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 

FOR THE WHIPPED LEMON MASCARPONE FROSTING

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream (I like Darry Gold)
  • 8 oz. mascarpone
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Instructions

FOR THE GINGERBREAD CAKE

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch round pans with nonstick spray, line with parchment paper and spray again.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.
  3. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high for 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add in the brown sugar and cream together on medium speed for another 2 minutes.
  5. On medium-low, gradually add in the eggs and molasses until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  6. Alternating between dry and wet, add in the flour mixture and the buttermilk in three additions on low speed.
  7. Once mixed, place the batter into the prepared pans, about 15-16 ounces of batter in each pan.
  8. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. 
  9. Cool cakes in pans for about 10 minutes and then invert onto wire cooling racks to cool completely.

FOR THE LEMON CURD

  1. Whisk the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the whole eggs and yolks in a small bowl and then whisk them into the lemon mixture.
  2. Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it's thick like pudding, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time until incorporated.
  3. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, pushing it through with a rubber spatula. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely set, at least 4 hours and up to 5 days. 

FOR THE WHIPPED MASCARPONE FROSTING

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Transfer to another bowl and set aside.
  2. In the same bowl for the electric mixer, combine the mascarpone, powdered sugar and lemon extract. Mix on medium speed until incorporated.
  3. Gradually fold in the whipped cream to the mascarpone mixture. 
  4. Use right away.

ASSEMBLY

  1. Once the cake layers are completely cool, use a cake leveler to divide each of the three cake layers to create six thin cake layers. (You can use a cake lifter to help lift and move each layer to the cake).
  2. On a cake board, spread a small dollop of frosting to hold the cake in place. Place your first of the six cake layers on the board. 
  3. Pipe a rim of frosting around the edge of the cake and spread about 1/4 cup of the lemon curd inside the rim of frosting.
  4. Repeat step 3 for the next four cake layers. For the final cake layer, place it top side down, so the smoothest side of the cake (the bottom) is facing up.
  5. Chill the cake for 15 minutes before applying any crumb coat. (This will help set the filling so the cake doesn't move around when you're decorating. It also helps to keep the crumbs locked to the cake if you're doing a semi-naked cake and won't be doing a final coat of frosting).
  6. Once the cake is chilled, frost the cake with the whipped frosting to create a semi-naked cake layer. This recipe doesn't make enough frosting to completely cover the cake. Double the frosting recipe if you want to get more coverage with your frosting.

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