The Perfect Christmas Dessert: Lemon Gingerbread Cake
Lemon Gingerbread Cake – 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.
Lemon Gingerbread Cake
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 its 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.
How to Decorate a Cake
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).
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!
Other Holiday Cakes You’ll Love
- Gingerbread Latte Cake
- White Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel Cake
- Chocolate Orange Cake
- Cranberry Citrus Cake
Lemon Gingerbread Cake
Gingerbread cake layers with lemon curd and whipped lemon mascarpone frosting.
FOR THE CAKE
- 3 1/4 cups (390 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons (5.3 g) ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons (5.3 g) cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (9 g) salt
- 1 teaspoon (4 g) baking powder
- 1 teaspoon (4 g) baking soda
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup (200 g) brown sugar
- 1 cup (250 g) molasses
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups (300 g) buttermilk, room temperature
FOR THE LEMON CURD
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
- 1 tablespoon (6.25 g) grated lemon zest, plus ½ cup (121 g) lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
- Pinch of salt
- 3 whole eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 4 tablespoons (56.5 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
FOR THE MASCARPONE FROSTING
- 1 cup (231 g) heavy whipping cream
- 8 oz. mascarpone
- 2 cups (250 g) powdered sugar, measured then sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.1 g) lemon extract
For the Cake
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch round pans with nonstick spray, line with parchment paper and spray again.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and fluffy,.
- Add in the brown sugar and beat on medium-high speed for another 2 minutes.
- On medium-low, gradually add in the eggs and molasses until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat again for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and nearly double in volume.
- Alternating between dry and wet, add in the flour mixture and the buttermilk in three additions on low speed.
- Once mixed, place the batter into the prepared pans, about 15-16 ounces of batter in each pan.
- Bake 25 to 30 minutes.
- Cool cakes in pans for about 10 minutes and then invert onto wire cooling racks to cool completely.
For the Lemon Curd
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Mascarpone Frosting
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Transfer to another bowl and set aside.
- In the same bowl for the electric mixer, combine the mascarpone, powdered sugar and lemon extract. Mix on medium speed until incorporated.
- Gradually fold in the whipped cream to the mascarpone mixture.
- Use right away.
- 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).
- 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.
- Pipe a rim of frosting around the edge of the cake and spread about ¼ cup of the lemon curd inside the rim of frosting.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
What kind of molasses would you suggest? Cooking, blackstrap, or fancy? Thanks!
I used cooking molasses. (Grandma’s brand)
Can this be made ahead and stored in the fridge?
Alternatively, can I make ahead all the components and store in the fridge a couple of days before assembling?
What can I use instead of molasses?!
There’s really no substitute for molasses in this cake. It’s essential.
If i’m freezing this cake, do i need to wait for it to thaw before assembling?
Can I freeze the whole cake once assembled and frosted? Traveling by car for the holidays and want to bring this cake.
Yes! Once its all assembled, put it in the freezer for another 30-60 minutes. Then lightly wrap it a couple times with saran wrap and put in a cake box for transporting!
Can this recipe be used with 4 6×2” pans? If so would cooking time and temperature stay the same.
I saw you briefly on the Kelly Clarkson show and you were making this lemon gingerbread trifle but I couldn’t find the recipe just the cake and it sounds delicious but I don’t have the time to make that delicious cake but was wondering if I can get the trifle recipe if you could tell me where it is because that seems a lot easier to make and sounds just as delicious! Thank you!
I’m getting it up on the blog very soon!
Looks amazing. Can you suggest a different frosting? Marscarpone, while delicious, doesn’t work in my family.
My vanilla buttercream is great.
I want to make cupcakes our of this recipe. Would the frosting hold it’s shape for decoration or should I use your regular buttercream?
Use my regular buttercream.
Hi! From the UK Do you use light brown or dark brown sugar? And molasses the same as black treacle? Thanks!
Light brown! and stick with molasses if you can find it!
So excited to try this cake What is the green decoration on top of the cake in your picture? Rosemary?
I made this and loved it! I turned it into cupcakes instead of doing the layer cake (bake for 13 minutes instead of 25) and they turned out so well! This was a fantastic dessert and fun to make!
I’d like to make this in a Bundt pan. Do I need to adjust the ingredients at all?
Made this for my husband’s birthday and it was amazing!!! Also a lot easier to assemble than I thought it would be. The whipped mascarpone frosting is so light and not too sweet that the guests who usually don’t eat the frosting ate it all!
If making into cupcakes how would you adjust the bake time? And would you hollow and fill the cupcakes with the lemon curd? Thanks!!! So excited to make these for thanksgiving
I made this cake last year to take to a Christmas luncheon and everyone LOVED it. My friends picky mother was visiting and raved about it. She is coming back this year and has already asked my friend if I could make the cake again. It’s fantastic. The marscapone frosting is so good and not as sickly sweet as a buttercream–perfect choice.
Thank you so much!