Gingerbread Cake with Orange Zest Buttercream

Makes 1 9×9 cake

2 cups gf flour blend (like Measure for Measure)
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice

1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter, melted
¾ cup molasses
¼ cup water
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp fresh grated ginger

For the frosting:

4 cups powdered sugar
2 stick butter, softened
6 Tbsp orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
1 tsp cardamom

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9×9 baking pan.
  • Combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, and allspice together in a large mixing bowl.
  • Combine the melted butter, molasses, and water in a small bowl. Stir in the egg and buttermilk until everything is well blended.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and, finally, add the grated ginger, stirring to combine.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and let it rest on the counter for 15 minutes.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out cleanly.

For the frosting:

  • Add the powdered sugar to a mixing bowl or to the bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Add the butter and beat sugar and butter together until there are no more lumps.
  • Add orange juice, orange zest, and cardamom and stir until completely blended and smooth.
  • If the frosting is too thick/dry, add a bit more orange juice or a bit of milk. If the frosting is too thin, you can add more powdered sugar.
  • Spread a layer of frosting over the cake.

It’s so cold out! This morning, when we came downstairs, the thermometer read the outside temp as -6. And the last few days haven’t been much better. Which has meant that it has been ideal baking weather. Nothing like staying inside and hovering over a hot oven on a day when being outside means feeling the inside of your nose freeze shut. I had loved the idea behind this recipe when we first came up with it — orange and ginger are a match made in heaven — but the final product suffered from some dryness (and the post doesn’t feature my best photography). So it was kind of back to the drawing board, with fewer ingredients and a simpler angle on the recipe. I ended up adapting this one from King Arthur Flour. Also, you may notice that the pictures don’t show a frosted cake — I made the frosting, made the cake, and then ran out of good light for taking photos. A night in the fridge made the frosting pretty unspreadable, even after bringing it back to room temperature. Alas. The cake works equally well with frosting and without, as it turns out!




My favorite kind of cake as a child was spice cake with vanilla frosting. I think, even then, I loved the sweetness of the frosting paired with the subtle flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. For many years, I would request spice cake for my birthday, so I would get one – complete with a My Little Pony piped on top in gel icing.

Now, I have to eat gluten free, so cakes that have an inherent moistness to them translate particularly well to my current diet. And that means that my favorite cake these days isn’t spice cake (and doesn’t tend to have My Little Ponies on it) – it’s gingerbread cake. Gingerbread has a lot of fantastic moist texture going on, probably from its ample butter and molasses situation. So I’ve had a fair amount of success with adapting one of my favorite gingerbread recipes from Shutterbean to become gluten free. Shutterbean’s recipe is a lovely, festive gingerbread topped with a sticky, cranberry compote. I’ve made her recipe exactly before, only substituting gluten free flour for wheat, and it was fantastic. So much so that I have felt little inclined to fiddle with my own gingerbread recipe when trying variations on it – such as the one we’re sharing with you all today.

I made this cake for the first time on my birthday a couple of weeks ago. James at first protested that I should have to bake my own cake – but for me, since I am done with my fall term of teaching, quiet time in the kitchen to bake something beautiful and delicious is one of the best gifts I can get! This recipe is a particularly lovely winter one to hang out near the stove for, since the cinnamon, ginger, and pepper begin to scent the kitchen once the batter starts baking. This cake makes a really special winter birthday cake, or a delicious treat for after Christmas dinner. 

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