The holidays are magical. Wouldn’t you agree that is an accurate word to describe the season? The twinkle lights, the cozy nights spent sitting by a warm fire with a cup of hot chocolate in hand, the smell of freshly powdered snow early in the morning—it’s all enchanting. Well, I created something equally magnificent! Salted caramel gingerbread cake with orange buttercream. Honestly, I have never made anything so beautiful (with the exception of my children). Part of my heart dropped when I cut into it, that’s how much love and adoration I feel for this cake.
Important items needed for salted caramel gingerbread cake with orange buttercream
- No decent gingerbread is made without quality molasses!
- Make sure you get good quality springform cake pans that bake evenly
- Always use butter when making caramel and cake. Absolutely no other vegetable solid subs, please!
You looking to develop soul-stirring attachments to food in your own life? This dessert is your one-way ticket to the true meaning of emotional eating.
Tips for making gingerbread cake
Baking is no cake walk. (Ha!) But really, it requires attention to detail and there are some tricks that help give you a moist, and delicious cake.
- You can make your cakes 2-3 days ahead of time and freeze them. Actually, frosting a cold cake is much easier than trying to do it a couple hours after it’s fresh out of the oven. To freeze them, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place on a flat surface in the freezer.
- The buttercream can also be made in advance too! Simply cover and store in the refrigerator.
Why molasses is a key ingredient in gingerbread cake
This thick, gooey substance has a deep and distinctive flavor, almost like a spicey black licorice. It’s essential for getting that classic “gingerbread” flavor. You should also try my soft and chewy gluten-free gingerbread man cookies if it’s a Christmas dessert you love!
Have you ever baked with molasses? Just thinking about the smell right now makes me gag. It’s wretched, like an overbearing saccharine odor mixed with rotten wood chips and tar. (Somehow I feel like this is doing the opposite of making you want to bake this cake, but stay with me! I promise it is worth the sacrifice, as well as the return of your appetite!)
Fortunately the heavy cream and orange zest are a sort of healing balm to the smell of molasses. And the flour and dry ingredients make it a delightfully Christmas smell once it’s blended together. The batter is thick and dense and gingery. Christmas in a bowl, if you will… A Festivus for the rest of us!
Festive cake toppings
After assembling the heaping tower of frosting and cake comes the fun part—the toppings!
Fresh cranberries and piney fir twigs are simple and beautiful. Then the salted caramel drizzled over a light layer of powdered sugar dust makes it perfect. Make sure to use a fine mesh sieve, like in the photo above, to sprinkle the powdered sugar.
My little kitchen helper kept saying, “It’s snowing!” (Which is a very big deal when living in Southern California—it’s as close as we are getting to the snow! More Christmas magic!)
This salted caramel gingerbread cake is marvelously decadent, and not for the faint of heart (or insulin levels). The zest of the orange buttercream paired with the richness of the dense gingerbread cake and salted caramel gives it a splendid flavor. It’s a delight to all the senses. Serve it after a savory holiday meal, surrounded by candlelight and the ones you love.
Salted Caramel Gingerbread Cake With Orange Buttercream
- 1 cup butter 2 sticks
- 1 1/2 cups unsulphured molasses
- 1 egg well beaten
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 4 1/2 cups flour substitute with gluten-free blend for sensitivities
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
Salted Caramel Topping:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons salted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons salt
Orange Buttercream Frosting:
- 1 cup butter, softened 2 sticks
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed orange juice
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch springform pans.
Place the butter and molasses in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, making sure to stir it constantly. Once it is boiling, transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Add in the egg, heavy cream, sugar, lemon juice, and orange zest and mix with the fitted paddle attachment.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the molasses mixture and mix on low speed until smooth. The batter will be thick and dense. Pour equal amounts into both springform pans, and bake on 350° for about 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes clean when inserted in the middle.
- While the cakes bake, make the salted caramel topping. In a small saucepan, heat the cup of sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden or heat-resistant spoon. After about 5 minutes, the sugar will begin to melt and turn a golden amber color. Once it is melted, add in the butter and stir until it melts and is well-mixed. Next, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Mix thoroughly and bring to a boil for about 1 minute. Be careful not to burn it! Remove from heat, add in the salt, and allow the caramel to cool.
- Remove the cakes from the oven once they are finished baking. Allow them to cool for about 5 minutes, then pop them out of their forms onto a large surface. Let them further cool until no longer warm.
- While cakes cool, make the orange buttercream frosting. Place the softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the butter for about 2-3 minutes until fluffy and lightened in color. Slowly add in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add in the vanilla, heavy cream, orange juice, and salt. Mix on high for about 30 more seconds to make it light and fluffy.
- Place one cake round on a cake stand or plate. Frost the top with 1 cup of the orange buttercream frosting, until about 1/2 inch thick. Place the next cake round on top frost with 1 cup of buttercream. To give the cake a naked frosting look, use your icing spatula to bring the icing down the sides and slowly turn the plate with one hand as you frost all the way around the cake, making it as thin a layer of icing as possible so you can see some of the cake. Return to the top and smooth everything out one last time. (And use a damp cloth to clean any excess frosting from the bottom of the plate or stand to make it clean and presentable.)
- Dust the top with any leftover powdered sugar, and decorate with pine twigs and cranberries for a festive look. When ready to serve, cut a hefty slice and drizzle with the salted caramel. Enjoy!
If using a gluten-free flour blend, I recommend the King Arthur Measure for Measure blend. You can generally use the same amount, but gluten-free flour tends to be more dense and the moisture in your cake can vary depending on your altitude. It may require 3 1/2-4 cups depending on where you live and which blend you use. A good rule to determine proper cake batter consistency is to make sure the batter is puffy and thick, not watery or runny.