Gingerbread Layer Cake

16 February 2022

Attributed to George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington, this is a scratch cake that will fill your home with a spicy, warm aroma…a welcome change after months of closed windows. It would be a good dessert to serve for President’s Day or any winter event.

Before you start, read some of these tips:

  • You will note it calls for soaking the raisins. This will soften the fruit, prevent its burning, and help prevent the dried fruit absorbing any moisture from the batter. This is a good idea whenever baking with dried fruits.
  • Before measuring the molasses, lightly coat the measuring cup with some cooking spray or oil. This will allow the molasses to slip right out of the measuring cup without sticking or scraping. Use this technique with honey or corn syrup.
  • If you incorporate the ginger, nutmeg and orange zest into the wet ingredients, it will allow the flavors to expand and bloom.
  • If you opt for a 13 X 9 baking dish, the time in the oven will increase to 35 or 40 minutes.

Gingerbread Cake


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 large orange, zested and halved
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup brandy, coffee or water
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup seedless golden raisins


  • Grease two 8″ cake pans and preheat the oven to 350°F. Set the raisins to soften in a bowl of warm water.
  • In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, light brown sugar, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, orange zest, and salt. Add the eggs one at a time and whip until fluffy and light.
  • Fold in the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, brandy (or coffee or water), milk, and juice of half the orange. Mix until smooth. Drain the raisins and mix them in.
  • Divide the cake batter between the two cake pans. Place on the center rack of the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes, until firm on top and a cake tester comes out clean.
  • Let cool in the pans for about 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, run a knife or small offset spatula around the edge of the pans, and turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack.
  • Cool fully before serving. Layer and decorate with vanilla buttercream or vanilla powdered sugar frosting, if desired. A simple dusting of powdered sugar is just as attractive and considerably easier.
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