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- 👍 Why You'll Love This Recipe
- 🔍 Tips for Making Sourdough Gingerbread Cake
- 🛠 Tools Needed:
- 🛒 Ingredients Needed:
- 👨🍳 How to Make Sourdough Gingerbread Cake with Cranberries
- How to Serve
- How to Store
- ❓ FAQs:
- Other Recipes You May Enjoy:
- Sourdough Gingerbread Cake with Cranberries
A fusion of warm spices, vibrant cranberries, and rich molasses, this old-fashioned Sourdough Gingerbread Cake with Cranberries is a cozy and festive holiday treat.
Gingerbread is a Christmas and wintertime favorite dessert that infuses the entire house with the fragrance of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and molasses. It’s an ancient dessert that takes many forms, such as gingerebread cookies, gingerbread people, and this old-fashioned gingerbread cake.
While this recipe is quite traditional, my twist uses sourdough discard (or active sourdough starter) to add a bit of tangy depth to the cake. Then, I fold in fresh cranberries for delightful bursts of acidity that help balance out the richness of the spice cake.
I love serving this gingerbread cake warm with a dollop of whipped cream or topped with a fluffy frosting. The magic unfolds as the spices and molasses intensify over time, ensuring the cake remains irresistibly moist and flavorful for days to come.
👍 Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Easy to make your own
- There are lots of variations you can add to make this old-fashioned gingerbread cake your own!
- You can add orange zest, fresh ginger, different spices, or top the cake with powdered sugar, whipped cream, or frosting. If you’re not a fan of cranberries, you can leave them out or add another complementing fruit, such as dates or raspberries.
- When recipe testing, I also trialed it in a 9×13″ baking pan to make a sheet cake, and it turned very well! You can bake the cake as cupcakes too.
- Stores well
- Sourdough discard and molasses help keep this sourdough gingerbread cake moist for many days. Over time, the spices continue to infuse the cake (a la fruitcake). This keeps the cake fresh for many days stored at room temperature and even longer in the refrigerator!
- Makes many servings
- Like my Sourdough Dinner Rolls with Rosemary, this is a great cake to make for a holiday party or crowd because it’s easy to make and it offers many servings! I typically bake it in a 9×9″ pan, which makes 16 small square servings. However, I’ve also baked it in a 9×13″ pan for more servings (just thinner slices).
- Can make with or without a stand mixer
- I prefer creaming the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer for a fluffier cake, but you can also make the cake with an electric hand mixer or mix by hand like my Sourdough Apple Cider Upside-Down Cake.
- If mixing by hand, use melted butter and mix it with the wet ingredients. Then, whisk it into the dry ingredients. Easy! And you’ll still get an excellent cake.
🔍 Tips for Making Sourdough Gingerbread Cake
- Use room temperature ingredients
- Use hot water to bloom the molasses
- Akin to making a great chocolate cake, you want to “bloom” the molasses by using hot water. It’ll intensify the flavors and help mix the molasses and discard better than cold water.
- Don’t overmix the batter
- Use sourdough discard or active sourdough starter
- Chop the cranberries before folding in
- To prevent the cranberries from sinking to the bottom of the cake, roughly chop them before adding to the cake batter.
- Prepare the baking pan
- Before baking, be sure to butter or grease your baking pan well and line the bottom with parchment paper. It’ll help the cake easily release from the pan and prevent sticking.
🛠 Tools Needed:
Click the links below for my favorite tool recommendations.
- Baking Scale
- Flour and sourdough starter can weigh differently from person to person, so weighing your ingredients is the best option if you can!
- 9×9″ Square Cake Pan
- I bake the gingerbread cake in a 9×9″ square cake pan, but you can bake it in a 9″ round cake pan or a 9×13″ baking pan.
- If baking in a different pan, you’ll need to adjust the baking times slightly, depending on the thickness of the cake (bigger pan = faster baking).
- For folding in the cranberries and scraping the sides of the bowl.
- Stand mixer (optional but recommended)
- A stand mixer with the paddle attachment isn’t mandatory for this recipe, but it does lead to the best results and helps to avoid over mixing.
- Additionally, you can use an electric hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar together. Creaming the butter incorporates more air into the batter, creating a fluffier texture.
- If mixing by hand, use melted butter and mix it into the wet ingredients.
🛒 Ingredients Needed:
Click on the links below for my ingredient recommendations.
- All-purpose Flour
- All-purpose flour helps the cake stay soft, but provides some gluten strength to the batter so it’ll rise in the oven. You could use cake flour in this recipe too.
- Baking Soda
- No baking powder is needed, as the soda activates from the acidity in sourdough discard/molasses. Plus, aerating the butter/sugar together assists with leavening.
- Kosher Salt
- I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.
- Spices: Ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves
- Feel free to alter the spices (I list some alternatives below in variations). However, ground ginger is fundamental, or it’s not really a gingerbread cake.
- Unsalted butter, softened
- Butter adds richness and creates a fluffy texture when creamed with the sugar.
- If not using, use a neutral oil, such as vegetable, grapeseed, canola, or avocado oil.
- Granulated sugar
- Since there’s already a cup of molasses in the batter, I don’t use brown sugar in the batter, but that’s an option too.
- The small amount of granulated sugar helps to balance out the spices and assists in aerating the butter during creaming.
- Sourdough Discard
- Use unsulphered molasses, not blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap molasses is not as sweet and may result in a bitter-tasting cake.
- If you’re a molasses fan, you’ll love this Sourdough Anadama Bread, made with cornmeal and molasses.
- Hot water
- Hot water helps bloom the molasses, adds more moisture to the cake, and makes the molasses less viscous.
- Alternatively, you can substitute the water with stout, such as Guinness, or whole milk for a richer flavor.
- Fresh cranberries
- Roughly chop fresh cranberries to fold into the sourdough gingerbread cake and so they don’t sink to the bottom of the cake. You can use frozen cranberries too!
- If you’re not a fan of cranberries, leave them out. You can substitute with another fruit, such as fresh raspberries or dates.
- Demerara sugar, for topping (optional)
- For a slightly crunchy topping, you can top the unbaked gingerbread with demerara, turbinado, or raw sugar.
Gingerbread Cake Variations
- For more brightness, add orange or lemon zest and rub it together with the sugar before creaming.
- If you’re craving a spicier cake, you can add grated fresh ginger to the cake for more zing! You could even add crystallized ginger like I do in my Sourdough Zucchini Bread.
- I use ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, but you can easily alter the spices to your own liking. Some alternatives would be cardamom, black pepper, allspice, or nutmeg.
- Top the sourdough gingerbread cake with fluffy whipped cream, a dusting of powdered sugar, or a simple vanilla frosting.
👨🍳 How to Make Sourdough Gingerbread Cake with Cranberries
Follow this visual and detailed recipe guide as you make the best sourdough gingerbread cake.
1. Mix the Dry Ingredients
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC).
Butter or grease a 9×9″ square cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Set aside.
Mix the dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl, including:
- 300 grams (2 ½ cups) of all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda
- 2 ½ teaspoons of ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon of ground cloves
2. Whisk the Wet Ingredients
In a large measuring cup or mixing bowl, whisk the following:
- 325 grams (1 cup) molasses
- 180 grams (¾ cup) of hot water
- 120 grams (½ cup) of sourdough discard (or active starter)
Whisk until most of the sourdough discard is broken apart. There may be some specks or pieces of starter floating in the mixture, which is fine. They’ll get incorporated into the batter.
3. Mix the Batter
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream 113 grams (½ cup, one stick) of softened unsalted butter and 100 grams (½ cup) of granulated sugar. Beat until light and fluffy.
On low, add one egg and 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract until mixed in. Scrape the bowl with a spatula if needed.
To mix the batter, we’re going to alternate the wet and dry ingredients to avoid over mixing.
On the lowest speed, add ⅓ of the dry ingredients followed by half of the molasses mixture. Then, repeat with another third of the dry ingredients and the last half of wet ingredients. Finish mixing by adding the last third of dry ingredients.
Finally, fold in 150 grams (1 ½ cups) of roughly chopped fresh cranberries. I know it’s annoying to chop cranberries, but they’ll sink to the bottom of the cake if not chopped!
This batter may appear too wet, but the structure comes together as it bakes and lends to all of the moisture in the cake.
To mix by hand: To mix the cake batter by hand, add melted butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla extract to the molasses mixture (just make sure the water isn’t too hot, or it’ll scramble the egg).
Then, whisk the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and fold in the cranberries.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with optional demerara, turbinado, or raw sugar for a slightly crunchy topping.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, the center is springy to the touch, and the sides of the cake pull away from the sides of the pan.
Finally, cool for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack before turning it out and removing from the pan.
Place a wire rack on top of the pan and quickly flip it upside down. Peel off the parchment paper. The cake should easily plop out, but if not, run a butter knife along the sides of the pan.
Then, to turn it right-side up, place another wire rack, serving cake stand, or serving platter onto the cake and flip it once more.
How to Serve
You can dust the top with powdered sugar, making a simple and lightly sweetened whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or add frosting to the top of the cake before serving.
If you’re adding frosting, be sure the cake is completed cooled so it doesn’t melt the frosting.
Have caramel sauce or butterscotch? Drizzle that on top of the cake for a more indulgent experience.
How to Store
To maintain the freshness and flavor of the sourdough gingerbread cake, follow these storage tips:
- Room Temperature: If you plan to consume the cake within a couple of days, you can store it at room temperature in an airtight container once it’s completed cooled. Ensure the container is tightly sealed to prevent the cake from drying out.
- Refrigeration: For longer storage, refrigerate the gingerbread cake for up to a week. Again, use an airtight container or cover it tightly with plastic wrap to prevent it from absorbing odors from the refrigerator.
- Freezing: Sourdough gingerbread cake freezes well and you can freeze individual portions or the entire cake. To freeze, wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and then place it in a sealable plastic bag or an airtight container for many months. Label with the date for reference. Thaw the cake in the refrigerator when ready to eat.
- Keep Away from Odors: Gingerbread easily absorbs odors from its surroundings, so store it away from strong-smelling foods in the refrigerator or freezer.
Can I bake this in a sheet pan?
Yes. You can make this cake in a 9×13″ pan. Follow the same instructions but bake for 30-35 minutes.
Can I add whole wheat flour to the gingerbread cake?
Yes, you can add whole wheat flour to the gingerbread cake for a heartier cake. Rye flour would be particularly good in this cake. Start with about ½ cup of whole wheat flour to not affect the texture too much.
How can I make vegan sourdough gingerbread cake?
Substitute the butter with melted coconut oil, vegetable oil, or vegan butter. Furthermore, eliminate the egg and use an egg substitute like a flax egg, a small amount of applesauce, or even one banana if you don’t mind a more fruity flavor to the cake.
Can I make sourdough gingerbread cupcakes with this cake?
Sure! Pour the batter into muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until done.
Will frozen cranberries work in this recipe?
Yes, you can use chopped frozen cranberries.
Other Recipes You May Enjoy:
Sourdough Gingerbread Cake with Cranberries
- 300 g All-purpose Flour, 2 ½ cups
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 ½ tsp Baking Soda
- 2 ½ tsp Ground Ginger
- 2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Ground Cloves
- 325 g Unsulphered Molasses, 1 cup
- 180 g Hot Water, ¾ cup
- 120 g Sourdough Discard, or active starter, ½ cup
- 113 g Unsalted Butter, softened, ½ cup, one stick
- 100 g Granulated Sugar, ½ cup
- 1 Egg, room temperature
- 1 TBS Vanilla Extract
- 150 g Fresh Cranberries, roughly chopped, 1 ½ cups
- 2 TBS Raw Sugar, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC).Butter the baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.300 g All-purpose Flour, 1 tsp Kosher Salt, 1 ½ tsp Baking Soda, 2 ½ tsp Ground Ginger, 2 tsp Ground Cinnamon, ½ tsp Ground Cloves
- In a large liquid measuring cup or mixing bowl, whisk together the molasses, hot water, and sourdough discard until most of the starter is broken up. There may still be some floating pieces.325 g Unsulphered Molasses, 180 g Hot Water, 120 g Sourdough Discard
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (see notes for mixing by hand) fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula as needed.Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix together.On the lowest speed, alternate mixing the dry ingredients and molasses mixture. Add ⅓ of the dry ingredients followed by half of the wet ingredients. Repeat and end with the last third of dry ingredients. Mix just until no flour specks remain.Fold in the roughly chopped fresh cranberries.113 g Unsalted Butter, 100 g Granulated Sugar, 1 Egg, 1 TBS Vanilla Extract, 150 g Fresh Cranberries
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Sprinkle optional demerara or raw sugar on top.Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, the middle of the cake is springy to the touch, and the sides of the cake pull away from the sides of the pan.Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before turning out and serving. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar, whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or a layer of vanilla frosting.2 TBS Raw Sugar
- To mix by hand, melt the butter and add it and the sugar to the wet ingredients mixture. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
- Follow my guide for more detailed instructions and photos to make this recipe step-by-step.