If you are looking for a simple (but still show-stopping) dessert centerpiece for your holiday table, then look no further! My Christmas Gingerbread Spice Cake with Eggnog Frosting & Sugared Cranberries has all the cozy flavors and pizazz of a layer cake without a lot of fuss.
About This Recipe
When it comes to the holidays, menu planning can be a challenge. Unlike normal weekly cooking activities, these larger events call for multiple courses, more food to feed a larger crowd, and more “special occasion” recipes that often have multiple steps. It’s a lot for anyone!
This Christmas-inspired gingerbread spice cake with eggnog buttercream is my new go-to relatively simple holiday dessert recipe. With just a single layer, this flavor-packed beauty is not only easier to frost than a traditional layer cake, but it is also easier to share within a smaller group of people.
I’m a huge fan of the fact that the individual elements of this cheerful dessert can be made in steps, well ahead of time. The spice cake can be made and frozen up to a month in advance; the eggnog buttercream will easily last a week in the fridge; and the sugared cranberries will last for 2-3 days.
Note: I don’t recommend adding the sugared berries to the frosted spice cake until the night before your event.
And what’s more, this Christmas cake with cranberries is a jolly good alternative to the more technically challenging Yule Log. Moist gingerbread cake is coated in a pillowy cloud of eggnog buttercream (spiked with rum, of course) for a doubly spiced confection. The sugared cranberries not only provide that stunning pop of Christmas crimson but also provide a welcome juicy-tart contrast to the rich spice cake.
Don’t be intimidated by the length of this list of ingredients; I can attest that they are all easy to find, and many are probably already lurking in your pantry. Here’s everything you’ll need:
- AP Flour - You don’t need special cake flour for this easy ginger cake. Regular all purpose flour will do just fine.
- Ground Ginger, Allspice, Cloves, Ground Cinnamon - Spice cake needs a LOT of spices. If you don’t want to buy that many different spices all at once, I suggest reaching for ground ginger and pumpkin pie spice (which includes allspice, cloves and cinnamon in it).
- Ground Cardamom - Cardamom is one of my all time favorite spices, with a warm and herbal flavor that sort of tastes like a mix between black pepper, mint and pine. If you don’t use a ton of cardamom, I suggest opting for whole cardamom pods - they will last much longer, because they retain more of the essential oils than their ground counterparts. When a recipe calls for this ground spice, use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to create it to order.
- Freshly Ground Nutmeg - Nutmeg is an essential component to many Christmas flavors, eggnog included. Grabbing whole nutmeg and grinding it to order will change your life if you’ve only ever bought the ground stuff. Like cardamom pods, it will also last nearly indefinitely on your shelf in whole form.
- Molasses - This dark, sweet syrup is what is leftover after refining sugarcane into what we know as granulated sugar. It has a deeply caramelly flavor that is supremely delicious in this spiced ginger cake, but if you need to make a swap, maple syrup, honey or dark corn syrup are all acceptable.
- Buttermilk - Since this recipe only calls for ½ cup of buttermilk, you can feel free to make your own buttermilk with dairy or plant-based milk and an acidic ingredient like white vinegar or lemon juice. You can also buy powdered buttermilk, which has a much longer shelf life. Want to make your own buttermilk from scratch? Check out my guide for making homemade buttermilk or vegan buttermilk!
- Butter - Unsalted butter is what I used here. This will also work with vegan butter if you are dairy free.
- Eggnog - A few tablespoons goes a long way! Use whatever store-bought or homemade eggnog you have on hand.
- Rum - Feel free to swap in bourbon or whisky if you prefer, or if you’re non-alcoholic, ½ - 1 teaspoon of rum extract and a teaspoon of milk ought to do the trick.
- Vanilla Bean Paste - I opted to use vanilla bean paste instead of extract here because I love the flecked look of vanilla beans throughout. You can easily substitute vanilla extract or vanilla powder if you prefer.
- Powdered Sugar - Since it is made from regular granulated sugar and cornstarch, you can feel free to make your own at home using a food processor.
- Fresh Cranberries - Cranberries are an obvious choice during the holidays to me, but this technique will work to make any kind of sugared berries. (You can also make sugared rosemary for some Christmas tree themed decor!)
- Granulated Sugar - Plain, white granulated sugar works best here.
Use my step-by-step guide to learn how to make your own sugared berries.
How to Make
Ginger Spice Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sift together all your dry ingredients in a medium bowl - the spices, flour, baking soda and salt - then set aside.
Add all of the wet ingredients into a large bowl and whisk to completely combine. Then, add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
Add batter into a greased and lined 8inch cake pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Allow it to cool completely before frosting.
Make Ahead Tip: Ginger spice cake can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance, or frozen for up to a month ahead of time!
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter until very pale and fluffy. Add in vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons of eggnog and mix in powdered sugar. Add additional eggnog to reach desired consistency.
Make Ahead Tip: Eggnog buttercream will last upwards of a week in the refrigerator. Allow it to come to room temperature before frosting the spice cake, or you’ll risk tearing the delicate top of the cake.
Bring water and granulated sugar to a simmer making sure that the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat.
Add cranberries and let them sit in the sugar syrup for 10-15 minutes.
Remove the cranberries from the syrup with a slotted spoon and allow them to dry on a paper towel for one to two hours. Note that you can use the resulting cranberry simple syrup for other purposes – there’s no need to get rid of it! ( Happy Hour, anyone?!)
Coat the dried berries in granulated sugar before garnishing.
Make Ahead Tip: Sugared berries can be made up to this point 2-3 days before cake assembly.
Add as much of your eggnog frosting on top of the cake as needed and spread evenly. Utilizing the back of a spoon or an offset spatula, create swirls and swoops to your liking into the buttercream!
Add the decoration of your liking on top - I added a couple different layers of toppings, starting with pomegranate arils, sugared cranberries, and dried flowers for a pleasing aesthetic.
Tips & Tricks
- Work ahead. The holidays should be spent with family, not last minute baking in the kitchen! To give yourself the best chance at a relaxing holiday, work ahead. Breaking the Christmas gingerbread spice cake with eggnog frosting into multiple smaller chores will make the big day go much more smoothly,
- Crumb layer. Frosting a cake that is as moist as my gingerbread cake can sometimes present a challenge. I suggest you pop the cake in the freezer for about 15 minutes before frosting to give it a firmer exterior. Next, work with a thin layer of icing known as the crumb coat; it doesn’t matter if some crumbs get stuck in it. Pop the cake with the crumb coat in the fridge for 15 minutes to secure all the crumbs in place, then finish icing with your tasty eggnog buttercream. YUM!
- Use leftover cranberry syrup. I try for a waste-free kitchen whenever possible. The simple syrup you soak your cranberries in will have a lovely sweet-tart flavor that is just begging to be used in holiday cocktails and mocktails. Put it in a squeeze bottle in your fridge for up to two weeks!
Frequently Asked Questions
So long as you have regular (or non-dairy) milk and either lemon juice or white vinegar on hand, you can make your own buttermilk. Simply stir a teaspoon of your acidulant into the milk and let it sit for 5-10 minutes to curdle.
Absolutely! Simply swap in vegan butter and use your favorite non-dairy milk alternative to make your own buttermilk as indicated above.
Once frosted, the Christmas cake will last for a week in the fridge. Please note that you should avoid adding the sugared cranberries until the night before, or they may weep some juices on that snowy white frosting of yours.
More Holiday Inspiration
- Spiced Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese and Cranberries
- Holiday Gin & Tonic
- Rosemary Cranberry Vodka Spritzer
As always, I love seeing your creations and hearing from you! If you made this recipe for my Christmas Gingerbread Spice Cake with Eggnog Frosting and Sugared Cranberries, please be sure to rate and review it below. You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and Pinterest - for more delicious recipes sent straight to your inbox, sign up for my newsletter!
Christmas Gingerbread Spice Cake with Eggnog Frosting & Sugared Cranberries
- 8 inch Cake Pan
- Cooling Rack
- Electric or stand mixed with paddle attachment
- Paper Towel
- Spoon or offset spatula
Gingerbread Spice Cake
- 1 ⅓ Cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, 175g
- ½ tablespoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch of sea salt
- ⅓ Cup + 1 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil, 87g
- ⅓ cup brown sugar, 75g
- ½ cup molasses, 165g
- ½ cup buttermilk, 100ml
- 1 egg, large
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 60g
- 3 tablespoons eggnog
- 1 tablespoon rum
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
- 1.5 cups powdered sugar, 240g
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup granulated sugar, for sugar syrup
- 1 cup cranberries
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, for sugar coating
- sugared cranberries
- red eucalyptus
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Gingerbread Spice Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Sift together all your dry ingredients in a medium bowl - the spices, flour, baking soda and salt then set aside.1 ⅓ Cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, ½ tablespoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon allspice, ¼ teaspoon cloves, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground cardamom, ½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon baking soda, Pinch of sea salt
- Add all of the rest of the ingredients into a large bowl and whisk to completely combine. Then, add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth.⅓ Cup + 1 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil, ⅓ cup brown sugar, ½ cup molasses, ½ cup buttermilk, 1 egg
- Add batter into a greased and lined 8inch cake pan and bake for 30 minutes - testing for doneness with a toothpick before removing from the oven.
- Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan and let it cool completely before frosting.
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter until very pale and fluffy. Add in 3 Tablespoons of eggnog, rum, vanilla and mix in powdered sugar. Add additional eggnog to reach desired consistency.¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 3 tablespoons eggnog, 1 tablespoon rum, ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste, 1.5 cups powdered sugar
- Bring water and granulated sugar to a simmer making sure that the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and allow the simple to cool for about 15 minutes.½ cup water, ½ cup granulated sugar
- Add cranberries into the simple syrup and let the cranberries sit in the sugar syrup for 5 minutes.1 cup cranberries
- Remove the cranberries from the syrup with a slotted spoon and allow them to dry on a paper towel. Separate the berries so they're not touching each other and let them dry for one to two hours. Note that you can certainly use the cranberry syrup for other purposes – there’s no need to get rid of it! ( Happy Hour Anyone?!)
- Toss cranberries in granulated sugar before enjoying and garnishing!3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Add as much of your eggnog frosting on top of the cake and spread evenly. Utilizing a spoon or an offset spatula, create swirls and swoops to your liking into the buttercream!
- Add the decoration of your liking on top! I added a couple of different layers of toppings, starting with pomegranate, sugared cranberries, and dried flowers for a pleasing aesthetic.sugared cranberries, pomegranate, red eucalyptus, ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- I don’t have buttermilk - what can I use instead? So long as you have regular (or non-dairy) milk and either lemon juice or white vinegar on hand, you can make your own buttermilk. Simply stir a teaspoon of your acidulant into the milk and let it sit for 5-10 minutes to curdle.
- Can I make this dairy free? Absolutely! Simply swap in vegan butter and use your favorite non-dairy milk alternative to make your own buttermilk as indicated above.
- How long will this cake last? Once frosted, the Christmas cake will last for a week in the fridge. Please note that you should avoid adding the sugared cranberries until the night before, or they may weep some juices on that snowy white frosting of yours.