This one-bowl, Easy Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing might just be the easiest, moistest, most delicious cake you’ve ever made!
Whew! In many ways, it seems like Scott and I left on our trip to London just a day or two ago. In reality, it’s been almost two and a half weeks and now, we’re on our way home. Time flies faster than a Boeing 767 (the plane we’re on right now) when you’re living with a busy family, navigating the ins and outs of making life work in a big city like London. It was a wonderful visit with our daughter, her husband and their
little herd of four.
Scott and I also had some fun time on our own as the family was out of town for one of the two weeks we were in London. While they were vacationing, we took the time to discover parts of London we hadn’t seen before.
Several of the days, we rented bikes and rode for miles along the Thames, stopping for lunch at a couple of fun pubs.
You can rent bikes in London for an entire day for less than $3. If you’re taking a short ride (under 30 minutes), it’s free! It’s easy to find the bright red kiosks all over town where you can pick up the bikes or drop them off. When you return your vehicle, there’s a little button to press if you’ve had any problem with the bike. If that happens, it’s is taken out of rotation and repaired, so the bikes are always in great condition. I love this wonderful option for transportation in London.
We also scouted out the best Fish and Chips in London (yum!), explored Chinatown, wandered through the lovely parks, enjoyed buying bread and beautiful produce at the markets, drank lots of cappuccinos, took a few classes at the London Apple Stores, navigated The Tube (the London underground) from one end of the city to the other, walked our feet off and went to the theater one afternoon to see Les Misérables (amazing!). Another highlight was attending Sunday church services at Hillsong London. It was an awesome experience to worship with thousands of other believers from all over the world in a beautiful, ornate old theater, right in the heart of London.
In between our adventures, I had some time to work on a couple of new recipes for fall – my favorite one is this Easy Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing.
I think this Easy Gingerbread Cake will become a favorite of yours too, as it is truly is a one bowl cake, no mixer, no fuss!
It’s also super moist, full of flavor and has a creamy, dreamy, delicious vanilla bean icing that’s made in the same bowl! Definitely a keeper!
It was interesting working on this Easy Gingerbread Cake in another country. I learned that you can’t assume certain ingredients are as common or even available in other parts of the world. A good example of this is molasses. I looked in several large, London grocery stores for molasses without success. Upon doing some research, I learned that “golden syrup” and “treacle” are the British equivalents of molasses. It was easy to find golden syrup, but none of the stores I checked carried treacle.
But no worries! If you’re reading this and you’re British, Australian (or from any place else where molasses is not a readily available ingredient), I did a bit of testing for you. I tried this Easy Gingerbread Cake with, not only golden syrup, but also with maple syrup as subs for molasses. The results were wonderful with both. Molasses will give the cake a darker color and slightly more authentic, gingerbread flavor. Honestly, we enjoyed it just as much with the golden and maple syrups.
Go ahead and pin this recipe, as you’ll love having this in your holiday recipe arsenal. Then again, you might want to pull out the ingredients and whip this delicious Easy Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing right now. Your house could be swirling with an incredible aroma in less than 30 minutes!
Me? I going to take a nap. I think it might be the jet lag. Then again, it might have been that creamy, dreamy icing. The cake and icing combination is irresistible, and I did have to test it a few times… for you, of course!
P.S. This recipe is easily halved. Just use a 9-inch square pan instead of the 9×13. The baking time will be a bit shorter. I would start checking it after 25 minutes. You’ll want to also halve the icing – unless you’re like my son and like it REALLY thick!
LOTS OF PEOPLE ASK WHAT KIND OF COOKWARE, SMALL APPLIANCES, CUTLERY, ETC. I USE IN THE KITCHEN. HERE’S WHAT I USED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE.
This Easy Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing might just be the easiest, moistest, most delicious cake you've ever made! Just one bowl!
- For the cake:
- 8 tablespoons butter 4 ounces 113g cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 ⅓ cup water
- 1 ⅓ cup dark brown sugar 260g
- 1 ⅓ cup molasses maple syrup or golden syrup
- 3 cups all-purpose flour 375g
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 large eggs
- For the icing:
- 1 stick cold butter 4 ounces 113g
- 2 ounces cream cheese or Neufchâtel cheese 55g
- 5-6 tablespoons half & half or whole milk
- seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean*
- 5 cups powdered sugar 625g
- Preheat oven to 325˚F**. degrees. Grease a 13x 9-inch pan with nonstick baking spray. Don’t use cooking spray as it’s not the same. Baking spray is actually shortening and flour mixed together. If you don’t have baking spray, you can get the same results by greasing your pan with softened butter. Then add a tablespoon of flour and rotate pan till it’s completely coated with flour. Discard excess flour and proceed with next step.
- Place butter pieces and water in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Cook on high power for 1- 1 1/2 minutes or until butter is mostly melted (It’s fine if a few little pieces remain.) Remove from microwave, add brown sugar and maple syrup. Stir well.
- Sprinkle flour over the top of the butter mixture. Sprinkle baking soda, salt and spices on top of flour. Whisk slowly until all dry ingredients have been incorporated then whisk vigorously till mixture is lump-free.
- Add eggs and whisk well again until eggs are completely incorporated.
- Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until cake is puffed and feels firm when lightly touched in the center. You can also test the cake for doneness with the sharp end of a toothpick. Insert toothpick into the center of the cake, then remove it. If there is wet batter on the toothpick, the cake needs a bit more time in the oven. If it comes out clean or with just a few crumbs, the cake is done.
- When cake is done, remove it from oven to a cooling rack to cool completely before icing***.
- While the cake is baking, wash the bowl so it will be ready to make the icing. For the icing, combine butter and cream cheese in the large microwave safe bowl. Cook on high power for 45-55 seconds or until butter is about half melted. Watch it carefully, checking every 10 seconds as every microwave is different.
- Whisk until smooth and creamy then add half and half and vanilla bean seeds and whisk again.
- Add 2 cups powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. Continue adding powdered sugar, 1 cups at a time, whisking after each addition until lump free.
- Icing should be thick but creamy and spreadable. If too thick add a little more half and half. If too thin add a bit more powdered sugar.
- Spread icing over cooled cake. Icing will set up if you let it sit for an hour or two but cake can be enjoyed at any time.
* My vanilla beans were quite large, so I only used a half. Use a whole bean if yours are small. To get to the seeds, place the pod on a cutting board and use a small, sharp knife to cut down the length of the pod, trying not to cut all the way through. Once the pod has been sliced open, flatten it and scrape out the seeds with the side of the knife. Discard the empty pod or bury it in your sugar jar to flavor the sugar.
Sometimes vanilla beans can be hard to find, as many regular grocery stores only
carry vanilla extract. You can find them at specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods and also online. You could also use vanilla bean paste or just regular vanilla, though you won’t see all the fun little vanilla bean specks in the icing.
** Most cakes are baked at 350˚F. However when you’re baking a cake you’d like to have a flat, even top surface, it’s better to bake at 325˚F. At the higher temperature, the sides bake much quicker than the center, therefore the center has a chance to rise more. At 325˚F, you’ll find this type of cake will bake more evenly. It’s much nicer if you plan to ice it, as the layer of frosting will be nice and even.
One other trick for a flat topped cake: tear a long strip from an old terry cloth towel. It should be long enough to wrap around your cake pan (plus a little extra) and almost as wide as the height of the pan. Wet the strip with cold water and wring it out tightly. Wrap the wet strip around the outside of the pan and tie the extra in a knot. Bake as directed (the towel will not burn, I promise!). The wet towel will keep the outer edges of the pan from baking too quickly which is what will cause cakes to rise more in the center.
*** If you don't cool the cake completely, the icing will "melt" and become very thin. The cake can also end up soggy as the icing will seal in the moisture from the heat. That works well for some cakes but not this one. Can you tell I've learned this from experience?
Adapted from Once Upon a Chef