Easy, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing

Easy, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing - this might just be the easiest, moistest, most delicious cake you've ever made!  thecafesucrefarine.com

This 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.

Loving London

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.

London Skyline from Primrose Hill thecafesucrefarine.com

Several of the days, we rented bikes and rode for miles along the Thames, stopping for lunch at a couple of fun pubs.

Biking on the Thames thecafesucrefarine.com


Biking on the Thames thecafesucrefarine.com

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.

Biking on the Thames thecafesucrefarine.com


Biking on the Thames thecafesucrefarine.com

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.

Biking on the Thames - Hammersmith Bridge thecafesucrefarine.com

In between our adventures, I had some time to work on a couple of new recipes for fall – my favorite one is this Easy, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing.

Easy, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing - this might just be the easiest, moistest, most delicious cake you've ever made!  thecafesucrefarine.com

I think it will become a favorite of yours too, as it is truly is a one bowl cake, no mixer, no fuss!

Easy, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing - this might just be the easiest, moistest, most delicious cake you've ever made!  thecafesucrefarine.com

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!

Easy, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing - this might just be the easiest, moistest, most delicious cake you've ever made!  thecafesucrefarine.com

It was interesting working on this 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.

Easy, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing - this might just be the easiest, moistest, most delicious cake you've ever made!  thecafesucrefarine.com

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 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.

Easy, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing - this might just be the easiest, moistest, most delicious cake you've ever made!  thecafesucrefarine.com

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, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing right now. Your house could be swirling with an incredible aroma in less than 30 minutes!

Easy, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing - this might just be the easiest, moistest, most delicious cake you've ever made!  thecafesucrefarine.com

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!



Easy, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing

Easy, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake - this might just be the easiest, moistest, most delicious cake you've ever made!

This might just be the easiest, moistest, most delicious cake you’ve ever made!

  • Author:
  • Yield: 10-12
  • Category: Dessert


  • 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Add eggs and whisk well again until eggs are completely incorporated.
  5. 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.
  6. When cake is done, remove it from oven to a cooling rack to cool completely before icing***.
  7. 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.
  8. Whisk until smooth and creamy then add half and half and vanilla bean seeds and whisk again.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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


Easy, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake - this might just be the easiest, moistest, most delicious cake you've ever made!Easy, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake - this might just be the easiest, moistest, most delicious cake you've ever made!

71 thoughts on “Easy, One Bowl Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing”

  • This sounds wonderful!! So does your trip! I love the idea of renting bikes. I plan on making this cake for Chritsmas, but have a couple of questions. Does the icing really take only 2 ounces of Neufchâtel cheese? What’s the best way to store the cake before and after serving? Thank you for the tips on making it flat. So glad I found you!

  • I made this cake yesterday and it was very easy and quick to pu together! I used molasses, and it came out too “molasses-y” for most of my crew. Are there different kinds/strengths of molasses? I will probably make this again with maple syrup, which everyone already loves. My mom liked it but said it wasn’t what she expected gingerbread to be. So, mixed reviews but I absolutely love the one-bowl snacking-cake style of it.

  • I’ve never made a gingerbread cake or eaten any, I only know the recipes from blogs… It looks amazing, I would love to give it a try. And I am glad you had some good fish and chips in London, for me they were always totally dissapointing, I’ve tried them several times and never found them good. I suppose you really have to find to right place to eat them,..

  • As soon as the air gets cooler, I always think about baking gingerbread- This looks amazing! I love the vanilla bean flecks in the frosting- so pretty. Your photos are gorgeous- that’s a trip I’d love to take. 🙂

  • The cake is delicious, Texture perfect and moist. It is going to be added to the family cookbook, a keeper. I live in deep South Texas where it is very warm and humid. I attempted to cook at 325 degrees but it did not work in my area. The cake sank in the middle. I was so hoping it would work since so many of my breads rise high in the middle. As they say, you never know until you try. We wanted to taste the cake without icing and we discovered it is delicious!. However, we are going to have another piece later with icing drizzled over the top. Nice to have a cake recipe that is so versatile. Thank you so much for all that you do for your fans! Yummy!

    • So happy you enjoyed it. I had to give some of our cake away so I wouldn’t over do it, it was so good 🙂

      I’m wondering if your cake might not have baked long enough as that’s what usually causes sinking in the center. Every oven is so different so that why I usually give a time but also give a few other tips to make sure it is done. So sorry that happened to you but I’m glad you still enjoyed the cake.

  • This sounds so good Chris. Your grandkids certainly are lucky to have you around – I know you spoil them silly. Your photos of London, your grandkids and food are always stunning. Happy Halloween, soon!

  • Great recipe and I am so ready for gingerbread. Wish the bikes in china were like those. I fell off of the one we rented @75cents a day because they can’t steer or brake. I was pretty banged up! And Chinatown in London> Love it! Actually I love all chinatowns!

  • Just back from a trip to TN where I purchased a pint of Sorghum.. Then I saw your gingerbread cake recipe. Now that the puzzle is complete I can’t wait to make it. Gingerbread has always been a favorite.

  • Wow, another great recipe Chris! I made this yesterday and we absolutely love it and I didn’t even use the frosting. I keep going to the pan and taking a little piece as I walk by it’s that good. I know this is the best Gingerbread recipe that I have ever made, it’s moist with the right balance of spices., Also, so easy to make in one bowl and using a whisk, it’s a keeper recipe for sure!

  • Another fun trip to London! You two are always on the go—but I love following along. We saw Les Mis in London over 20 years ago—only 2 of our 3 were around then and we left them home with the grandparents. But they’ve all grown up to be gingerbread lovers. This moist, tempting cake will be perfect when the boys are around for the holidays!

  • I think you and Scott truly have a “home away from home” in London now! It’s always fun to follow your wander-lust-producing trip photos. I love gingerbread in all forms, so this is a recipe I am glad to have. Thanks. Your tips on baking flat topped cakes REALLY intrigue me. I could have used the lower temp tip last week when my little loaves kept puffing up. Next time I’m trying 325°!

  • Yes, this looks good. Treacle easiky avaikable in our area. Does tge cake keep uniced.

    Disappointed you didnt make it to Wales this trip as discussed.

  • How nice that you had a week on your own to do your own ‘thing’, Chris! Oh my, your cake is calling my name. The little flecks of vanilla look so delicious in the frosting and I’m not usually a frosting gal! You can tell by the photos how moist it is too. Luscious!

  • I love London and it looks like you explored every nook and cranny, Chris. How fabulous are those bikes! I remember a similar system in a small town in Holland. I think it was Apeldoorn. Really enjoyed your FB shots while you were away as well.
    This cake is exactly the kind of snack I love. Just the right sweetness and gingerbread is always a treat!

    • Thanks Robyn! We’ve been over there so many times in the past few years that we feel very comfortable navigating the Tube, buses, walking paths and every other form of transportation!

  • Your holiday time sounds wonderful and the cake is one I must have soon. We do have molasses here but it isn’t everywhere. Yum.

  • Enjoyed your photos everyday from London on Facebook. And, when your kids were away, you certainly took advantage of the week to scour the city. I happen to adore gingerbread and this looks relatively easy. We’ll see. Welcome home.

  • Hi Chris, you are the best baker, I know I would love this cake, especially the frosting.

    I love your traveling post, especially the ones in London. looks like a beautiful wonderful place, I bet it is even more special with your family living there. Thanks for sharing!

    • We love it Charlotte! It’s by far our favorite destination – especially with our family over there. But London and it’s surrounding towns, villages and countryside hold a special love and fascination for us!

  • This looks so yummy! I love anything with vanilla beans in it, like Breyers Vanilla Bean ice cream. And I love LOVE that you went to Hillsong in London. Thanks for sharing your recipes and travel experiences and photos with us. Your pics are scrumptious, too!

    • Thanks Pauly! Hillsong was a marvelous experience. The second weekend we attended, they did a Musical about Jesus and the early Christian days in Jerusalem. So professional and such a good message!

  • Thanks, I’m going to love the recipe–it sounds so good! I fell in love with golden syrup in England and brought some home since I knew I wouldn’t find it here in Idaho. When I wanted more I made it with some trial and errors; there are now recipes online for the how-to. I also use a local dark honey in my gingerbread with great results. Thanks for the awesome tip on how to bake a flat-topped cake.

  • As I’m typing this it’s snowing like crazy outside. It’s way too early and we are not ready. However, cold snow days definitely put me in the mood for baking and this recipe is very tempting. Happy to hear you had a wonderful time and welcome home!

    • Thanks Sandra! Snow already? Oh my! We just stepped back into early fall when we came back to North Carolina! I think I’d like to stay at these temps just a little while longer!

  • Who doesn’t love gingerbread cake and I bet your little munchkins loved having some of their granny’s baking as always. One of these days you may just have to move to London. Great recipe and photos as always. Perfect for the upcoming holidays!

  • Did you mean a 9 inch square pan? Directions say a 13×9 inch “square” pan…:)

    I can’t wait to make this. I love a good gingerbread cake, and boy does this look good.

  • I’m so surprised you had trouble finding black treacle. When I lived up in Newcastle a few years ago, it was readily available. It is closer to molasses than golden syrup, and would give that nice dark color. I’m definitely going to try this cake. Oh, and thanks for the tip on getting a flat top!
    (By the way, if you and Scott have never been to the north east of England before, I highly recommend it. The country-side is gorgeous, there are great walks along the Roman Hadrian’s Wall, and Newcastle itself is worth a visit, Grey Street there is the finest Georgian street in the country.)

    • Ha Ha! I thought someone would ask! A little fish shop aptly called, Fisher’s right on Fulham Palace Road near Putney Bridge. Taylor was our fun, funky waitress, and the cod was out of this world! We’d go back there in a heartbeat!

  • I adore this kind of cake Chris and love that you made it while traveling. Gingerbread is nothing short of amazing and this icing must be perfect. I’ve never had the opportunity to bake in another country – but I would give it a try. I know you had a lovely time with family and we all enjoyed your photos and adventure. Welcome back!

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