Molasses cake is a deliciously rich, tender and moist cake filled with molasses, a touch bright lemon zest and lots of cozy warming spices. Top this old fashioned molasses cake with a dusting of powdered sugar for the perfect easy to make, simple and festive cake.
Why Should You Make This Recipe
My favorite ingredient to make with when the weather gets colder is molasses. There is something so festive and cozy about molasses dessert recipes. My Chewy Molasses Cookies, Gingerbread Muffins, Molasses Crinkle Cookies and Citrus Gingerbread Loaf Cake are a few of my favorites on the blog. I know you’ll love this molasses cake recipe as much as I do because:
- Easy to make, bake and eat. This ginger molasses cake tastes just like something grandma would make and is truly so simple to make. Simply mix up the molasses gingerbread cake, bake, dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!
- Perfectly cozy and perfect for the holiday season. Fans of gingerbread and spiced bread, this molasses pudding cake is for you! The molasses brings a smoky sweetness, which perfectly balances the sweet cinnamon, spicy ginger and bright lemon zest. Enjoy with powdered sugar for the perfect simple snacking cake or top with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting for something more indulgent.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this sweet, but not too sweet, sticky molasses cake.
- Dry Ingredients: Gather all purpose flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves and salt.
- Wet Ingredients: Gather molasses, water, butter, light brown sugar, lemon zest and an egg.
This molasses gingerbread cake is quick and easy to make using pantry basics. Here are my recommended substitutions to make this soft, moist and wonderfully delicious cake.
- All purpose flour: To make this gingerbread cake gluten free, use a good 1-1 gluten free flour. I recommend using the one from Bob’s Red Mill.
- Baking Soda: A double acting baking powder is the best substitute for baking soda. However, this molasses ginger cake has not been tested using baking powder.
- Ground Spices: Feel free to use 2-3 teaspoons of Pumpkin spice, chai spice or apple pie spice in this recipe if you would prefer.
- Unsalted Butter: You can use the same amount of salted butter as written in the recipe, but omit the added salt. Use a vegan, plant based butter or coconut oil if needed to make these molasses pudding cake dairy free.
- Light Brown Sugar: This recipe hasn’t been tested using alternative sugars. However, I love using maple sugar as a refined sugar free option in my other recipes. Maple sugar bakes very similarly to light brown sugar.
- Lemon Zest: I love using lemon or orange zest in my molasses recipes. Feel free to omit or use any citrus you have on hand.
- Egg: This recipe hasn’t been tested without eggs. However, you could use ¼ cup applesauce in place of the egg to make this a vegan molasses cake.
- Molasses: Use unsulphured molasses, not blackstrap for these cookies. If you must substitute, honey would work the best.
- Molasses Bundt Cake: Prepare the molasses cake recipe as written. Pour into a greased 10 inch (10 - 12 cup) bundt pan. Bake for 35 - 50 minutes or until the edges of the cake pull slightly away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.
- Lemon Glaze: Top the old fashioned cake with a tart lemon glaze. Whisk 1 cup powdered sugar (120 g) with 2 - 3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) lemon juice until smooth. Pour over the cooled cake, set and enjoy.
- Vanilla Glaze: Top the gingerbread cake with a vanilla glaze. Whisk 1 cup powdered sugar (120 g) with 1 teaspoons (5 ml) vanilla extract and 2-3 tablespoons milk. Pour over the cooled cake, set and enjoy.
- Cream Cheese Frosting: For a more decadent topping, mix 8 oz. (226 g) room temperature cream cheese with ½ cup (113 g) room temperature unsalted butter until smooth and well combined. Cream in 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon salt, 3½ cups (420 g) powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk until smooth and well combined.
- Whipped Topping: Top this molassed spice cake with a sweet Mascarpone Frosting that tastes similar to whipped cream, but much more creamy.
How To Make
Learn how to make molasses coffee cake in a few easy steps.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (177 C). Lightly grease and line the bottom and two sides of a 9 x 9 inch (23 cm) cake pan with parchment paper. In a microwave safe cup, heat water to warm and mix in the molasses until smooth and well combined. In a mixing bowl whisk the all purpose flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves and salt together until well combined.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the brown sugar and lemon zest together until they are the consistency of wet sand. Beat butter and lemon sugar together until light and fluffy. This takes about 2-3 minutes on medium speed. On low, beat in the egg and warm molasses water until smooth and well combined. Mix the dry ingredients into wet until just combined.
- Evenly pour the molasses cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake the ginger cake for 28 - 32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Cool the pan in the pan for 10 minutes.
- Gently lift the molasses spice cake out of the pan using the parchment paper. Transfer to a serving plate or serve right from the pan. Top with powdered sugar, a glaze or cream cheese frosting, slice and enjoy!
How To Make Ahead, Freeze and Store
- Store: Place leftover pieces of gingerbread cake in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If the molasses spice cake is topped with a cream cheese frosting, the cake must be stored in the fridge for the entire 5 days.
- Freeze: Make sure the molasses cake is completely cooled to room temperature. Individually wrap each slice or the entire cake in plastic wrap and place in a freezer safe container. Store in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- Thaw: The easiest and tastiest way to thaw the molasses ginger cake is to let it sit out at room temperature until thawed. Enjoy at room temperature or microwave the cake slice for 20 - 30 seconds for that “fresh from the oven” taste.
M’s Expert Tips
- Do not use blackstrap molasses. Light or dark molasses is best for this gingerbread cake. Blackstrap is not a great molasses for cake. The flavor is more suited for savory dishes.
- Mix the molasses with warm water. This helps to thin out the molasses which allows it to mix into the cake batter more evenly.
- Bring cold ingredients to room temperature. This allows the ingredients to mix together more evenly which requires less mixing, resulting in soft, fluffy, moist and tender molasses cake.
- Don’t overmix the batter. Always use the lowest speed on your electric mixer or mix in the dry ingredients by hand. Make sure to mix the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined.
- Use the baking times as a guide. All ovens vary and baking times should be used as a guide. As a general rule, when the cake becomes fragrant, it’s a good idea to start checking. Begin checking on the cake at the minimum baking time. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out with a few moist crumbs or clean.
Molasses is a liquid sweetener so it brings a lot of moisture to any baked good. The result is a chewier, moist texture. The baked good will also look darker than the same recipe using a sweetener like honey.
The dark, smoky sweetness of molasses pairs wonderfully with sweet warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves and cardamom.
Other Simple Cake Recipes to Try
If you try this Molasses Cake recipe please rate the recipe and leave a comment below. Doing so helps other readers decide if this is a great recipe to bake. Don’t forget to tag me on Instagram using @olivesnthyme so I can see what you’re baking! - M
Molasses Cake Recipe
- 1 stand mixer with paddle attachment or electric hand mixer with beaters
- 1 zester
- ½ cup (118 ml) molasses
- ½ cup (118 ml) hot water
- 1¼ cup (150 g) all purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (100 g) light brown sugar
- 1 lemon, zested
- 4 tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (177 C). Lightly grease and line the bottom and two sides of a 9 x 9 inch (23 cm) cake pan with parchment paper.
- In a microwave safe cup, heat water to hot and mix in the molasses until smooth and well combined.½ cup (118 ml) molasses, ½ cup (118 ml) hot water
- In a mixing bowl whisk the all purpose flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves and salt together until well combined.1¼ cup (150 g) all purpose flour, ¾ teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, ½ teaspoon salt
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the brown sugar and lemon zest together until they are the consistency of wet sand. Beat butter and lemon sugar together until light and fluffy. This takes about 2-3 minutes on medium speed.½ cup (100 g) light brown sugar, 1 lemon, zested, 4 tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- On low, beat in the egg and warm molasses water until smooth and well combined. Mix the dry ingredients into wet until just combined.1 large egg, room temperature
- Evenly pour the molasses cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake the ginger cake for 28 - 32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
- Cool the pan in the pan for 10 minutes. Gently lift the molasses spice cake out of the pan using the parchment paper. Transfer to a serving plate or serve right from the pan. Top with powdered sugar, a glaze or cream cheese frosting, slice and enjoy!