Gingerbread Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Whole Grain Gingerbread with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting | A Sweet Spoonful

We went over to my friend Julie’s house for dinner a few weeks back – one of those early Friday night gatherings because we all have kids and they start to unravel at a certain point come the end of a busy week. Julie made saucy meatballs and garlic bread, we brought a big Italian salad, and while the boys played after dinner we all cozied up on the couch while Julie sliced generous pieces of gingerbread … from my book! Sam kept asking with amazement, “this is your recipe, Megan?!” Even I hardly recognized it: Julie had the genius inspiration to add a layer of maple frosting and a sprinkle of flaky salt to the top, elevating it from a whole grain breakfast we’ve eaten many times (mmhm, Sam) to a really special dessert.
Whole Grain Gingerbread with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting | A Sweet Spoonful I worked hard in my cookbook to make everything as healthy as possible: how little sugar can we get away with while still having this recipe taste delicious? What other whole grains can we play with here? And of course, on one hand that makes perfect sense because it’s a breakfast cookbook. But on the other hand, I loved seeing the recipe reimagined in someone else’s eyes as a decadent dessert, and loosening up the reins a bit today in baking for our family.

Everyone says there’s nothing quite like pregnancy to teach you to relinquish control and realize you’re not the driver. I found this to be infinitely true once tiny Oliver arrived, but when I was pregnant the first time around, I seemed to be quite set on proving things to myself. Running 6 miles at 30 weeks? No problem. Powering through barre classes until the end? Sure. Unmedicated childbirth and a nine pound baby? People did it, so I surely could, too.

Whole Grain Gingerbread with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting | A Sweet Spoonful Even after we brought Oliver home, it seemed like Sam and I went through months of trying to prove to ourselves we could do certain things that other parents seemed to struggle with — whether that was eating out or taking the ferry to the islands, long plane rides or camping. Looking back, I think I was running on pure adrenaline for many months. Looking back, it didn’t feel great.

This pregnancy is different (as I wrote about recently). While I wish I could say I’m running, I’m not. I walk the neighborhood now, sometimes listening to podcasts and other times calling my mom or sister — ultimately pretty happy to just be out moving. I stand in the back at barre or yoga and modify the heck out of that hour — in my own corner, happy to have made the time and gotten out of the house. Expectations are lower: I don’t feel like I have much to prove to myself anymore.

Now, I have this extremely oversized pregnancy pillow that I fought against using the first time around. We’re putting frosting on our healthy baked goods. We’re letting things unfold as they are a bit more, and crossing our fingers this pace will continue on after the baby is born.

A quick note about this gingerbread: I did a ton of gingerbread research while writing this recipe and made many, many iterations as I was having trouble finding the perfect one. I wanted a tender (not dry!) gingerbread with a bold spice profile that wasn’t too sweet, had hints of citrus, and real molasses flavor. After all that trial and error, this is without exaggeration, my very favorite gingerbread recipe. Be careful not to bake it too long – you want to pull it out of the oven when the sides just start to pull away from the pan; it’ll continue to cool / firm up a bit as it sits in the pan. I find 30 minutes is the magic cook time (although in the book I say 35). Share it with friends or, as Oliver says, “eat it all up.”

Gingerbread Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Gingerbread Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Yield: 9-12 slices, depending on size
  • Prep time: 15 mins
  • Cook time: 30 mins

This cake requires dirtying only one bowl, and makes the house smell like a dream. Omit the frosting and enjoy it for breakfast, or go the decadent route and add it. Don’t forget the flaky salt on top! While a lot of people relegate gingerbread to the holiday table, I love it during all the cold weather months: fall and winter combined.

Gingerbread recipe from: Whole Grain Mornings


For the cake:

3/4 cup (120g) whole wheat flour
1 cup (120g) spelt flour (or sub all purpose-flour if you'd like)
1/2 cup (75g) natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger (totally optional)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
1/2 cup (120 ml) blackstrap molasses
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
1/4 cup (60 ml) plain whole-milk yogurt
1 large egg, beaten

For the Maple Frosting:

4 ounce cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted confectioners sugar, plus more if desired
3 tablespoons maple syrup
flaky salt (like Maldon), to sprinkle on top


Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9-inch square pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, salt, three kinds of ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and orange zest. Use your hands to break up any clumps of sugar and whisk well.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the molasses and honey and cook, stirring, until the mixture is warm but not boiling. Pour into the flour mixture and stir to combine. Add the milk, yogurt, and egg and fold together until combined. With a little arm power, the mixture will soon look like brownie batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the edges pull away from the pan slightly and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Let the gingerbread cool completely in the pan before frosting.

Make the frosting: In a medium mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter on medium-high until they’re well blended and smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add the sugar and maple syrup and beat well until silky and smooth. If you like your frosting a little thicker, simply add additional confectioners sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Frost the cake: Spoon the frosting out of the bowl and onto the cake. Use an offset spatula (or knife) to spread frosting evenly onto the top of the cake. Sprinkle with flaky salt.



  1. Adriana

    Just got this out of the oven, the kitchen smells heavenly. The cake is so good, I used a little more yoghurt than milk, didn’t have crystallized ginger and I think we will have as is, I’m sure the frosting is great, but it is so good on its own. Thanks as always for such a nice recipe. Blessings with this pregnancy, no doubt, each one is unique.

    1. megang

      Thank you, Adriana. Your version sounds wonderful (I left the crystallized ginger out this time as well). I'm so glad you like it on its own as well - I do, too. Such a true, perfect gingerbread flavor. Enjoy!

  2. Lynne Lorentsen

    We've made this twice in one week for two different crowds! I love passing the salt grinder so that people can choose how much to salt their cake. I had not tried it in my copy of your book when we had a house fire in January....and now we visit our smokey cookbooks in a sealed Rubbermaid when we need them!
    Thank you for yet another classic to pass down to my daughters!

    1. megang

      Hi, Lynne! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment. This just makes my day. I'm so, so happy you all are enjoying the recipe. It's such a good cake! We're going to need to make it again around here soon. So sorry to hear about your house fire :( Enjoy the season with your family,

    1. megang


  3. Carrie

    I made this yesterday for visiting family and we all loved it! It’s on our repeat list. It’s good with and without the frosting. Thanks so much for the time and effort you put In to make the perfect gingerbread...and your blog. It’s wonderful!

    1. megang

      Thank you, Carrie! I'm so glad you all enjoyed the recipe - it's about time we made another batch around here :)

  4. Peggy

    Can it be made as a layer cake

    1. megang

      I've never tried it, Peggy. But it's definitely a sturdy, solid cake so I'd be a little nervous to say definitively yes.

  5. Sal

    I tried this recipe with high hopes and it let me down completely. I have not made a cake that failed so miserably. This was completely inedible to me and did not have my home filled with the smell of ginger, despite using all 3 gingers. I rarely leave reviews even when I've had a bad experience but this tops them all. Will be taking this out of my bookmarks.

    1. megang

      Sal, I'm so sorry. We've made this cake a few times as have others and have loved it. So sorry you had a poor experience - that's so frustrating! I'm not sure what to offer or what may have went wrong - there are so many factors, really -, but I do apologize that it didn't work out for your family.

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