This fluffy and moist Gingerbread Apple Cake combines the warm, spicy flavors of gingerbread with sweet crunchy apples. Topped with a smooth dairy-free cream cheese frosting, it’s the best dessert for Christmas and holiday celebrations.
Why You’ll Love This Gingerbread Apple Cake
It’s that time of year where baking holiday recipes brings so much joy! Classic flavors like gingerbread, peppermint and eggnog are so fun to create new recipes from, and this snack cake is no exception. Here are a few reasons why this Gingerbread Apple Cake is a must-try and why it’s sure to become a holiday favorite:
- Rich, Wonderful Flavors: The combination of dark molasses, aromatic spices like ginger and cinnamon, and the natural sweetness of apples creates a flavor that’s both rich and satisfying.
- Perfectly Moist and Fluffy Texture: Thanks to the thoughtful balance of wet ingredients like applesauce and oil, this cake offers a delightfully moist crumb that’s both fluffy and indulgent.
- Decadent Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Frosting: This frosting adds a creamy, sweet layer that perfectly complements the spiced cake, all while being completely vegan.
- Festive and Versatile: Ideal for the holiday season, this gingerbread snack cake is a crowd-pleaser and a wonderful addition to any festive occasion. It’s small size also makes it versatile enough to be enjoyed as a dessert or a special afternoon treat.
- One Bowl for the Batter: No need to use a separate bowl to whisk flour and other dry ingredients- they can be added right on top of the wet ingredients to save dishes.
This Gingerbread Apple Cake is made with pantry-friendly ingredients. The goal of this recipe was to create a festive dessert that’s simple to make but doesn’t compromise on taste. The cake is flavorful and spicy thanks to ground ginger and cinnamon, but it’s perfectly balanced when served with the sweet, creamy vanilla bean cream cheese frosting (don’t skip this!).
Here’s what you’ll need for the cake:
- Dark Unsulphured Molasses: The star ingredient that gives the cake its signature rich, deep flavor.
- Granulated Sugar: Balances the robustness of the molasses with its sweetness. We’re opting for regular white sugar over light brown sugar today so we don’t overpower the other flavors with too much molasses.
- Vegetable Oil and Unsweetened Applesauce: These add moisture to the cake. Applesauce acts as the egg replacement in the cake. A good rule of thumb is that 1/2 cup of applesauce replaces 2 large eggs!
- Vanilla Extract: Enhances the overall flavor profile of the cake.
- All-purpose Flour, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, and Salt: The plain flour and leavening serve as foundational elements that give structure and rise to the cake.
- Ground Cinnamon, Ground Ginger, and Ground Cloves: A classic spice trio that infuses the cake with warm, festive flavors.
- Cosmic Crisp® Apples: These apples are great for baking and add a delightful fruity twist and texture to the cake.
For the frosting:
- Salted Vegan Butter and Dairy-Free Cream Cheese: The base of the creamy, rich frosting. I used Trader Joe’s Vegan Cream Cheese Alternative and Earth Balance Buttery Sticks.
- Powdered Sugar: Adds sweetness and helps achieve the perfect frosting consistency.
- Vanilla Bean Paste: Elevates the frosting with its aromatic flavor.
Substitutions & Add Ins
Below are a few substitutions if you’re out of one of the ingredients above:
- Molasses: No dark molasses? Light molasses or 1/2 cup maple syrup can be used, though they will give the cake a different flavor profile.
- Applesauce: If you’re out of applesauce, mashed bananas can work as a substitute, adding a unique twist to the cake. The texture might vary slightly.
- Vegan Butter and Cream Cheese: If you have preferences or restrictions, feel free to use any brand of vegan butter or cream cheese that suits your dietary needs. These can be swapped 1:1 with regular versions.
- Apples: You can substitute in Honeycrisp or granny smith apples if you don’t have Cosmic Crisp®.
- 8×8” Square Baking Pan or 9” Round Baking Pan: For baking the cake. You can also use a 9″ round springform pan.
- Parchment Paper: For lining the baking pan, making sure it can be removed after baking.
- Large Bowl: To make the batter.
- Hand Mixer: For whipping up the smooth, creamy frosting. You can also make the frosting in a stand mixer with a whisk or paddle attachment.
- Wire Rack: For cooling.
Step By Step Instructions
Make the Gingerbread Cake Batter:
STEP 1: Start by heating your oven to 350°F (175°C). Line the cake pan with parchment paper so it is easy to remove once baked.
STEP 2: Peel your apples and chop them into ¼” cubes.
STEP 3: In a large bowl, whisk together molasses, sugar, oil, applesauce, and vanilla extract.
STEP 4: Add your flour to the wet ingredients, topping it with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients gently, then blend the flour mixture into the wet ingredients to create a thick batter.
STEP 5: Next, fold the chopped apples into the batter until evenly distributed.
STEP 6: Transfer the batter into the cake pan and bake for 36-39 minutes. The cake is done when the center is set and a cake tester or toothpick inserted comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
STEP 7: Let the cake cool a bit in the pan, then move it onto a wire rack to let it cool completely.
Make the Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting:
STEP 8: For the frosting, cream together vegan butter and cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add in powdered sugar, whipping it until it’s fluffy, then stir in the vanilla bean paste.
STEP 9: If the frosting needs thickening, put it in the fridge for a bit before you spread it over the top of the cake.
STEP 10: Once your cake is frosted and ready, it’s time to place it on a serving plate and slice it up for a delightful holiday treat!
Once the cake is cool and the icing is on, it’s time to slice and enjoy! This gingerbread snack cake would pair so well with a cup of decaf coffee on Christmas Eve. Or you can enjoy it as a sweet afternoon treat on Christmas Day. Check out a few more fun decorating ideas and serving tips below!
- Gingerbread Cookie Accents: Top your cake with some cute gingerbread cookies for a playful and festive look.
- Sugared Cranberries: Scatter a handful of sugared cranberries on top for a splash of color and a tangy twist.
- Rosemary Sprigs: Tuck a few rosemary sprigs here and there for a subtle, natural aroma and a bit of green.
- Dusted Cinnamon or Icing Sugar: Give it a dusting of cinnamon or icing sugar to add a bit of winter magic.
- Apple Slices: Fan out thin apple slices on top to tie in the apple flavor.
- Scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream: Skip the cream cheese frosting and top each slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (vegan of course!) – it’s such a creamy, dreamy addition.
- Crystallized Ginger: Sprinkle some crystallized ginger bits for a spicy kick and fun texture.
- Caramel Sauce: You can pour caramel on top of the cream cheese frosting for an extra decadent touch.
Proper storage is key to maintaining the freshness and flavor of your Gingerbread Apple Cake! See our tips below:
- Refrigerated Storage: Store the frosted cake on a plate covered with plastic wrap or in an airtight container. It will stay fresh in the fridge for 2-3 days.
- Freezing Instructions: To freeze the cake, first place it on a plate, uncovered, in the freezer for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until the frosting is firm to the touch. Then, wrap the cake or individual slices in plastic wrap and place them in a freezer bag. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to enjoy it, let the cake thaw at room temperature.
- Accurate Measurements: Use a digital scale for the most precise ingredient measurements. This will make sure you get the perfect texture and taste.
- Not a Fan of Spice? If you’re sensitive to heat consider using 2 teaspoons of ground ginger instead of 1 tablespoon.
- Avoid Overbaking: Keep a close eye on the baking time to make sure you end up with a moist cake and the edges don’t dry out.
- Cooling the Cake: Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting to prevent the frosting from melting.
- Decorating: Get creative with decorations like gingerbread cookies, sugared cranberries, or rosemary sprigs for a festive look.
A cake that sinks in the middle is often a result of under baking or using a pan that’s the wrong size. It can sometimes happen if the batter has been over mixed, which creates large air bubbles that expand when baked. Ensure your oven is properly calibrated and bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Also, make sure to use the pan size recommended in the recipe.
Yes, you can quarter the recipe and bake it in a mini loaf pan (3×5 inches) for 27-30 minutes. This is a great option for individual servings or for gifting during the holidays. If you choose not to quarter the recipe, it will make about 4 mini loaves.
Avoid overbaking and measure your ingredients accurately, especially flour and the wet components. I baked mine for 38 minutes and it was perfectly moist in the center.
Unfortunately, I haven’t tested this recipe using fresh minced ginger, so I can’t recommend a conversion.
Looking for more holiday recipes?
- Gingerbread Chai Tea Latte
- Eggnog Thumbprint Cookies
- Vegan Peppermint Mocha Cookies
- Cranberry Almond Shortbread Cookies