If you’re the kind of person that hears “gingerbread” and begins sprinting in the opposite direction—this is the recipe for you. I know gingerbread is a holiday classic, but I’ve found it hard to like most iterations of gingerbread. I feel like the molasses flavor can be a bit too heavy-handed sometimes, and then it kind of overwhelms any of the nuanced spice flavors within the recipe, and at that point it’s just molasses cake rather than an actual gingerbread. So, with this version, I’ve added in buttermilk for a richer buttery flavor, loads of fresh zesty ginger (as it should be), a dash of molasses, and a delicious assortment of festive + warming spices.

Gingerbread Cake with ButtermilkThe result is an incredibly moist gingerbread cake that has a bit of the traditional gingerbread flavor (thanks molasses!) but also allows the vibrant and refreshing flavors of the spices and fresh ginger and lemon zest to shine. It’s also very quick to throw together, and if you bake it in this tree-shaped pan, it looks much fancier than a simple cake. And since we’re talking about cake pans, this recipe makes about 5 cups of batter, so you could bake it in one single 6-cup capacity bundt pan (it would just be a little shorter than intended), or you could bake it in two 8-inch round cake pans. The cooking time will vary depending on the cooking pan you use, basically the larger the pan, the longer the bake time, so keep an eye on it and take it out of the oven when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Gingerbread Tree Cake with ButtermilkAnd if you’re looking for more festive baked goods to add to your holiday table, I’m definitely making this panettone again this year, and these lemon pistachio snowflake cookies are insanely good. Luckily, we’re having Christmas at my parents this year so I don’t have to worry about making dinner, and am instead focused on making some delicious side dishes + sweets. (I’ve had this savory croissant bread pudding bookmarked for a while now, and it’s definitely going to be on the dinner table at Christmas). Wishing you the best of luck with your winter baking + cooking, and I’ll be back one more time next week with a really simple last-minute dessert recipe for the holiday!

Gingerbread Cake with Buttermilk

Gingerbread Cake with Buttermilk
5 from 1 vote

Gingerbread with Buttermilk and Lemon Zest

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword gingerbread
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 12 people
Calories 300 kcal


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs room temperature
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated zest from 2 organic lemons
  • 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
  • Powdered sugar for dusting


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the gingerbread as pictured, use this tree-shaped baking pan https://www.nordicware.com/products/evergreen-cakelet-pan/. You can also use two 8-inch cake pans, greased and lined with parchment paper round on the bottom. Alternately, you can use a small 6-cup capacity bundt pan. Set your preferred pan(s) aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, dried ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until combined. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and brown sugar at medium-low speed until smooth and combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, waiting until each egg is incorporated before adding the next one. Add the molasses and mix until combined, then add the ginger, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix until incorporated. With the mixer running at low speed, alternate between adding the  buttermilk and flour mixture in three increments, mixing until *just* combined (do not overmix).
  4. If using the tree-shaped baking pan, spray it with cooking oil and dust with almond flour before filling the tree molds 3/4 full with batter (it will puff up when baking and rise to fill the mold). The recipe makes 12 of the tree cakes, so you will need to use the pan twice. If using the 6-cup capacity bundt pan, spray it with cooking oil and dust with almond flour before adding the batter to the pan. If using two 8-inch cake pans, evenly distribute the batter between the two greased and lined cake pans.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, which is about 20 to 25 minutes for the tree-shaped baking pan. The cooking time will vary depending on the cooking pan you use—basically the larger the pan, the longer the bake time—so keep an eye on your gingerbread and take it out of the oven when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before gently unmolding the cake onto the wire rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar and serve. Will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Nutrition Facts
Gingerbread with Buttermilk and Lemon Zest
Amount Per Serving
Calories 300 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 6g38%
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 50mg17%
Sodium 211mg9%
Potassium 322mg9%
Carbohydrates 51g17%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 34g38%
Protein 4g8%
Vitamin A 311IU6%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 90mg9%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Gingerbread Cake with ButtermilkGingerbread Tree Cake with Buttermilk Gingerbread Tree Cake with Buttermilk

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