5 stars based on 7 votes


Old-fashioned gingerbread is the perfect treat to keep on hand during the holidays. There are many different kinds — from the darkest, densest cakes made with robust molasses and stout beer to the lightest, most delicate cakes flavored only with brown sugar and a hint of ground ginger. This recipe, adapted from Cooking with Memories by Lora Brody, is the perfect balance between the two: it’s dark and gingery enough to please the even most serious gingerbread aficionados yet also mild enough for young children, who (in my experience) seem to love it.

The best part is that it’s incredibly quick and easy to make — the batter is mixed by hand and comes together in 15 minutes — and it needs nothing more than a cup of coffee, dollop of sweetened whipped cream or scoop of vanilla ice cream to go along with it.

Begin by spraying the pan with non-stick cooking spray and coating lightly with flour.

Next, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.

Combine the brown sugar, molasses, butter and boiling water in a large bowl, and whisk until the butter is melted.

When the mixture is lukewarm, whisk in the egg. (If the mixture is too hot, it will cook the egg.)

Add the dry ingredients.

And whisk until there are no more lumps.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes.

Let cool slightly, then slice and serve warm. It’s truly delicious on its own, especially as a snack, but you can also dress it up for dessert with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Happy Holidays!




Servings: Makes 1 9-inch square cake (about 16 servings)
Cook Time: 35 Minutes
Total Time: 50 Minutes


  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off with back edge of knife
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup mild-flavored molasses, such as Grandma's Original (not Robust or Blackstrap)
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 large egg


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add a few tablespoons of flour to the pan; shake and turn pan until bottom and sides are evenly coated with a light dusting flour. Holding pan upside-down over sink, tap out any excess flour.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine, butter, dark brown sugar, molasses and boiling water. Whisk until butter is melted. When mixture is luke warm, whisk in egg.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until just combined and there are no more lumps. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the edges look dark and the middle feels firm to the touch. Set pan on a rack to cool slightly, then cut into squares and serve. This cake is best served warm out of the oven or reheated.

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    This cake was wonderful. The only thing I did differently was I dehydrated fresh ginger and then ground it in my coffee grinder. I followed the recipe proportions as written, including the ginger. The cake turned out very good. I served the cake with a homemade apple pie filling on top. Awesome.

    - Lynn on November 24, 2015 Reply
  • Do you know how many cups of batter this makes? I would like to double or triple this to make into a bundt cake for the holidays.

    - Debra Chilson on November 14, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Debra, Unfortunately, I didn’t measure. I’m guessing you would double it, though. Please let me know how it turns out — great idea :)

      - Jenn on November 15, 2015 Reply
  • We are going to the Mountains for Thanksgiving and I would like to bake this and freeze it prior to going. Is this possible and are there any suggestion for freezing this dessert.

    - Deborah Klein on November 14, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Deborah, This cake freezes well; just wrap with foil and place in a freezer bag and you’ll be good to go :)

      - Jenn on November 14, 2015 Reply
  • Sounds good! Can this be baked in a loaf pan?

    - Karin on November 1, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Karin, Yes that should work.

      - Jenn on November 2, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this for Thanksgiving dessert. Everyone loves it… I served it with a Pomegranate compote on top. I am going to keep making this.

    - Melissa P on October 11, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I’ve made many a recipe trying to recreate an old favorite….this is the closest and best by far. I opted for golden syrup and used 60grams of butter for conversion to Australian standards and it was perfectly moist, with excellent flavours.

    - Brenda on May 31, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Dear Jen,

    Is it possible to use rye flour in this recipe? For full ir partial substitution of wheat flour? If yes, would other ingredients need any adjustments? Thank you very much in advance.

    - Marina on December 28, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Marina, I would probably not use rye flour in this recipe, as it would change the flavor quite a bit. Sorry!

      - Jenn on December 28, 2014 Reply
  • Looks great, but can I make it in a bundt pan? How would I adjust the cook time? Thanks!

    - Ann on December 23, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Ann, I’m afraid there’s not enough batter for this recipe to work in a bundt pan. Sorry!

      - Jenn on December 24, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I came across this recipe on my Facebook newsfeed and was intrigued. Baking is not my strong suit, but the instructions were so detailed and helpful. This was simply amazing. My kids absolutely loved it and requested it for Christmas Eve! Thank you! I may just try baking something else! :)

    - Joy on December 15, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I needed a quick dessert for an impromptu holiday gathering last weekend. This fit the bill perfectly – no waiting for butter to soften! The cake turned out moist and was very delicious served with a bit of lightly sweetened whipped cream and some pomegranate seeds on top as a garnish. I can always count on Once Upon a Chef for a no-fail and delicious crowd-pleasing recipe.

    - Liesel on December 7, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Everyone in the house loved this. With some fresh made whip cream it was soooo good!

    - Michelle on October 8, 2014 Reply
  • I made this for Christmas gift plates last year. We baked them as individual loaves and they turned out great! We wrapped them in cellophane and added one loaf to each plate. I agree with the other reviewer that you can sub maple syrup for molasses. It lightens the flavor quite a bit, but it is still very tasty!

    - Carol York on November 7, 2013 Reply
  • This is wonderful and easy! It’s great for company or just whenever you want something sweet (but not too sweet). I’ve made it several times & it’s always great!

    - Esther on November 5, 2013 Reply
  • Moist a d delicious! If I don’t get ny piece first, it is gone before I know it. Love serving this if fall with string coffee areond the fire.

    - Sharyn on March 10, 2013 Reply
  • I usually make gingerbread for my husband’s birthday and thought I’d give this one a try. It was quick and easy to put together. I loved that it was a mild molasses taste and not so sharp as other recipes. I would make this again.

    - mona cote on March 9, 2013 Reply
  • This is just lovely!

    - The Wimpy Vegetarian on January 15, 2013 Reply
  • I made your gingerbread cake today and absolutely delicious…….it was such a hit with my boyfriend. Just the right blend of spices and so moist. Do you have a good recipe for cream cheese frosting?

    - Diane on January 13, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Diane, Check out my vanilla birthday cake recipe for cream cheese frosting. It makes a ton, so definitely cut the recipe in half.

      - Jenn on January 16, 2013 Reply
  • I love gingerbread & can’t wait to try your recipe. When I lived in Louisiana, many years ago, an elderly lady at church made gingerbread with an amazing pineapple glaze/frosting. Any ideas on how to make a pineapple topping??

    - Janet on January 13, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Janet, If I were to make a pineapple glaze, I’d probably start with crushed pineapple, butter and brown sugar and cook it down into a thick syrup. Hope that helps!

      - Jenn on January 17, 2013 Reply
  • Can I double this for a 13 x 9 pan?

    - Lynn on January 12, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Lynn, The cake will be a little taller but I think it will work fine.

      - Jenn on January 12, 2013 Reply
  • I made this for my family at Christmas. I didn’t have quite enough molasses, so I subbed a little maple syrup to make up the difference (to answer the question about substitutes). No one could tell, and it was just delicious. This is going to be a family tradition, I think. Thanks for sharing a delicious treat!

    - Becca J on January 2, 2013 Reply
  • Made as is with no modifications and the buttercream icing. Huge hit

    - Maya on December 27, 2012 Reply
  • you have a lovely blog here. bookmarked your website. this looks really good, you take beautiful pics.

    - Honey What's Cooking on December 27, 2012 Reply
  • Woops, silly me made this with blackstrap (I didn’t see the “not,” just the “blackstrap” bit >.<)…it turned out as dark as a very dark chocolate cake, and quite heavy on molasses flavour! I've never really seen "light" molasses though – I think in non-American countries (I'm from Australia) that's called golden syrup or treacle for the medium-dark stuff.

    - Zo @ Two Spoons on December 26, 2012 Reply

    - Mary Frances on December 26, 2012 Reply
  • This looks incredible! However it seems we don’t have any molasses, is there anything I could substitute?

    - Fatima on December 24, 2012 Reply
    • Hi Fatima, I’m afraid there’s no substitute for molasses. Sorry!

      - Jenn on December 24, 2012 Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I made your gingerbread yesterday and it is the best I have ever had. You are so creative and come up with the most delicious recipes. This gingerbread is soooo moist and the balance of spices is perfect. Great job as always!! Love your website!!!!!

    - Judy Claggett on December 23, 2012 Reply
    • Thank you, Judy…so nice to hear!

      - Jenn on December 23, 2012 Reply
  • I just made this for a playdate snack and it was a huge hit, thanks !

    - Amy on December 20, 2012 Reply
  • Jenn, if you were to add icing to this, what would you recommend?

    - Maya on December 20, 2012 Reply
    • Hi Maya, it would be good with my vanilla buttercream (search for my vanilla bday cake), and you could add a little cinnamon if you like.

      - Jenn on December 20, 2012 Reply
    • I used cream cheese frosting its wonderful

      - rebecca on December 29, 2012 Reply
  • Oh brilliant! This mail came through just as I was looking for something to bake…sorted! Thanks x

    - Gill on December 20, 2012 Reply
  • Jenn – I love how you always make classic versions of classic recipes! There are so many blogs out there that do the craziest modifications but I appreciate how I can always come here for tried and true classic recipes. Thanks, and can’t wait to try this gingerbread!

    - Meg @ Peaches and Cake on December 20, 2012 Reply

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