Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting

Packed with spices and real vanilla beans, this Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting is the perfect holiday dessert!

Packed with spices and real vanilla beans, this Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting is the perfect holiday dessert!I have a problem when it comes to sales.  Laura wasn’t aware of this when she met me, but soon after I showed up with 14 boxes of cereal following a grocery store run.  Now she’s aware of my problem.  What?  They were on a great sale!  And you know we’ll eat them!  So the post-Christmas shopping sales are one of my favorite times of the year.  I usually pick up new Christmas lights to replace the burnt-out strands.  And then there’s the boxes of holiday cards at 90% off.  And last year I grabbed a new Santa hat for 79¢.  You know, to replace the one I lost running through the neighbor’s backyard on Christmas Eve.  Oh, I guess I should explain that one, huh?

To explain the missing Santa hat, I need to go back a couple of years.  You see, I was out shopping some holiday clearance sales (surprise, surprise), and I stumbled across a Santa outfit.  A real deal Santa outfit.  It took me all of about 4.3 seconds to decide that I needed it.  (Laura just rolled her eyes when she came home and saw it…)  But, yes, I do indeed own a Santa outfit.

Packed with spices and real vanilla beans, this Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting is the perfect holiday dessert!So last year, we decided to stay home for Christmas since Robbie was only a month old…and we weren’t about to hit the road with a newborn baby.  Our neighbors were kind enough to invite us over for their family Christmas Eve party.  They were so incredibly nice to allow us to join in the festivities with their extended family.  (I think there were ~25 people there…including a bunch of kids.)

I got the idea that it would be fun to dress up as Santa and just run through the backyard.  The kids would just catch a glimpse of me and get excited for Christmas.  Well, my plan worked…better than expected.  I snuck back across the street and got dressed in my Santa gear.  I then called one of the adults and told them to get the kids ready at the back window.  Success!  Santa trotted across the backyard with a huge bag of toys (i.e. bubble wrap) in tow.  But there was only one problem: one of the kids didn’t see me.  So the adults asked me to make another trip through the backyard.  No problem, right?

Packed with spices and real vanilla beans, this Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting is the perfect holiday dessert!Problem.  This time, some of the older kids decided they were going to catch Santa.  And those older kids are also on the track team.  So while Santa was getting ready to make a 2nd pass through the backyard, he heard “Santa!  Get him!  Tackle him!” from about 10 feet away.  Let’s just say Santa hasn’t run that hard in years.  Somewhere along the way, Santa’s hat fell off.  (The kids kept it as proof that they almost caught Santa.)  I somehow made it back across the street in one piece.  In fact, there was a guy out there walking his dog.  Can you imagine the look on his face when he saw Santa run by at full sprint on an otherwise quiet and peaceful Christmas Eve night?

So yeah, this happened.  (If you look closely, you can see a certain very fast kid not far behind Santa…)

Our neighbors invited us to join them again on Christmas Eve this year…but I’m thinking I should just stick to baking delicious cakes this time.  As you guys know, gingerbread is my all-time favorite holiday flavor.  (This Gingerbread Pound Cake turned out quite well a couple of weeks ago!)  So I decided to hit the kitchen one more time before the holidays and create a traditional Gingerbread Cake.  As if improving on gingerbread is even possible, I upped the ante with this Vanilla Bean Frosting.

How to cut a vanilla bean

How to cut a vanilla beanHave you guys ever used real vanilla beans in your baking recipes?  (Hint: Do it now!  Seriously!)  I love vanilla bean everything.  Vanilla bean ice cream.  Vanilla bean Greek yogurt.  And now Vanilla Bean Frosting.  I order my vanilla beans online, and for this Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting I used several Tahitian vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea.  These beans have a very deep vanilla flavor, and I can 100% say that they took this frosting to a whole new level!

How to cut a vanilla beanFor years, I shied away from using real vanilla beans for some of my baking projects.  I just didn’t know how to use them, and I figured vanilla extract was just as good.  Well, that is partially true.  It’s hard to beat a good vanilla extract, but using actual vanilla beans in special baking projects is totally worth it!  All you do is slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise.  Open up each side of the bean a bit, and then use the back of a paring knife (not sharp side) to scrape all of the seeds out.  Then just add those seeds to your recipe as you would vanilla extract.  (Tip: One vanilla bean = approximately 3 tsp of vanilla extract.)

You guys probably already know this, but you can totally make vanilla extract at home, too.  Just buy some quality vanilla beans and let them soak in a decent quality liquor.  (Vodka works best, but my Mom has used rum before, too.)  After a couple of months, *boom* homemade vanilla extract.

Packed with spices and real vanilla beans, this Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting is the perfect holiday dessert!This Gingerbread Cake was a huge hit around here.  Even Laura, who readily admits that she doesn’t like gingerbread, enjoyed her slice.  We’re trying our best to be good during the holidays, so I sliced up the rest of this Gingerbread Cake and wrapped each slice individually in plastic wrap.  Then I put them all into a freezer bag and off to the freezer for safe keeping.  I am most definitely planning on enjoying a slice of that cake by the fire on a cold day in January!

Packed with spices and real vanilla beans, this Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting is the perfect holiday dessert!

Packed with spices and real vanilla beans, this Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting is the perfect holiday dessert!I highly recommend ordering vanilla beans from SLOFoodGroup.  The company was founded by chefs, and they clearly understand how to select top quality beans.  In addition to vanilla beans, they also sell saffron, Ceylon cinnamon, edible gold leaf and dried morel mushrooms!  The mushrooms make me want to hit the kitchen and come up with a tasty soup for winter lunches!  (You can order directly through SLOFoodGroup, but they also have an Amazon storefront, too.)  Give real vanilla beans a shot in your next baking adventure…trust me on this one!

And don’t forget to keep an eye on your backyard this Christmas Eve.  You never know who might come running by!  (But if he’s being chased by a bunch of teenagers, please help him.  Or just invite him in for a slice of Gingerbread Cake!)

Packed with spices and real vanilla beans, this Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting is the perfect holiday dessert!

Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting

Packed with spices and real vanilla beans, this Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting is the perfect holiday dessert!
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 28 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 8 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 559kcal

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • cups buttermilk
  • 1 vanilla bean scraped

For the Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 vanilla beans scraped
  • 3-4 Tbsp milk

For the Sugared Cranberries

  • ½ cup + 2 Tbsp sugar divided
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup cranberries

Instructions

For the Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour (3) 8” round cake pans; set aside.
  • Using a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) together until well combined; set aside.
  • Using a countertop mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy (~3-4 minutes on medium speed).
  • Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until just combined. (Tip: Scrape down sides of the mixing bowl with spatula afterwards.)
  • Add dry ingredients; mix on low speed until just combined.
  • Add molasses, buttermilk and scraped vanilla bean seeds; mix on low speed until just combined.
  • Divide batter evenly between 3 cake pans. Bake for 26-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out mostly clean. Let cakes cool for 10 minutes in the pans before turning them out onto cooling racks until completely cool.

For the Frosting

  • Using a countertop mixer, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy (~3 minutes).
  • Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition.
  • Add salt, scraped vanilla bean and milk; mix on low speed until well combined.

For the Sugared Cranberries

  • Using a small saucepan, add ½ cup of sugar and water. Place pan over low heat and stir until sugar has dissolved.
  • Bring mixture to a light simmer and then remove from heat.
  • Stir in cranberries. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours, or overnight.
  • Drain cranberries. (Tip: Reserve this soaking liquid for holiday cocktails!)
  • Place remaining 2 Tbsp of sugar in shallow bowl. Add cranberries and toss until well coated.
  • Spread cranberries out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Let dry at room temperature for 1 hour.

To Frost Cake

  • Place one layer of cake on large platter. Spread ~¾-1 cup of frosting on top. Repeat with 2nd and 3rd layers of cake. Use remaining frosting on top and sides of cake.
  • Garnish top of cake with sugared cranberries.

Notes

As the sugared cranberries need to soak overnight, I recommend making them the day before you make the cake!

This Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting post was sponsored by SLOFoodGroup, but the recipe and opinions are entirely my own.
Thank you for supporting the brands that support Spiced!

Packed with spices and real vanilla beans, this Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting is the perfect holiday dessert!

Spiced® is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associate Programs and other affiliate services. This means that spicedblog.com receives a small commission by linking to Amazon.com and other sites at no cost to the readers.

30 Comments

  1. I’m laughing my butt off right now!!!! That’s seriously TOO funny!! It’s like something straight from a movie!! Love it 😀 😀
    It’s definitely hard to resist those sales, but lots of times after the holidays, I just want to avoid any store for a while, but then there’s emails tempting us, right? I’ve never made homemade vanilla extract, but that sounds like a great idea! I don’t use rest vanilla bean every time I’m baking, but love it when I do and see those little flecks of vanilla bean in there. This cake looks so delicious, David! Plus, it’s so festive! Those spices and that icing are a winning combo, my friend! So Christmassy! Pinning! Happy Monday to ya! P.S. Robbie looks adorable with Santa!! Too cute!

    1. Oh man, if only you had been there, Dawn! Santa also had a nasty cold this time last year, so when he made it back across the street, he hid behind a tree huffing and puffing and coughing for about 5 minutes. 🙂 Oh man, you should totally start making your own vanilla extract, Dawn! It just takes a couple of months, so pack it away in the back of a cabinet and then find it again some spring. Then you’ll be all set! Thank you so much, my friend!

  2. Hi David (or should I say Santa)! When I saw the first photo of this cake I thought “now I have to make a cake along with all the other stuff on my list”! This cake sounds seriously delicious and looks so festive! I don’t have any vanilla beans right now, but I do have vanilla bean paste. How much do you think I should substitute in both the cake and the frosting? What a great shot of Santa on the run! And the picture of Robbie is is beautiful!

    1. Hah! I offer my sincerest apologies for making you add a cake to your baking line-up, Dorothy. But trust me on this one…it’s worth it! If your schedule is a little too busy, then I think this cake would still be great between Christmas and New Year’s or even in early January! As far as the substitutions, I feel like I recall that vanilla bean paste is used in equal amounts as regular vanilla extract. And one bean = ~3 tsp of extract. That should be a close adjustment! But do give baking with real vanilla beans a shot sometime…it’s pretty awesome! 🙂

  3. Hahaha! That’s the funniest Santa story ever! I can only imagine being chased by a bunch of kids while wearing a Santa suit! Vanilla beans are an absolute recipe game changer. I use bourbon to soak my beans for adding to my porters and Christmas ales. 🙂 This cake would be perfect with some Christmas ale! Love that icing!

    1. Oh man, I wish you had been there, Rachelle. Those kids could’ve snuck up on me no problem and tackled me right there. But fortunately they yelled when they got about 10 feet away…just enough of a headstart to barely get away. Thanks to the cap flying off, too. That slowed them down enough for Santa to hide behind a tree! 🙂 Oh wow, vanilla beans soaked in bourbon. I bet that would make both the beans and the bourbon taste incredible. I need to get a batch of that going ASAP!

  4. Hahaha! Oh my word! That was one heck of a Santa tale! That kid is incredibly close to Santa in that picture or am I seeing ghosts?! I’m impressed you gave him the slip! And that picture of Robbie with “Santa” is simply priceless! Aww shucks – too bad you aren’t doing the whole Santa gig again this year – I bet those kids will be talking about the day they almost caught Santa at this years get-together – though, if they were like I am, they’d be easily distracted with a slice or 3 of this here gingerbread cake! I’m firing up my drone to send it up north on a recon-gingerbread-cake mission!
    Btw, I love baking with vanilla bean and so gotta check out SLOFoodGroup cos they have my hometown’s cinnamon and – edible gold leaf! Merriest of merry’s to you, Laura and that adorable kid of y’alls!

    1. No ghosts there, Shashi! That kid is indeed very close to Santa! The photo was taken from an iPhone indoors, so it’s a bit hard to see…but that really did happen. I think Santa losing his hat slowed the kids down just enough for Santa to get away. Phew! Thank you so much, my friend! Do check out SLOFoodGroup’s website…they have some really cool baking ingredients out there! I’ll keep an eye out for that drone…and you’re in luck. There are still slices of this cake sitting in the freezer! 🙂

  5. Haha, what a hilarious story, David! Indeed, we cannot trust these kids. They must look forward to catching Santa this year. They might have prepared a few traps this time. So I think it was a reasonable decision to skip a Santa costume this Christmas. But please don’t skip this Gingerbread Cake. I think you should make a few cakes and send one to me…or someone may tell those kids the truth about Santa. Xo xo xo 🙂

    1. I know! Those wily kids almost ruined Christmas! Can you imagine what the little kids would’ve thought had the older kids actually caught Santa and tackled him in the backyard. It almost happened! Wait. Are you actually blackmailing me in hopes of getting some gingerbread cake? Haha! I think we can arrange for some of this cake to make it to you…if you’ve been nice this year!

  6. I mean come on David, last week you made my mouth water with your Gluten Free Gingerbread Pound Cake, today you feature this Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting, and I can hardly control myself. I’m trying to lay off sugar, but I think I’m going to put this in my “it’s worth it… lets EAT it all” category. I love a man that can’t pass up a deal. I wish I could have seen you running in a full sprint trying to get away from those older kids. That had to be hilarious. Your picture is truly worth 1000 words. I can’t stop laughing. LMBO

    1. This cake definitely belongs in the “let’s EAT is all” category! Actually, if you and I split the cake, then we technically didn’t eat it all by ourselves. That counts for something, right? 🙂 Oh man, I still have flashbacks and cold sweats of the moment I heard those kids behind me last year! Haha…good times!

  7. Your Santa running in the backyard story made me laugh so hard I was crying. What a lovely thing to do for the kids – glad you were able to replace the Santa hat you have lost that night 🙂 The gingerbread cake is such a beautiful centerpiece for any Christmas table and it sounds and looks so delicious too!

    1. Yay! So glad I could share that fun story, Miriam. And I didn’t make up one bit of that one. It actually happened. And then Santa stood behind a tree across the street for about 5 minutes trying to catch his breath. 🙂 This gingerbread cake really is quite delicious…it’s moving straight up my list of favorite Christmas desserts! Thanks!!

  8. That is SO awesome/funny about you running through the backyard in a Santa suit…and even more so because you have photographic evidence! I wish I’d had a neighbor like you when I was a kid. Especially if that would mean getting a slice of this gorgeous cake! I’m not a big fan of gingerbread cookies but gingerbread cake is an entirely different story. Love the sugared cranberries on top, too!

    1. I didn’t realize anyone had taken a photo of the whole event until I got back inside (dressed as the guy across the street again)…but I’m so happy someone had their phone out! 🙂 You know, I hear you might be looking to leave MI, and Clifton Park, NY is a great place. Move here…and I’ll make sure you never go short on treats again. And Santa might even appear in your backyard…haha! Thanks, Mara!

  9. DUDE! Robbie is looking more and more like you and he didn’t scream at Santa! Love it!

    Okay, I think you may have just unearthed the newest workout…well, seasonal workout. Dress up as Santa, get kids to come chasing after you, and sprint. I’ve never tried gingerbread with vanilla before but I think I’d be a fan- It will mask some of the ginger flavor 😀

    1. Well, I didn’t mention that we had to take about 45 photos to get a good one! He wasn’t mad that morning, but he was squirming like you wouldn’t believe. Anyways! Yes, the Santa Sprint! Complete with kids from the local track team chasing you. If you win, you get lots of cookies. If you lose, well then you ruin Christmas for everyone. Sounds like a fun game! Also, you and Laura need to get over your hatred of gingerbread…it’s the best holiday flavor ever!!

  10. This is beautiful and screams Christmas, killer photos, too. I remember you talking about the Santa sighting and laughed, great idea. That photo of the kid chasing is classic. :Get him!” LOL
    A neighbor did that one Christmas morning when I was a kid and he scared the daylight out of me in our living room Christmas morning.
    Great pic of you and Robbie, I mean Santa….

    1. Oh man…I really thought those kids were gonna catch Santa, too! Talk about ruining Christmas for the little ones…haha. Thanks, Kevin! Hope you and Dave (and the dogs) are having a wonderful Christmas holiday so far! 🙂

  11. This cake is gorgeous! I have to bake it but I wonder if I’ll be able to brag about it before eating most of it first ;). The Santa and kid picture is soooooo cute. If I saw Santa (NOW) I’d still run after him, catch him, and make sure he gives me everything I have in my long list!

    1. Hahaha…I think you can totally hold off to get at least one photo of the cake, Muna! Well, maybe a photo of just one slice, ok? 🙂 And oh man, I’m really glad you weren’t chasing Santa last year, too. There’s only so many people Santa can outrun! Merry Christmas, my friend!

  12. I’ve been craving a gingerbread cake for years. I’m not kidding – years. Every Christmas, I float the idea of gingerbread past my fiance, and I get outvoted. (Anyone who doesn’t understand how one person can get outvoted by one other person has never had a fiance.)

    1. Haha…oh, I totally understand the whole vetoed thing around here, too, Jeff. But that’s when I pull the line, “Well, it’s for the blog.” That, and the fact that I have the curling club to readily dispose of any leftover sweets. (Although this gingerbread cake was too good to part with…I had to save it in the freezer for future consumption. Even if I’m the only one who likes gingerbread around here!) I hope you and your fiance have a very Merry Christmas, my friend!

  13. Hi! This is a beautiful looking cake! My son will turn 21 next Thursday & would like for me to fix him this cake, minus the cranberries. My question is, what kind of topping/decoration can I use in place of the cranberries? Thank you!

    1. Hey there, Susan! Thanks so much for the kind words. This truly is one of my favorite cakes…and I’ve got a lot of cakes out here on the blog. (So that really says something right there!) Truthfully, you probably don’t even need any decoration on top at all. I like the cranberries as they are festive, but you could just make a little extra frosting and then use a large star tip to pipe dollops around the edge of the cake. (If you do that, I’d sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top of each star dollop.) Another idea would be toasted pecans. You could either toast ’em whole or chopped, but then use those around the top. (Either cover the top in chopped pecans or just run a 1″ border around the top edge.) Finally, for a completely different idea, you could sprinkle chopped candied orange peel on top. Candied orange peel would go well with gingerbread, and it’s surprisingly fairly simple to make at home: https://spicedblog.com/how-to-make-candied-citrus-peel.html Let me know what you end up doing! And happy early 21st to your son! 🙂

  14. Can I use Morton & Bassett Spices Premium Quality Pure Vanilla Extract or Roselle Vanilla ExtractPure Ingredients Pure Flavor? Since my grocery store doesn’t carry Vanilla Beans anymore.

    1. Hey Susan! I imagine you probably could use vanilla extract here, but the flavor likely won’t be as strong. If you have the time, I’d recommend ordering vanilla beans as the flavor will be more intense. Another alternative would be to look for vanilla bean paste. It’s a bit thicker than extract, and it includes actual vanilla bean seeds in it so it packs a strong vanilla punch. I hope this helps!!

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