This recipe for old-fashioned gingerbread cake is adapted from a traditional recipe from the 1800s. It results in a vegan gingerbread that is deliciously soft, moist, rich yet light, and packed with ginger, cinnamon, treacle and syrup flavours.
Finished of with a classic, simple, sweet water icing.
For extra special occasions finish of with pieces of crystalized ginger or candied fruits.
This old-style gingerbread cake recipe uses everyday pantry ingredients and results in a whopping cake that weighs over 1kg!
Origin of gingerbread
Gingerbread comes in a variety of forms including cake, sweet breads, biscuits and cookies, and even quaint house shapes!
Gingerbread has a long history and can be dated back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. A Greek gingerbread biscuit recipe has even been traced back to 2400BC!
Gingerbread was common during the British Medieval ages, whereas fancy decorated gingerbread houses originated in Germany during the 1800s.
Medieval England gingerbread was rather different from modern gingerbread cake as it was prepared with breadcrumbs that were mixed through a boiled concoction of spices, saffron, pepper and honey.
Even though medieval gingerbread was termed gyngerbrede the spice ginger was not essential for including within medieval recipes!
Nowadays many countries have their own sweet versions of gingerbread cake from the US molasses enriched dark gingerbread, to the lighter British golden syrup gingerbread cake, and the toffee-like flavoured sticky Jamaican gingerbread.
Not to mention all the delicious crisp and soft gingerbread man/woman or person cookies, biscuits and sweet houses that are so popular during the Autumn and Winter festivities.
How to prepare old-fashioned gingerbread cake
First, prepare the vegan sour milk/buttermilk.
Pour the soya milk and apple cider vinegar [or lemon juice] into a jug and leave to curdle for about 15 minutes.
Add the margarine, golden syrup, treacle [or molasses] and the sour milk to a saucepan.
Over a gentle heat stir until combined.
Sprinkle in the bicarbonate of soda and with a fork whisk until well mixed and foamy.
Pour and scrape the liquid mixture into a mixing bowl.
Sieve the flour and baking powder into the bowl over the liquid. Add the salt, ginger and cinnamon powder.
Give the gingerbread batter a good mix and scoop it into the cake pan.
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until risen, dark golden, and a skewer popped into the centre comes out clean.
Once cool the cake can be iced.
Sieve the icing/powdered sugar into a bowl and stir through the water.
Cover the gingerbread with the icing.
Once the water icing has set slice the gingerbread into portions, either 9 large squares or 18 smaller pieces.
Alternatively keep the gingerbread cake whole and just slice each portion as required.
Optional: Top each slice with a piece of crystalized ginger or candied fruit or candied fruit peel.
To best preserve the gingerbread cakes freshness, wrap up in a layer of baking parchment and a second layer of kitchen foil.
Place in an air-tight covered container for 1-2 weeks, and store in a cool, dry area.
Alternatively gingerbread cake can be stored in the refrigerator but do wrap it up well to prevent the cake drying out too fast.
Yes, gingerbread cake can be frozen. Wrap well with a layer of parchment paper and a layer of kitchen foil, and place into a freezer bag or container.
Freeze for 2-3 months.
If freezing an iced gingerbread cake let the icing set completely before wrapping and freezing.
To defrost, unwrap the cake and defrost to room temperature.
A big spoon and a nice cup of tea! Or coffee, chilled oat milk, hot cocoa, turmeric latte...
Alternatively, enjoy a slice of gingerbread cake for dessert or pudding along with hot vegan custard, vegan whipped or single pouring cream, or a tasty scoop of vegan ice cream.
For an easy and quick vegan custard recipe [using custard powder] have a look at the recipe notes for our tasty coconut and jam sponge cake.
Yes. If preferred a vegan cream cheese topping can be added to the gingerbread cake. There is an easy vegan cream cheese frosting method included within the recipe notes for our pumpkin spiced fruit loaf cake.
Gingerbread cake is traditionally enjoyed during the autumn and winter festivities especially Thanksgiving, Bonfire Night, Christmas, and New Year celebrations.
During the 1800s the British Queen Victoria [reign: June 1837-January 1901] would feed her dog pieces of gingerbread at Christmas time whereas her husband Prince Albert rewarded his children with gingerbread at Christmas time for being good throughout the year.
However, any time of the year is perfect for a slice of heart warming, home-made gingerbread cake.
Especially on the US National Gingerbread Day on the 5th June and the UK Gingerbread day on the 21st November 2022.
For more tasty traditional vegan baking recipes do have a look at our ever growing family collection for inspiration for your next bake.
Classic Gingerbread Cake [Just Like Grandmas]
- 8 inch square cake pan a loose-bottomed cake pan is a bonus [plus lined with greaseproof paper if necessary]
- Mixing bowl
- Measuring jug
- 250 millilitres soya milk
- 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or white distilled vinegar or fresh lemon juice
- 400 grams plain flour all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon ginger powder use a heaped tablespoon [e.g. don't level out the ginger across the top]
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 140 grams black treacle or molasses
- 170 grams golden syrup or light corn syrup
- 100 grams vegan margarine
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 250 grams icing sugar plus 7 teaspoons water
- crystalized ginger pieces or candied fruit or candied fruit peel
Prepare the vegan sour milk/buttermilk
- Pour the soya milk and apple cider vinegar [or fresh lemon juice]. Set aside for about 15 minutes to curdle. Stir well before using.
Meanwhile preheat the oven 160 Fan, 180 C, 356 Fahrenheit, Gas 4.
- Prepare the cake pan by either greasing with margarine and dusting the base and sides with a light covering of flour, or line with greaseproof/baking parchment.
- Add the golden syrup, black treacle, margarine and sour milk into a saucepan. [Top tip: dip the measuring spoon used to scoop up the treacle and syrup, in boiling water before scooping up each spoonful, as then the syrup will roll off the spoon much easier]Over a gentle heat melt the ingredients, and stir until smoothly combined. [don't allow the mix to boil]
- Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle in the bicarbonate of soda and whisk until a little foamy.
- Pour and scrape the liquid mixture into a mixing bowl.
- Sieve the flour and baking powder into the liquid mixture. Add the salt, cinnamon and ginger powders.
- Give it all a good mix until combined.
- Scoop the gingerbread batter into the cake pan.
- Bake on the middle or lower oven shelf for 35-45 minutes, or until risen, dark golden, firm and a skewer popped into the centre comes out clean.
- Fan ovens may bake quicker so check after 35 minutes. I used an electric oven at 180C and the gingerbread was baked at 40 minutes.
- [Don't worry if your cake rises a little higher in the middle and cracks as it will be perfectly fine. Once the cake has cooled the surface can be gently pressed down before icing.]
- Cool in the cake pan for at least 30 minutes before carefully removing and cooling on a wire rack before icing.
- Sieve the icing [powdered] sugar into a bowl. Stir a few teaspoons of water through the icing at a time so that the icing does not become too thin. About 6-7 teaspoons will be required but exact amounts depends on how thick or thin you prefer your icing.
- If your cake has a crack, press the top gently down a little to level out the surface better. Spoon the icing over the top and spread out to the edges, the icing may drip down the sides and create a delicious look!
- Leave the cake for a few hours for the icing to completely set before wrapping and storing.
- Gingerbread is tastier if left until the next day to cut and enjoy.
- The gingerbread cake can be sliced into 9 generous sized portions or 18 smaller but decent size slices. Or store the cake whole and simply cut a slice when required.
- Optional: Serve each slice with a piece of crystalized ginger, or a piece of candied fruit or candied fruit peel.
- For a delicious pudding serve the gingerbread with hot vegan custard, vegan whipped cream or single pouring cream, or a scoop of vegan ice cream.
- Nutritional information is for guidance only and is not a strict calculation as ingredients vary.
- Gingerbread cake can be stored for 1-2 weeks if wrapped and stored properly in a cool dry area. Wrap with a layer of greaseproof/baking paper and a second layer of kitchen foil, and place into a cake/cookie tin or air-tight container.
- Or freeze for 2-3 months. Iced gingerbread can also be frozen.
- Before wrapping and storing gingerbread wait until the icing has set completely.
- A little piece of crystalized ginger placed on top of each slice of gingerbread intensifies the ginger flavour and adds a nice contrasting texture. However, kids may not appreciate the fiery taste of crystalized ginger!
- If your in the UK, Home Bargains was selling packets of crystalized ginger so its worth a look if you can't find any.
- Candied fruit slices or candied fruit peel is a nice replacement for crystalized ginger, or simply omit this addition.
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