Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but this cake is so delightful. Olive Oil Gingerbread Cake is a warmly-spiced and subtly-sweet treat. Cinnamon, cloves, and ginger blend with dark, caramelly brown sugar and molasses for rich flavor with a delightfully fluffy texture. Pair it with a dollop of whipped cream to keep it light and airy.
Christmas is so close I can taste it! Or that might just be all the residual sugar in my mouth. Between making gifts for family, friends, neighbors, and teachers, and eating all the treats given to me by family, friends, neighbors, and teachers, it’s been a bit of a Festival of Sweets at my house this week. Especially with the first big snow!
I am not a sugar fiend (I’ll take cheese over cookies any day of the week) but when I’m literally sitting on mounds of the stuff like I live in friggin’ Candyland, and the kids are going crazy, and I’m behind on gifts (wrapping and shopping), and and and… well, sometimes a girl has a slight break and just shovels a whole lotta caramels into her mouth. I like to think it’s my subconscious way of keeping my trap shut so I can’t, um… vent my frustrations.
This is all to say, I know we all have a bit of a treat problem this year and that’s why this Gingerbread Cake with Olive Oil is the perfect antidote. For starters, it’s way more sweetly spiced than sickly sweet. Is there some sugar in it? Of course, yes; it’s a cake. But it’s at the opposite end of the holiday baked goods spectrum from, say, an iced Christmas cutout. Also, it is not, for instance, an orange. I always laugh at people who tell me to like, take a break from the sweets. No. It’s Christmas. I want Christmas treats. I can have an orange on January 7th.
So this cake is the perfect holiday handshake between my angels and my demons. Perfectly balanced, light, fluffy, moist – and definitely doesn’t leave me feeling like a truck hit me.
The magic of one bowl cakes
I always welcome fewer dishes to clean, but especially during the holidays. Only the magic of the season can compete with the magic of one bowl cake recipes. Simply mix the wet ingredients (in stages if needed, as is done here). Then add seasoning, salt, and your leavening agent and whisk until well combined. Finally, add the flour and fold until the batter is evenly moistened.
This method makes the whole process easier, quicker, and fuss-free. The only deviation this recipe makes is adding the boiling water last.
Why add boiling water in gingerbread cake?
Hot, near boiling water is a traditional ingredient in gingerbread cake. Some gingerbread recipes also call for a touch of cocoa powder (to round out the flavor) and the hot water helps it bloom. But even if a recipe – like this one, for instance – does not use cocoa, the hot water also helps to thin out the viscous molasses for easier mixing. Need proof? I tried to recipe test this with room temperature water – it was so hard to mix properly that I ended up overworking the batter and had a cakey sinkhole to contend with 40 minutes later. The hot water not only fixed that, but made the cake ridiculously moist!
Why use olive oil in gingerbread cake?
I LOVE olive oil cakes. They’re so perfectly tender and moist. Most gingerbread cakes (and cakes in general) call for butter, but I’ve been making my cakes with olive oil for years and I can’t imagine I’ll go back to butter. Olive oil is the clear winner for both texture and taste. (It’s mild, but still “buttery!”) Just remember – you want to bake with regular olive oil, not extra virgin.
What kind of molasses should I use?
This recipe calls for light molasses, which will create a slightly subtler flavor that’s appealing to a wide variety of palettes (like my kids, who love this cake!). Robust molasses can be used for more intense flavor, but avoid sulphured and blackstrap molasses – the flavor is too intense, and borders on bitter.
More seasonal sweets
- Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
- Italian Butter Cookies
- Cannoli Dip
- Peppermint Whoopie Pies
- Polish Chrusciki (Angel’s Wings)
Did you make this gingerbread cake? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
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- ½ c olive oil
- 1 egg
- 1 c molasses, mild, not blackstrap
- ½ c dark brown sugar
- 1.5 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp ginger
- ½ tsp cloves
- ½ tsp salt
- 2.5 c all purpose flour
- 1 c hot water, just barely boiled
- Whipped cream, for serving
- Powdered sugar, for serving
- Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x9” square cake pan or casserole dish with a spray of olive oil, then dust with flour.
- Combine the olive oil and egg in a large bowl, then whisk until smooth. Add the molasses and sugar, then whisk until very smooth and there are no remaining sugar lumps.
- Add the baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt, then whisk until smooth.
- Add the all purpose flour and mix with rubber spatula until most lumps are gone; the batter will be very thick. Pour in the hot water and stir until the batter is smooth, but be careful not to over-mix; the batter will be thin. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake 35-40 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed with two fingers in the center, or until a cake tested comes out clean.
- Cool the cake completely in the pan (at least 2 hours). Dust with powdered sugar, then slice into squares and top with whipped cream.