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Hi Bold Bakers!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE: Skillet Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting—richly sweet, perfectly spiced, and swirled with snowy buttercream—is as cozy as a freshly-cut Christmas tree.
- The dessert delivers all of the traditional tastes of the festive season, and baking it in a skillet makes it charmingly rustic.
- But the luscious drift of frosting, made by cooking the butter until it’s toasted and nutty with an irresistible caramel note, elevates this cake to a celebration-level treat, one that’s destined to become a cherished holiday favorite.
The taste of gingerbread brings back nostalgic Christmas memories and timeless pleasures. While the holiday season can call for fancy-looking showstoppers like this Red Velvet Roulade Cake, Christmas Pudding Ice Cream Bombe, and Christmas Wreath Pavlova, homey desserts like this skillet cake summon up warm fuzzy thoughts of the simple holiday treats of childhood.
A big thank you to my friend Brian Hart Hoffman at Bake from Scratch magazine for allowing me to share this delicious, festive cake that appeared previously in one of their Holiday magazines. I’m a huge fan of their baking magazine and I strongly recommend signing up for the Bake From Scratch Newsletter so you are the first to know about their many baking retreats and when they release new books . With the holidays right around the corner a magazine subscription for the baker in your life would make a fantastic gift.
Table of Contents
- What is Skillet Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting?
- Tools You Need for Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
- Key Ingredients and Why
- How to Make Skillet Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
- Can I Make Skillet Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting in Advance?
- How to Store Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
- Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- More Gingerbread Recipes
What is Skillet Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting?
- Skillet Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting is a single-layer spice cake baked in a cast-iron pan and frosted with buttercream.
- The gingerbread cake is rich and moist from the molasses and brown sugar. Traditional buttercream is given a flavorful twist by browning the butter first until it’s toasty and nutty.
- Gingerbread became popular in medieval Europe when spices from the Middle East first became available. It was commonly prepared in monasteries for religious celebrations. The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, written in 1843, mentioned gingerbread as a holiday treat, and since then, it has become a mainstay of Christmas menus.
Tools You Need for Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
- 10-inch cast iron skillet
- Mixing bowl
- Measuring cups and measuring spoons
- Measuring jug
- Stand mixer with paddle and whisk attachments (optional) or electric mixer
- Medium saucepan
Key Ingredients for Gingerbread and Brown Butter Forsting and Why
Self-raising (self-rising) flour
- Self-raising flour, commonly called self-rising flour in the United States, is a pre-mixed blend of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and sometimes a pinch of salt.
- Because it’s convenient and a time-saver, it’s popular in many parts of the world, including Ireland.
- You can easily make your own self-raising flour so you always have it on hand. I use it in Gemma’s Best-Ever Irish Scones and Microwave Sticky Toffee Pudding.
Ginger, cinnamon, and cloves
- This iconic trio of seasonal spices contains distinctive notes that blend to make the skillet cake taste and smell like the holidays.
- Ginger brings zippy flavor and subtle heat. Cinnamon provides earthiness and coziness, and cloves elevate the mixture with a peppery-sweet punch.
- For the most impactful flavor, make sure your spices are fresh!
- Whole milk moistens the cake, giving it a tender and delicate crumb.
- Milk also reacts with baking powder, giving the cake a light, airy rise.
- The robust, earthy sweetness of molasses gives gingerbread its signature flavor.
- Molasses gives the cake its moisture and keeps it from drying out. That’s because molasses is hygroscopic, which means it attracts and retains moisture.
- The fat in butter coats the flour and inhibits gluten formation. This gives the cake a delicate texture.
- Butterfat also gives gingerbread moisture and a pleasantly soft crumbliness.
- Dark brown sugar sweetens the gingerbread.
- With a 10% molasses content compared to light brown sugar’s 3.5% content, dark brown sugar has a bolder taste than light brown sugar.
- Dark brown sugar also adds to the moistness of the gingerbread.
- Eggs enrich flavors and provide an emulsifier from the egg yolks to homogeneously bind all the ingredients together.
- Eggs must always be at room temperature in baking unless specified otherwise. Room-temperature eggs will set this recipe on the right track with a smooth and cohesive cake batter.
- Learn foolproof ways to get your eggs to room temperature quickly.
- Aromatic vanilla adds depth, warmth, and an aromatic note to the frosting.
- Powdered sugar is also called confectioners’ sugar or icing sugar.
- Because powdered sugar is finely ground and mixed with cornstarch, it gives the frosting a fluffy texture.
- Zippy citrus is the perfect counterpoint to the frosting’s sweetness and buttery richness.
- Salt is optional in this recipe. Depending on what type of butter you use, and if it’s salted or unsalted butter, you might want to add 1/8 teaspoon of salt to balance the frosting’s sweetness.
How to Make Skillet Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and butter the skillet.
Make the Gingerbread Cake:
- In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the spices.
- Mix the milk with the molasses and set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
- Alternately add the milk and flour to the butter mixture until combined and smooth.
- Spread the batter into the skillet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely.
Make the Brown Butter Frosting:
- Melt the butter in the skillet for 5 to 10 minutes until it turns brown and smells toasty. Watch the butter carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn.
- Transfer the butter to a bowl and let it cool in the fridge for an hour.
- Beat the cooled butter until creamy, then add the powdered and beat until combined.
- Add milk, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt if using, and beat until combined.
- Frost the cooled cake and serve it in the skillet.
Can I Make Skillet Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting in Advance?
Yes, you can make Skillet Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting in Advance.
- Bake the cake, let it cool, and frost. Transfer the cake to an airtight container. It will keep it at room temperature for two days.
How to Store Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
Store leftover frosted cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days.
Could I make this Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting recipe egg-free?
Yes, you can make this spice cake egg-free.
- Please check out my guide to the 12 Best Egg Substitutes for Baking and How to Use Them for the best options.
Can I make this Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting vegan?
Yes, you can make this cake vegan.
- Find the best egg substitute in the 12 Best Egg Substitutes for Baking and How to Use Them.
- See my guide to How to Make Buttermilk Substitute, and use coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk, or any other non-dairy milk of your choice.
Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- If you don’t have an iron skillet, you can bake this in a 9-inch (23 cm) round cake pan, buttered and lined with parchment paper.
- Always make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature when baking a cake.
- When making any spice cake, be sure that your spices are fresh. They can lose their flavor and aroma over time.
- No self-raising flour? You can make your own here. (For this cake, you will need 1½ cups all-purpose or cake flour and three teaspoons baking powder.)
- My Best-Ever Cream Cheese Frosting would also be delicious on this cake.
- If you have not browned butter before, then err on the side of caution regarding the timing. Also, be sure not to walk away from it as it can overcook quickly.
More Gingerbread Recipes
Skillet Gingerbread Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
For the Gingerbread
- 1½ cups (7 ½ oz/213 g) self-raising flour
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ cup (4 fl oz/120 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
- ½ cup (5 oz/142 g) molasses
- ½ cup (4 oz/115 g) butter, softened
- ⅔ cup (4 oz/115 g) dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and butter a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Set aside.
- Combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a small bowl and set aside.
- In a jug with a pour spout, mix together the milk and molasses and set aside.
- Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or by hand with a whisk) at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times.
- Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined, then alternate adding the flour mixture and milk mixture, a little at a time, until just smooth and combined.
- Spread evenly into the skillet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely in the skillet.
Make the Brown Butter Frosting
- Melt the butter medium saucepan over medium-low heat and let cook for 5-10 minutes, until the butter turns a toasty brown color and has a nutty aroma. (It will foam a lot so you can stir it a bit to check the color.)
- Immediately transfer the brown butter to a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking and let cool in the refrigerator for about an hour.
- Once the butter is cool and solidified, beat the butter in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or with a medium bowl and a handheld electric mixer) on medium-high speed until creamy.
- Turn the mixer to low and add the powdered sugar. Beat until combined.
- Add 2 tablespoons of milk, the lemon zest, vanilla extract and salt (if using). Beat until combined. If the frosting is too thick for your liking, add in the extra tablespoon of milk.
- Once the cake is completely cool, spread on the frosting. Serve slices directly from the skillet.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.