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Gingerbread Village Cake

  • Author: Helen Kain

Ingredients

Scale

For the gingerbread cookies (adapted from King Arthur’s Bakery)

  • 170g or 6 oz unsalted butter
  • 160 g or ¾ c brown sugar, packed
  • 255g or ¾ c molasses
  • 450 g or 3 ¾c unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice or cloves
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda

For the Royal Icing:

  • 454 g or 1 lb confectioners’ sugar. sifted
  • 27 g or 3 tbsp Meringue Powder
  • 75 g or 5 tbsp warm water

For the spice cake (adapted from Preppy Kitchen)

  • 420 g or 3 ½ c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 360 g or 12 oz unsalted butter
  • 400 g or 2 c brown sugar
  • 70 g or 4 tbsp Lyle’s Black Treacle or molasses
  • 6 eggs
  • 30 ml or 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ c buttermilk

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 1 c (227 g or 8 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 454 g (16 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tsp vanilla
  • 4 c (454 g or 16 oz) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

 


Instructions

Make the gingerbread cookies

  1. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar, molasses, salt, and spices.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl and let cool to lukewarm. Beat in the egg.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add to the molasses mixture. The dough will be very soft and sticky but will firm up once it’s chilled. Resist the temptation to add more flour.
  4. Divide the dough in half, and pat each half into a thick rectangle. Wrap well, and refrigerate for several hours.
  5. Using a rolling pin with height guides, roll out the dough to 1/6” thickness; any thicker and the cookies puff up too much and lose their shapes during baking. As I wanted very precise and sharp shapes for this application, I ended up rolling out the cookies individually between two 6” squares of parchment, gently removing the excess dough from around the cookie cutters before removing the cutters, then transferring each cookie on the parchment square directly to a sheet pan. A giant pain, but worth it.

Make the cake

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F Convection or 350°F. Prepare two 9-inch and two 6-inch round cake pans with butter, parchment lining, and flour, or if using a high-quality baking spray, apply just before filling the pans with batter. Tip: for level cake layers, apply soaked cake strips to the exterior of each pan,
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy (3 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time, then increase mixer speed to high until batter is light and fluffy (2 minutes). Add the vanilla, beat for another minute and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Beginning and ending with the flour mixture, alternately add the flour and buttermilk. Beat well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again briefly.
  5. Spoon the batter into the pans. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when lightly touched. The larger cakes may take a little longer. Let cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the Royal Icing and decorate the cookies

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat all ingredients together until the icing forms peaks (7 – 10 minutes). Let the icing set for at least an hour to let air bubbles rise. This icing will be the correct consistency for assembling the gingerbread house and for the decorative piping. Use gel colours of your choice for the houses.
  2. Thin the coloured icing to piping and flooding consistencies by adding warm water. (TIP: use a spray bottle of water for best control). Apply a thin bead of piping consistency icing to the perimeter of each cookie. Fill in with flood consistency icing. Let dry overnight before adding piped decorations.
  3. Keep icing covered with a damp towel or in a sealed container when not in use.

Make the cream cheese frosting and assemble the cake

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until fluffy and light in colour (2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla. Gradually beat in the sifted confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy (3-5 minutes).
  2. Level each cake layer as needed.
  3. Place one of the 9″ cake layers on a cake board on a turntable. Pipe a thick layer of frosting, and top with the second layer. Apply a crumb coat and refrigerate until firm (15-30 minutes). Repeat with the 6″ cake layers.
  4. Frost the cakes with the final layer of frosting, getting it as smooth as you can. Place the 6″ cake on top of the 9″ cake and refrigerate the assembled cake until firm (15-30 minutes). 
  5. Arrange the iced cookies around the exterior of the cake layers, topping with the gingerbread house/birdhouse.