This Coal Gingerbread Cake hits every naughty mark. Complex layers of coffee, chocolate, and spices heighten the ginger. Activated charcoal gives the cake an evil sultry appearance. Frosting the cake with a tart cranberry buttercream bolsters this cake’s sour-puss attitude!
This time of year is filled with snowy angelic desserts and cheery sprinkled delights, I needed to make a dessert that went against the grain. Enter in the Coal Gingerbread Cake.
Sure, coal is given as a “bad” gift, but you’d want to be on the naughty list to receive this cake!
Complex and dark, it sounds like a description of a teen romance novel, gross. However, that’s the only way I can describe this Coal Gingerbread Cake. Although ginger is a standalone spice, it’s flavor weakens in baking. In order to prop up the ginger taste, this recipe turned to some well needed side characters. Even though coffee and chocolate are strong flavors on their own, in the right proportions, these two ingredients accentuate the ginger, giving the cake a deep rich complexity. Accentuating the ginger are two unlikely spices: cayenne and black pepper. Yes these peppers are innately savory, but these spices bolster ginger’s punch and bite.
You may think a neutral frosting is needed against a robust and zippy cake. Yet I went for the equally strong flavor of cranberry. I boiled pure cranberry juice down, creating a sharp concentrate. When added to the buttercream, the cranberry concentrate creates a bright and biting buttercream that’s far from bland. This cranberry frosting has a sour-sweet-salty balance that’s well-rounded, pairing perfectly with the wintertime flavor of gingerbread.
So, with this Coal Gingerbread Cake, there’s really no point in being nice!
- For the Coal Gingerbread Cake:
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons activated charcoal powder
- 2 ½ tablespoons ground ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup strong coffee
- ¾ cup molasses
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- For the Cranberry Concentrate:
- 32 ounces pure cranberry juice
- For the Cranberry Buttercream:
- 1 ½ cups (3 sticks, 12 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 8 to 9 cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 4 to 6 tablespoons cranberry concentrate
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- red food gel
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch cake pans with baking spray, set aside.
- In a large bowl whisk flour, cocoa powder, charcoal, ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, set aside. In another bowl, combine coffee, molasses, baking soda, sugar, oil, eggs, grated ginger, and vanilla until smooth. Pour wet-mixture into dry-mixture whisking until smooth.
- Pour batter in prepared pans, tapping against counter to remove bubbles. And bake, rotating halfway, until a toothpick comes out clean with a few moist not wet crumbs, about 18 to 22 minutes. Let cakes rest in pans for 5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Bring cranberry juice to a boil in a small saucepan oven medium-high heat. Once boiling, lower heat and let juice simmer until ¾ of liquid evaporates, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. Yields about 1/3 cup.
- Beat butter in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed, about 2 minutes. Once pale and fluffy, gradually add powdered sugar and heavy cream, scraping bowl and paddle as needed. Add cranberry concentrate a tablespoon at a time, until a desired tartness is reached. Add in vanilla, salt, and red food gel. Raise speed to medium-high and beat for a final minute. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.
- Apply a bit of frosting to a cake board, securing the first cake layer. Apply an even layer of Cranberry Buttercream, followed by the next later. Repeat processing, topping with the third and final layer. Give cake a crumb coat of buttercream. Chill for 15 minutes. Apply a final, thicker coating of frosting. Decorate as desired.
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