This dessert is two in one! First, it’s a rich chocolate cake baked with my signature holiday spice blend, covered in a sumptuous chocolate frosting. But it is also a fully assembled gingerbread house! What fun – a gingerbread house that you will actually eat.
This cake also uses my signature holiday spice blend – a festive mix of spices that remind me of the holidays. I use it in baking, but also add a pinch to things like coffee, on top of ice cream or eggnog, to add a little festive flare.
Chocolate Spice Cake
Holiday Gingerbread House
Signature Holiday Spice Blend
For the ganache frosting, bring the cream up to a full simmer (watch it as it heats, as cream can boil over quickly) and pour this over the chocolate in a bowl. Let this sit for one minute, then use a spatula to gently stir the mixture until it becomes smooth and glossy. Switch to a whisk and whisk in the sour cream. Add the vanilla and salt and stir. Allow the frosting to cool and set up on the counter – this can take a few hours, which is why you can prepare this before you bake the cake. It can be refrigerated, but it will then need to be heated in a bowl over a water bath a little to soften it to spreadable consistency.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Grease two 8-inch (20 cm) square pan and one 8 ½-x-4 ½-inch (2 L) loaf pan and line the bottoms and sides with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, spice blend, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large mixing bowl (if using electric beaters) or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cut up the butter into small pieces and add this to the dry mixture, mixing on medium-low speed until the butter breaks down into pieces that are no longer plainly visible.
In a separate bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs and vanilla together. Add this all at once to the batter and mix at first on low speed and then for just one minute on medium high speed, until smooth. Divide the batter equally between the pans and spread to level. Bake the cakes for about 35 minutes (the loaf will take an additional 10 minutes). Cool the cakes on a rack for 30 minutes, then turn them out to cool completely.
To assemble as a gingerbread house shape, place one square cake layer on a platter or cake wheel, spread an even layer of frosting on overtop and top with the second square cake layer. Cut the cake in half (so you have two sections, each 4-x-8-inches/10-x-20 cm). Spread a layer of frosting on one of these and stack the second on top – the cake will be about 4-inches (10 cm) tall now.
For the roof, place the loaf cake on top of the base and trim away the sides at a 45º angle, to make the roof shape. Cover the entire cake with frosting. Chill for at least an hour before finishing with the gingerbread cookies for décor, or after chilling an hour, wrap loosely in plastic to assemble or decorate as desired later.
*If you’d like to use this recipe for a more traditional layer cake, reduce both the cake and frosting proportions by a third and bake and assemble this as an 8-inch (20 cm) round or square 2-layer cake.
** This rich ganache frosting is best prepared a day ahead and left to sit on the counter to set up to a beautifully spreadable consistency. I recommend not refrigerating it in advance, as this would then require re-heating and then setting up again.
Beat the butter and brown sugar using electric beaters or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth on medium speed, and then beat in the molasses and ginger, followed by the egg.
Sift the flour, spice blend, baking powder and salt over the butter base and then mix on low speed until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into 2 discs, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours before rolling (the dough will not become fully firm once chilled).
Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC) and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to just under 1/4 inch (6 mm thick). Use templates to cut out 4 wall pieces and 2 roof pieces, plus any additional décor trim (shutters, chimney, doors, etc) and place the pieces on the baking trays. The large pieces will take 15-18 minutes to bake, until the edges just start to brown (small pieces, like shutters, will only take 10 minutes to bake). Cool the gingerbread on the trays. Any excess dough can be rolled and cut into festive shapes and baked 10-12 minutes.
It’s best to frost much of the house while the pieces are separate and lying flat. For the royal icing, beat the meringue powder, icing sugar and warm water with an electric beaters or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until peaks form (approximately 10-12 minutes). You can adjust the consistency by adding a few droplets of water to loosen it, or additional icing sugar, to tighten it up. Use the icing immediately, or to store, cover the surface directly with plastic wrap.
Pipe details as desired on the walls and roof of the house and let this set for at least 2 hours before assembling. If assembling on the chocolate cake (above) then simply press the walls onto the sides of the cake and press the roof pieces on top. Using remaining royal icing to adhere or fill in seams.
The cake/house can sit out for a day before serving.
Store all of the spices together and store in an airtight container.