Vanilla Orange Gingerbread Cream Cake

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Vanilla Orange Gingerbread Cream Cake pairs winter citrus with classic holiday spices.  Soft 6-Inch yellow cake layers are studded with orange zest then layered with a silky Gingerbread Pudding – that is also transformed into a mousse to frost the cake!

Vanilla Orange Gingerbread Cream Cake

This recipe is a mouthful – both to say and eat!  Gingerbread is a holiday staple, orange is a seasonal fruit star, and cake is always a classic.  So it only seems logical to pair them altogether for a seasonal holiday dessert.

You may be wondering – do orange and gingerbread go together?  I say yes they do.  Gingerbread is full of cozy spices and the delicate zest and sweetness of winter citrus adds the right amount brightness to make the two a match made in holiday heaven. 

Still having a hard time picturing the two together?  Have you (or your mother, grandmother, etc.) pierced an orange with whole cloves to emit a heavenly aroma throughout the house?  This is that in cake form.

  • Light and Tender Yellow Cake – And of course, the cake is moist.  This may be one of the best yellow cakes I’ve ever had.
  • Delicately Sweet – The cake is not overly sweet (in my opinion …), which is great because it allows the other flavors to shine.
  • Citrus Notes – This is not a Whole Orange Cake.  Rather, this Vanilla Orange Cake features subtle hints of orange.
  • Gingerbread Spices – The spices are delivered in pudding form, which makes a great filling for a cake.  So you get layers of Gingerbread, and layers of Orange.
Slice of orange vanilla gingerbread cream cake on a plate

What You Need To Make Vanilla Orange Gingerbread Cream Cake

Cake Ingredients

  • Large Orange – One orange is all you need.  We use the zest from the entire orange, then juice half of it for the cake.
  • All-Purpose Flour – There is a Gluten Free Yellow Cake recipe on the blog.  I have not tested it adding orange juice, but you could certainly add the zest with no problem.
  • Baking Powder and Baking Soda – Baking soda balances the acidity in the sour cream.  Because of this, we use both to make sure the cake rises and has proper texture.
  • Salt – Almost always a little salt in your baking!  Salt balances all of the flavors so each come through in the end result.
  • Canola Oil – Using oil instead of butter in cakes will almost always make the cake more moist.  And after I don’t know how many test cakes, I can validate that this is true!
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Sour Cream – The sour cream in the cake does two things:  makes the cake moist, and makes the crumb light and tender.
  • Milk – I have used 2%, whole milk, and even coconut milk in my cakes.  I would recommend – for this recipe – use whichever milk you will be using for the Gingerbread Pudding.  Just makes your shopping list easier!
  • Egg – One large egg.
  • Vanilla Extract – Or, if you have vanilla bean paste, that would even be better!

Gingerbread Pudding Ingredients

  • Molasses – I recommend Unsulphured Molasses because it has a more mellow flavor.  As opposed to a Blackstrap Molasses.  Additionally, the unsulphured molasses is likely easier to find in your grocery.
  • Dark Brown Sugar – Brown sugar has molasses in it, and we want to highlight the flavor even more in the sweetener!
  • Water – A little water helps to dissolve the brown sugar and loosen the molasses.
  • Egg Yolk – The egg yolk makes the pudding silky and creamy.  For the extra egg white, you make a batch of Flourless Chocolate Cookies, or if  you need to frost another cake or cupcakes, try the Marshmallow Meringue Frosting.
  • Corn Starch – Corn starch is what helps make the pudding thick!
  • Heavy Cream – I recommend heavy cream for a super creamy pudding.
  • Milk – 2% or whole milk work with the heavy cream to make the pudding thick and creamy.  
  • Ginger, Cinnamon, Cloves – These ground spices are what give the pudding the gingerbread flavor punch.
  • Unsalted Butter – Add a little pat of butter once the pudding has thickened makes the pudding silky and smooth.

Baking Equipment

  • 2 – 6-Inch Round Cake Pans – I have provided a (affiliate) link in the recipe for the cake pans I use and recommend.
  • Parchment Paper – Parchment paper is used to line the bottom of the cake pans.
  • Mixing Bowls – For both the cake and the pudding.
  • Medium Heavy Duty Saucepan – The saucepan is for the Gingerbread Pudding.  I will always recommend a heavy bottom/duty saucepan for heating the pudding properly.  

You can also check out the Resources Page for helpful baking equipment and kitchen tools I use for small batch baking.  Items like small measuring cups, small cake pans, and measuring spoons that include odd and very small sizes!

Tips For Making Vanilla Orange Gingerbread Cream Cake

Tips For the Cake

  • Bring refrigerated ingredients to room temperature – Having all of the ingredients at room temperature make mixing the batter easier and the cake to bake even. 
  • Lightly grease and flour the cake pans – Emphasis on the lightly.  Too much and the cakes may actually come out greasy.
  • Zest the orange first – I’ve done it before, so wanted to add this as a tip.  When you need zest and juice, don’t forget to zest first.  There is nothing more frustrating than trying to zest a cut up orange!
  • Add the dry ingredients in two increments – This allows for better distribution and coating of the dry ingredients.
  • Don’t overmix the batter – Cake batter that has been mixed too much is likely to turn out dense, gummy, or may not even rise.
  • Use a cookies scoop to portion the batter evenly into the pans – Less guessing and less mess!
  • Don’t open the oven door too early – If you open the oven door too early to check on the cakes, they could fall.  Start checking for doneness at the time indicated.
  • Cool the cakes completely before assembling and frosting – Cool cakes equals frosting that isn’t melted!

Tips For the Pudding and Mousse

  • Make the pudding first – It will benefit from having more time to set up in the refrigerator.
  • Use a good saucepan – Good cookware distributes heat and cooks evenly.  
  • Don’t overcook the molasses and sugar – We simply want to heat it just until the sugar starts to dissolve.  Otherwise we run the risk of burning it.
  • Drizzle the warm liquid into the egg mixture slowly – Slowly adding the hot liquid will temper the egg so it does not scramble.
  • Whisk, whisk, whisk – You will want to whisk while tempering the egg mixture and while heating the pudding.  This alleviates clumps from forming.
  • Keep an eye on the pudding – The pudding will thicken pretty quick so you don’t want to step away from it (or stop stirring it!).  Otherwise it will thicken to a clumpy – and possibly burned – mess.
  • Straining the pudding is optional – Honestly, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t strain the pudding.  Straining is a step to take to make sure the pudding is completely lump free.
  • Add a little whipped cream to the pudding first – When making the mousse, we sacrifice a little of the whipped cream to add to the pudding.  Doing this gets the pudding to the right consistency to easily mix to make the mousse.
Vanilla gingerbread cream cake slices on a cake platter

Common Questions For Making Vanilla Orange Gingerbread Cake

Can this recipe be made into cupcakes or one large cake?

Yes! The recipe will likely yield 6 to 8 cupcakes or an 8-Inch cake. The bake time may be the same, or slightly less.

Can I double the recipe to make a larger cake?

I have not tested it, but you can certainly try! Two 8-Inch round cake pans may work without making the cakes too thin.

Is the fresh orange necessary, or can I use orange juice instead?

If you want the orange zest, yes the orange is necessary. The zest adds bold citrus flavor than just orange juice alone. You could only use orange juice, though the orange flavor may not come through as much.

Why do you use canola oil instead of butter in the cake?

I find cakes made with oil are softer, bake taller, and are more moist than cakes made with butter.

I don’t have canola oil. What other type of oil can I use instead for the cake?

You can use refined coconut oil, grapeseed oil, or vegetable oil. I will either use canola or coconut oil for baking because they don’t impart flavor into the baked good. I highly recommend canola oil for baking.

My cakes didn’t rise. What did I do wrong?

There are a number of things that can impact how a cake is baked: the leavener(s) are expired; the oven wasn’t hot enough (always pre-heat!); the batter was overmixed; you used larger cake pans; the oven door was opened too soon; ingredient(s) weren’t measured accurately. Cakes are finicky!

Do you have any other recipes for cake fillings and/or frosting?

I do! Chocolate Pudding is always a delicious addition to yellow cake. And the most popular frosting recipes on the blog are Vanilla Butter-Free Frosting and Chocolate Butter-Free Frosting.

Can the cakes be frozen after baked?

Yes! Cool the cakes completely, individually wrap unfrosted and unfilled cakes securely in plastic wrap, and place in a Ziploc bag to freeze. The cakes can be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost at room temperature.

Top of a christmas layer cake

More 6-Inch Cake Recipes For The Holidays

Orange gingerbread cream cake slices on a cake platter
Vanilla orange gingerbread cream cake on a cake stand
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5 from 2 reviews

Vanilla Orange Gingerbread Cream Cake

Yield: 1 6-Inch Layer Cake
Vanilla Orange Gingerbread Cream Cake pairs winter citrus with classic holiday spices.  Soft 6-Inch yellow cake layers are studded with orange zest then layered with a silky Gingerbread Pudding – that is also transformed into a mousse to frost the cake!
Prep30 mins
Cook22 mins
Total52 mins
High Altitude Adjustment: May not require full bake time. Start checking for doneness at minimum bake time if noted.

Ingredients

Classic Yellow Cake

  • 1/4 cup canola oil - or any neutral oil
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup sour cream - room temperature
  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons milk - room temperature, any milk fat
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice - about half an orange
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest - from 1 orange
  • 1 large egg - room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Gingerbread Pudding

  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons molasses, unsulphured
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk - 2% or whole
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Gingerbread Mousse

  • 1/2 of the Gingerbread Pudding
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar - optional

Instructions

Gingerbread Pudding

  • I recommend making the pudding first so it has time to cool and set up. It can even be made the night before.
  • In a small mixing bowl, add the egg yolk, corn starch, and 1/4 cup of the milk. Stir until fully mixed and no lumps of corn starch remain.
  • In a medium heavy bottom saucepan, add the molasses, brown sugar, and water. Heat over medium heat until the sugar starts to dissolve. Don't over heat the mix – we don't want to burn it! Add the cream and remaining milk and heat the mixture until small bubbles form along the edges of the pan.
  • Reduce the heat, then carefully and slowly drizzle about half of the warm mixture into the egg mixture – whisking constantly. This tempers the egg so it doesn't scramble when heated.
  • Transfer the tempered mixture back into the saucepan. Stir in the spices. Return the heat to medium and while stirring constantly, heat the pudding until it starts to thicken and bubble. This will happen fairly quickly – do not step away from the pudding or stop stirring it.
  • Remove the pudding from the heat and stir in the butter until melted. Transfer the pudding to a bowl. Optional – strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer set over the bowl to remove any lumps. Cover the pudding with a piece of plastic wrap directly touching the pudding – so a skin does not form. Let the pudding cool slightly before covering the bowl with a lid and refrigerating until cool.

Vanilla Orange Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Line the bottom of 2 6-Inch round cake pans with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit. Lightly grease and flour the pans. Note – I like to use the Pam Baking Spray With Flour – makes things easier.
  • In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, measure out the milk and orange juice, and stir in the orange zest and sour cream. Note – Zest the entire orange first, then juice about half of it for 2 tablespoons.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, add the sugar and oil. Mix until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Add half of the milk mixture and mix until just incorporated.
  • Sprinkle half of the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and fold into the batter until just incorporated. Add the remaining milk mixture and mix until mostly incorporated. Finish by sprinkling the remaining dry ingredients into the batter and fold just until no dry streaks remain. Do not overmix the batter, and it is ok if there are a few lumps.
  • Pour the batter equally into the prepared cake pans and bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until the cakes are golden, spongy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Tip – Use a cookie scoop to equally portion the batter into the cake pans.
  • Cool the cakes in the pans set on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then gently invert the cake pans onto the wire rack to release the cakes. Carefully peel away the parchment paper (if it stuck to the bottom of the cakes), and flip the cakes back over to cool on the wire rack completely.

Gingerbread Mousse

  • When ready to assemble the cake, make the Gingerbread Mousse.
  • Set one of the cake layers on your serving plate. Spoon or pipe half of the cooled Gingerbread Pudding onto the middle of the cake – leaving at least 1/2 inch around the edges.
  • In a small mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream using a hand held mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Note – You can add 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar if you want the mousse to be a little sweeter.
  • Scoop about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the remaining Gingerbread Pudding. Fold in the whipped cream until fully mixed in. Doing this makes mixing the pudding into the whipped cream much easier. Transfer the mix back into the remaining whipped cream and fold until no whipped cream streaks remain. Note – Be careful not to fold too aggressively as you don't want to deflate the whipped cream.
  • Finish assembling the cake – Pipe a ring of the Gingerbread Mousse along the outside of the Gingerbread Pudding you have on the middle of the cake, plus a layer on the top of the pudding. This will help keep the pudding from spilling out of the sides of the cake. Top with the other cake and frost the cake (however you like!) with the remaining mousse. Enjoy!
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Notes

Check out the blog post for more Tips and FAQ’s!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Erin Cernich

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