A lemon glaze is one of the most popular ways to finish off a loaf of freshly baked gingerbread. Lemon makes a great contrast to all of the spices in gingerbread. It is bright and cuts right through those dark flavors – and even though the spices themselves are nice, it is much easier to taste them when you have something to compare them to.
Many gingerbreads are baked in a loaf pan or as a single-layer cake, but this one is a layer cake with a billowy lemon frosting to go with it. The cake is moist and spicy, with a fairly complex flavor thanks to a combination of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, ground black pepper and molasses. There is even a bit of lemon zest in the cake to help it tie in with the frosting. The cake is flavorful, but isn’t too heavy, so you won’t feel weighed down after a big slice of this.
I made a very light frosting to top off this cake. It is a meringue-based frosting made with egg whites, and has a consistency similar to that of marshmallow fluff, but smoother and less sticky. I added a lot – 1 tablespoon – of meyer lemon zest to infuse the lemon flavor into the frosting. Feel free to use regular lemons in place of the Meyer lemons, but expect to have a slightly stronger lemon flavor in the finished frosting. The cake can be prepared a day in advance and stored, well-wrapped, at room temperature. The entire cake can be frosted in advance, but I think that this light frosting is at its very best on the day it is made (even if you make it several hours before serving). A regular buttercream frosting with added lemon zest can be substituted if you want something a little bit faster that still has lemon flavor to it.
Gingerbread Layer Cake with Meyer Lemon Frosting
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp meyer lemon zest (or regular lemon)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 375F. Line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and lightly grease.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
In a large bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, eggs, molasses, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Gradually whisk in the flour mixture, alternating with additions of milk. Whisk until everything is smooth and no streaks of flour remain.
Divide evenly into two prepared pans.
Bake for 14-17 minutes, until the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed.
Turn cakes out onto a wire rack and peel off parchment paper. Cool completely before frosting.
Cakes may be prepared a day in advance and wrapped in plastic wrap to store.
Fluffy Meyer Lemon Frosting
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp meyer lemon zest
Put the egg whites in to bowl of an electric mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer nearby.
Combine sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cool until syrup reaches 242F (use a candy thermometer).
As syrup nears correct temperature, begin to beat egg whites to soft peaks. Slowly stream in the hot sugar syrup, followed by the vanilla extract and lemon zest. Beat for about 5 minutes after everything has been incorporated, or until frosting reaches room temperature.
Spread frosting in between cooled cake layers and on the top and sides of the cake.