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An old-fashioned iced gingerbread loaf has been a Christmas staple for generations! It’s moist, light, and warmly spiced with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and molasses, for an easy breakfast, snack, or dessert that you can make in advance. Finish the cake with a vanilla citrus glaze or a dusting of powdered sugar for a festive addition to any holiday spread!

Close up side shot of a sliced gingerbread loaf with icing on a red and white platter

Starbucks Gingerbread Loaf

This gingerbread loaf recipe is a homemade copycat version of the Starbucks gingerbread loaf, which has been a seasonal favorite to pair with a warm latte in those great red cups! It includes a vanilla-orange (or vanilla-lemon) glaze, just like the store-bought version. Pair it with your own cup of hot coffee, tea, cocoa, or Wassail for the ultimate cozy treat at any time of day!

Overhead shot of a tray of sliced gingerbread loaf

Gingerbread History

You can’t beat the nostalgia or the taste of classic gingerbread cake! This seasonal flavor is loved around the world, and can be found in a variety of baked goods. Gingerbread can refer to anything from a cut-out cookie to a soft, moist cake. The holiday treat is typically flavored with ginger, cloves, cinnamon, or nutmeg, and is sweetened with honey, sugar, or molasses.

European settlers originally brought gingerbread to the Americas, and recipes in our country date back to at least 1796 when Amelia Simmons published seven different types of gingerbread in her cookbook, American Cookery (source).

Whisking together wet ingredients in a small bowl

What is the difference between gingerbread and ginger cake?

Since gingerbread can refer to cookies or cake, folks often distinguish the two by calling the soft, cakey version “ginger cake.” This gingerbread loaf is a ginger cake that’s baked in a loaf pan. It’s not actually a bread at all.

Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a gingerbread loaf cake. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • All-purpose flour: the base of the cake.
  • Baking powder and baking soda: leavening agents that help the cake rise.
  • Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice: warm spices that give the loaf its classic flavor.
  • Kosher salt: to enhance the other flavors in the gingerbread and balance the sweetness.
  • Milk: to thin the batter.
  • Molasses: a thick sweetener that gives the cake a bold, rich flavor. This is the brand of unsulfured, sun-ripened sugarcane molasses that I typically use.
  • Egg: for structure.
  • Vanilla extract: for extra flavor.
  • Salted butter: for a moist loaf with a tender crumb.
  • Dark brown sugar: adds moisture, sweetness, and extra molasses flavor.
  • Sour cream: an important ingredient in this cake, thanks to its high fat content and its acidity. The sour cream adds moisture without thinning the batter, adds fat for creaminess, helps to control the browning, and activates the baking soda.
Creaming butter and brown sugar in a stand mixer

For the Glaze

Just like Starbucks, I like to finish the gingerbread with a citrus glaze. Starbucks uses a vanilla-orange glaze, but lemon is a classic pairing with gingerbread, too. Pick whichever you prefer, or skip the glaze altogether and just dust the top of the gingerbread loaf with powdered sugar.

  • Confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar): sweetens the icing.
  • Orange juice or lemon juice: thins the glaze and provides a bright, acidic touch that’s a nice contrast to the rich cake.
  • Vanilla extract: for flavor.
Drizzling icing over a gingerbread loaf

How to Make a Gingerbread Loaf

While it looks like a quick bread recipe in a loaf pan, the process for making this gingerbread is the same as making a cake from scratch. You’ll need an electric mixer to cream together the butter and brown sugar, and then you’ll alternately add the dry and wet ingredients so that everything is evenly incorporated without overmixing. The end result is a moist gingerbread loaf with a light, tender crumb. Christmas perfection!

  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Whisk together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl; set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Alternately add the flour mixture and the molasses mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
  5. Add the sour cream.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan.
  7. Bake in a 350°F oven for about 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  8. Cool completely on a cooling rack.
  9. Whisk together the glaze, then drizzle over the top of the gingerbread.
  10. Slice and serve!
Square side shot of iced gingerbread cake on a red and white plate

How to Serve Gingerbread Loaf Cake

Gingerbread is a great make-ahead dessert for the holiday season, but you can also enjoy it at other times of day. For instance, set out slices of the loaf cake on a breakfast or brunch buffet, or offer it as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea. It’s perfect on its own, or equally delicious topped with softened butter, honey butter, cream cheese, Christmas jam, or a dollop of whipped cream. If you’re serving the gingerbread cake for dessert, finish each slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Overhead shot of gingerbread loaf sliced on a red and white serving platter

Prep and Storage

  • Gingerbread loaf will stay fresh when covered at room temperature for 4-5 days — it does not need to be refrigerated. To extend the life of your cake, wrap it tightly or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • How to Store Gingerbread: For the refrigerator or countertop, you can just wrap the cake tightly with plastic wrap. For the freezer, I recommend a layer of plastic wrap, followed by another layer of aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn.
  • The cake is best when prepared 1 day in advance. The flavors come together and it gets more moist as it rests!
Side shot of a sliced gingerbread loaf cake on a platter

Recipe Variations

  • Instead of the vanilla-orange icing or the vanilla-lemon glaze, finish the gingerbread loaf with cream cheese frosting, a dusting of powdered sugar, or caramel icing.
  • The icing has just a subtle citrus flavor from the orange juice or lemon juice. For a stronger orange or lemon flavor, add about a teaspoon of freshly-grated orange zest or lemon zest to the glaze.
  • Double the ingredients and bake two loaf cakes.
  • If using unsalted butter, add ¼ teaspoon – ½ teaspoon of salt to the batter.
  • Add a cup of chopped walnuts or pecans to the batter for a nutty crunch throughout.
  • Raisins, dried cranberries, or chocolate chips would all be tasty additions to the flavorful batter, too.
  • Do not substitute with blackstrap molasses in this recipe. The blackstrap molasses has a different flavor and texture, so it is not an equal substitute.
Side shot of gingerbread loaf slices on a red and white plate

Tips for the best gingerbread loaf recipe

  • Line the pan with parchment or grease with a cooking spray that includes flour (such as this baking spray).
  • Properly measure the flour. Weigh the flour on a kitchen scale or spoon the flour into the cup and lightly level with the straight edge of a knife. Packing the measuring cup too tightly and using too much flour will result in a dry cake.
  • Make sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature so that they blend together smoothly.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Whipping this air into the batter will help the cake rise during baking.
  • Sift the powdered sugar to avoid any lumps in your icing.
  • Don’t leave the cake in the pan for too long after baking — about 10-15 minutes is plenty. After that, condensation will start to form and the moisture will negatively impact the crust.
  • Make the cake about 1 day ahead of when you plan to serve it. The gingerbread loaf just gets better as it sits!
Overhead image of a sliced iced gingerbread loaf cake on a platter
Square side shot of a sliced gingerbread loaf on a platter

Iced Gingerbread Loaf

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Cooling Time 2 hours
Total: 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings 1 loaf (about 12 slices)
Calories 263 kcal
An old-fashioned gingerbread loaf has been a Christmas staple for generations! Finish the cake with a vanilla citrus glaze or a dusting of powdered sugar for a festive addition to any holiday spread.

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ¾ cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup milk, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened at room temperature
  • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup full-fat sour cream, at room temperature

For the Icing:

  • 1 ¼ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice or lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan; set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and salt. Set aside.
  • In another medium bowl, whisk together the milk, molasses, egg, and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer on medium-high speed to cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  • With the mixer on low, alternately add the flour mixture and the molasses mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture. (i.e., add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half of the molasses mixture, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining ½ of the molasses mixture, and finally the remaining 1/3 of the flour mixture). Mix just until combined; do not over-mix.
  • Add the sour cream; mix just until combined.
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Icing:

  • In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners sugar, 2 tablespoons of orange juice, and vanilla extract until smooth. The icing should be pretty thick. If it seems too thin, add a bit more confectioners sugar. If the icing is too thick, add another teaspoon or so of orange juice at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Drizzle the icing over the top of the bread. Rest on a wire rack until the glaze sets.

Notes

  • Properly measure the flour. Weigh the flour on a kitchen scale or spoon the flour into the cup and lightly level with the straight edge of a knife. Packing the measuring cup too tightly and using too much flour will result in a dry cake.
  • Make sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature so that they blend together smoothly.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Whipping this air into the batter will help the cake rise during baking.
  • Sift the powdered sugar to avoid any lumps in your icing.
  • Don’t leave the cake in the pan for too long after baking — about 10-15 minutes is plenty. After that, condensation will start to form and the moisture will negatively impact the crust.
  • Make the cake about 1 day ahead of when you plan to serve it. The gingerbread loaf just gets better as it sits!

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 263kcalCarbohydrates: 42gProtein: 3gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 37mgSodium: 230mgPotassium: 190mgFiber: 1gSugar: 27gVitamin A: 303IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 56mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: gingerbread cake, gingerbread loaf
Course: Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

    1. Hi, Sar! Absolutely! You might prefer to add the glaze after you freeze and thaw the loaf, since the glaze can get smooshed and messed up in the freezer. Either way, though, it keeps in the freezer when wrapped tightly for up to 3 months.