Healthier Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
This gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting is healthier than most gingerbread cakes, but don’t hold that against it! It is ultra moist, soft and spicy, and the creamy (lower-calorie) frosting is amazing with it! It’s a great recipe to serve a crowd at Christmas time, because it serves 18 people!
Table of contents
Why We Love This Healthy Gingerbread Cake
During the holiday season, there are few things better than a gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting. And trust me, you won’t be disappointed with this tried and tested cake recipe!
If you have had my Healthy Maple Carrot Sheet Cake or my Coconut Raspberry Cake then you know how much I adore Cream Cheese Frosting. In today’s holiday cake, the lightened-up cream cheese frosting is smooth, tangy and creamy, and the perfect foil to the rich spicy cake.
While starting off the day with gingerbread pancakes is never a bad idea, sweet spicy gingerbread is also the perfect ending to a great day around the winter holidays. Especially after feasting other Christmas goodies!
This is the perfect dessert for a crowd and can easily be covered and carried to a party to share!
Key Ingredients For This Recipe
- Unsweetened applesauce- I replaced some of the fat with applesauce. This keeps the cake very moist.
- Avocado oil or organic canola oil- I used avocado oil instead of butter in the cake. It gives it a very tender cakey crumb.
- Maple syrup- Pure maple syrup, preferably dark to sweeten the recipe. It really makes the cake very tender and moist and gives it richness.
- Cool coffee- I used dark cold coffee in the batter. It adds a subtle richness that you would miss if it wasn’t there, but doesn’t give the cake a super strong coffee flavor.
- Molasses- molasses gives the cake classic old fashioned gingerbread flavor. I used Grandma’s Original Unsulphered Molasses.
- Flour- The cake is made with white whole wheat flour and some all purpose flour for structure.
- Spices- I used ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and ground cloves.
- Reduced fat cream cheese- Reduced fat cream cheese, also known as Neufchatel cheese, or 1/3-less fat cream cheese, is a little softer in texture than full-fat cream cheese.
Step-by-Step Instructions to Make This Healthy Gingerbread Cake
Step 1: Preheat oven
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
Step 2: Whisk batter
Whisk eggs, applesauce and oil together in a large bowl. Whisk maple syrup, coffee, molasses and vanilla in a large measuring cup. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, salt, allspice and cloves in a medium bowl bowl.
Step 3: Add maple syrup mixture
In order to keep the batter from becoming lumpy, I found that whisking alternating wet and dry ingredients into the egg and oil mixture worked really well.
Whisk about 1/3 of the flour mixture into the applesauce mixture until smooth. Add about 1/3 of the maple syrup mixture to the applesauce mixture and whisk until smooth. Continue alternating and whisking in two more additions of each mixture until the batter is smooth.
Step 4: Bake gingerbread sheet cake
Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake until the top springs back when lightly touched, 33 to 35 minutes. Let cool, at least 1 1/2 hours.
Step 5: Make frosting
Beat butter in a medium bowl with paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth. Scrape sides of the bowl and beat again. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Scrape sides and beat again. Add powdered sugar and beat on low until incorporated. Scrape sides and beat on high until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake. Can be made 1 day ahead. Store covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for one day. Refrigerate left-overs after 1 day.
FAQs and Expert Tips
I used Erin’s cream cheese frosting that she serves on her pumpkin cupcakes as a guide for the ratios. But she used full-fat cream cheese. So I went on the heavier side for the butter. 4 tablespoons. Still much lighter than many frosting recipes! But the flavor is amazing!
The key is to soften the butter completely before you begin. Beat the butter with the paddle attachment in your mixer until it is smooth. Scrape down the sides! Then add in the cream cheese (also softened.) Scrape again. Then beat again. This ensures the butter will be completely mixed into the cream cheese.
Cover the sheet cake lightly with foil or plastic wrap and keep refrigerated for 2 to 3 days.
- If you like to make this cake look fancy try topping it off with Sugared Cranberries like in my Cranberry Cake recipe.
- Arrange small gingerbread men cookies along the edge of the pan.
- Shave white chocolate curls over the top and dust with cocoa and cinnamon just before serving
- Sprinkle with green and red candies
- Crush clove or cinnamon-flavored candy canes and sprinkle over the top
- Serve with vanilla bean ice cream or the Maple Pear Sorbet from my cookbook on the side!
More Holiday Desserts to Try
Thanks so much for reading! If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my email newsletter to get a free weekly menu plan and the latest recipes right to your inbox. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought!
Happy Cooking! ~KatiePrint
Healthier Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Total Time: 2 hours 25 minutes
- Yield: 18 1x
This classic tasting, rich and moist gingerbread sheet cake gets a healthier make-over with applesauce (in place of some of the fat), whole grain flour and it is sweetened naturally with pure maple syrup and molasses. The cream cheese frosting is made with reduced-fat cream cheese! It serves a crowd (18 servings) so it is perfect for a Christmas party!
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 3/4 cup avocado oil or organic canola oil
- 1 ¼ cup pure maple syrup, preferably dark
- ½ cup cool coffee, decaf if desired
- ½ cup molasses
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cup white whole-wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
- Whisk eggs, applesauce and oil together in a large bowl. Whisk maple syrup, coffee, molasses and vanilla in a large measuring cup. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, salt, allspice and cloves in a medium bowl bowl.
- Whisk about 1/3 of the flour mixture into the applesauce mixture until smooth. Add about 1/3 of the maple syrup mixture to the applesauce mixture and whisk until smooth. Continue alternating and whisking in two more additions of each mixture until the batter is smooth.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake until the top springs back when lightly touched, 33 to 35 minutes. Let cool, at least 1 1/2 hours.
- Beat butter in a medium bowl with paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth. Scrape sides of the bowl and beat again. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Scrape sides and beat again. Add powdered sugar and beat on low until incorporated. Scrape sides and beat on high until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake. Can be made 1 day ahead. Store covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for one day. Refrigerate left-overs after 1 day.
Storing Tip: Cover the sheet cake lightly with foil or plastic wrap and keep refrigerated for 2 to 3 days.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 33 minutes
- Category: dessert
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1/18th cake
- Calories: 317
- Fat: 15
- Carbohydrates: 43 g
- Fiber: 1
- Protein: 4
Keywords: Gingerbread Cake,Healthy Gingerbread Cake,Gingerbread Sheet Cake
What could be substituted with the maple syrup? Honey? Reduced amount?
We don’t eat / drink coffee.
Anything we can substitute the coffee for??
I bet a good strong herbal tea would be a nice option. One of my favorite herbal teas is Rooibos. Do you know it? Brew it nice and strong and use that instead. Or a decaf black tea would be an option as well. Milk or plant-based milk would be another option.
This gingerbread cake recipe was simple to make and came out so well—moist (not at all dry or crumbly), nicely spiced, and totally delicious!
I did not have cream cheese on hand so used a vanilla buttercream frosting recipe, flavored with a masala chai spice blend from Maine-based SKORDO.
I used half the batter for cupcakes, since I made it for a gathering where individual servings were encouraged, and made an 8”x8” cake with the rest. It was a big hit with my family as well as at the gathering I made it for—will definitely make it again!
Thank you for coming back to let me know you liked it Mary!
Wondering if this would work as cupcakes?
Yes I think it would work well. I am not sure how many it would make. Follow the tips here https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2019/04/25/how-to-convert-cake-to-cupcakes
I’ve been on the lookout for healthier versions of some of my longtime favorite desserts. This is a delicious and satisfying dessert but after making it, although it’s probably a little lower in fat, it still not health food! I will make this again but will definitely cut back on the amount of maple syrup and maybe try substituting more applesauce for some of the oil.
Glad you like it and let me know how your tweaks work the next time you make it.
I love this! I’m tempted to try this in a sheet pan so I can get more slices but chances are it will not be as moist. Curious if you tried in a sheet pan?
Hi Angela. I did not try it, but I am tempted to try it myself now that you say that! I think it should work without drying out, as long as you keep an eye on it and don’t let it over-bake. Not sure on the timing. To check it, make sure it has risen all the way across the surface. Then gently tap the center surface of the cake with your finger tips to see if it is set up. If it deflates give it a few more minutes. If it springs back, pull the pan out and do a toothpick test. Please let me know if you do try it. I am so curious now.
Could this cake be “flipped” out of the pan and onto a serving platter so all sides can be frosted and decorated? Or is it too moist? Looking to make it “Party Pretty” as another commentor put it.
It is not too moist. To do so without breaking it: Cool it completly and use a flat baking sheet to invert it onto. Lay the baking sheet on top of the cake pan. Hold on to it with both hands, then invert. Because the sides will be sloped slightly the wrong direction, then you’ll want to carefully do the same back onto a serving platter. Double the frosting to cover the sides.
Can I use gluten free flour
You can try it for sure Lynette. I would go for one of the cup for cup/measure for measure style flours for the best texture.
I’d love to make this cake for the upcoming winter season!
That’s great to hear! Thanks so much.
I’m chuckling because I have gone back and looked at my old work and have been horrified! At any rate, I just found your site and I LOVE it! I am a gingerbread freak lately, so this recipe comes in super handy. Have you ever tried putting diced candied ginger in gingerbread? Just curious. Thanks!
I love candied ginger too. It is fab with gingerbread and molasses recipes. So glad you came by Elizabeth. Have a great day.
This looks so amazing! I’m going to try this! Any suggestion for a garnish on the top to make it “party pretty”? Maybe just a sprinkle of cinnamon or something like that?
I like that idea a lot. Some other ideas are: you could do shaved dark or white chocolate curls, or melted white chocolate and dark chocolate drizzled over it. Or chopped candied ginger. Depending on the event I think it would be really fun to do some sort of fun holiday candy nonpareils. If you look in the baking section of craft and or party stores they often have cute options- like mini snowflakes. I’m so psyched you’ll be making this. I am so in love with this cake and I am so happy to be sharing it with everyone!
Oh my goodness – this looks so good! I’m only having 4 for Christmas this year, so I might just scrap the Christmas cookies this year and enjoy this instead!
Thanks so much Anne. It’s just four of us on Christmas Eve too, so I too am trying to figure out a creative excuse to make this cake again. Ha ha.
When you have that many recipes, you definitely forget about some good ones! I cannot wait to make this – I’m a gingerbread freak this time of year 🙂
I was so surprised that the original gingerbread was nothing like I remembered. Good thing this re-make is so good. Redemption! Ha ha. I just made another one from the archives this week- and thankfully it was great. Phew. Let me know if you do make it Deanna. I’d love to hear what you think.
I’ll be making this for Christmas dinner dessert this year~!
That is so great to hear Sharon! I really hope you love it!
I love that you used applesauce here and that cream cheese icing looks absolutely irresistible!
The applesauce addition was one of the hold-overs from the original recipe. I love how moist it ended up, and that surely contributes.