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!

a slice of the cake with a fork cutting into it

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 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!

the pan with a few slices taken out

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.
one third less fat neufchatel 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.

cake slices on plates on a table with votive candles and gold glasses

FAQs and Expert Tips

Inspiration for this cream cheese frosting

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 to getting a good frosting texture

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.

Storing instructions

Cover the sheet cake lightly with foil or plastic wrap and keep refrigerated for 2 to 3 days.

Garnish Ideas

  • 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!
the pan with a few slices taken out

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! ~Katie

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Healthier Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Total Time: 2 hours 25 minutes
  • Yield: 18 1x

Description

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!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Notes

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

Nutrition

  • 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