Holiday Chocolate Spice Cake with Ginger Buttercream

A rich and decadent chocolate spice cake with a flavorful ginger buttercream frosting. Three layers all decked out for the holidays with iced gingerbread cookie decorations and sugar-dusted fresh rosemary Christmas trees!

Holiday chocolate spice cake with ginger buttercream via

A holiday chocolate spice cake with ginger buttercream

This holiday chocolate spice cake is kind of my grown-up version of decorating a gingerbread house. It’s fun and festive, with three layers of generously spiced chocolate cake, a fresh and flavorful ginger buttercream frosting, and iced gingerbread cookie toppers.

And, unlike most gingerbread houses – sturdy, and spackled, and I suppose technically edible – you’ll actually want to eat this when you’re done!

No, devour. Because this chocolate cake is rich, and moist, and full of all the flavors of gingerbread and the holidays – cinnamon, cloves, fresh and dried ginger, molasses, vanilla, and cocoa.

We could just stop there and all be very happy, but then we’d be leaving off what might be my favorite element, the ginger buttercream. It’s incredibly ginger-y and oh, so delicious, and I currently want to slather it on every sweet treat I bake.

Holiday chocolate spice cake with ginger buttercream via

The ingredients you’ll need for this chocolate spice cake

The ingredients list may seem long, but they’re mostly pantry staples, and the cake comes together quickly in a mixer bowl. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Cocoa powder
  • Cane sugar
  • Baking powder and soda
  • Warming fall spices
  • Eggs
  • Molasses
  • Milk
  • Olive oil
  • vanilla extract
  • Water or coffee

Find all the exact measurements and recipe instructions below.

Holiday chocolate spice cake with ginger buttercream via

About the ginger buttercream

American buttercream – which I love because it’s so easy to make and doesn’t require separating eggs or a candy thermometer – tends to get a bad rap for being overly sweet and fairly one-note.

But adding fresh ginger helps to solve both of those problems. The aromatic bite of the ginger tempers the sweetness of the confectioners sugar, and also adds a ton of flavor, especially when paired with a splash of good vanilla and a pinch of salt.

After being whipped to buttery perfection, the ginger frosting also serves as a lovely, light and zesty juxtaposition to the rich, dark cocoa and warming spices of the chocolate spice cake itself.

Holiday chocolate spice cake with ginger buttercream via

The fresh rosemary “trees” and gingerbread cookies on top are entirely optional. If you feel like getting decorative, simply turn a few sprigs of rosemary upside-down to make the trees (I love the little Whoville-esque curlycues!) and tuck some more around the base of the cake to make a simple wreath.

I followed this recipe for gingerbread almost exactly, and used this tree cookie cutter and christmas cookie stamp, topping the finished cookies with royal icing (made with meringue powder instead of raw egg whites) and white nonpareils. A dusting of powdered sugar “snow” finishes off this wintery holiday layer cake!

I hope you have as much fun making this cake as I did, and be sure to snap a picture and tag it with #forkknifeswoon on Instagram if you do!

And on a final note, from our family to yours, we wish you the merriest Christmas and happy (delicious) holidays. This little corner of the internet would not exist without your support, and I am forever grateful that you make this all possible!! See you next year! 😘

Happy baking!!

Holiday chocolate spice cake with ginger buttercream via

More holiday favorites to bake next:

If you make this holiday chocolate spice cake, be sure to tag me on Instagram with the hashtag #forkknifeswoon and leave a comment and rating below letting me know how you liked it! ★★★★★ Star ratings are especially helpful because they help others find my recipes too. xo, Laura

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Holiday chocolate spice cake with ginger buttercream via

Holiday Chocolate Spice Cake with Ginger Buttercream


A rich and decadent chocolate spice cake with a flavorful ginger buttercream frosting. Three layers all decked out for the holidays with iced gingerbread cookie decorations and sugar-dusted fresh rosemary Christmas trees!


for the chocolate spice cake:
2 cups organic cane sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses¹
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp whole milk
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup very hot coffee

for the ginger buttercream:
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room-temperature
1 Tbsp fresh ginger paste²
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
5-6 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
3-6 Tbsp heavy cream, as desired


Make the chocolate spice cake:
Preheat the oven to 350℉. Butter and flour three 8-inch round baking pans, or line the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.

Add the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and spices to the bowl of a stand up mixer. Whisk a few times to combine.

Add the eggs, molasses, milk, olive oil, and vanilla to the bowl, and using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until well combined, about 2 minutes. Stir in the hot coffee.

Divide the batter between the three prepared pans (it will be thin). Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of each comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire baking rack to cool completely before frosting.

Make the ginger buttercream:

Using a stand up mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the fresh ginger and vanilla, and continue beating for another minute or two.

Add the sifted powdered sugar, a half cup or so at a time, until the frosting is thick and creamy. Drizzle in the cream, a tablespoon or so at a time, until the buttercream frosting reaches your desired consistency. It should be spreadable, but thick enough to hold its shape on the cake.

Assemble the cake:

Place one of the cake rounds on a cake stand or plate. Spread a generous layer of buttercream over the top, using an offset spatula to create an even layer, about 1/4-inch thick. Top with the second cake layer. Repeat with another layer of frosting, and the third cake layer, top side down.

Spread a thin layer of buttercream on the sides and top of the cake to crumb coat the layers. Refrigerate for at least an hour, then spread on a final layer of buttercream, smoothing the sides with an offset spatula or bench scraper, or making decorative swirls or piped on designs.

Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes for easy slicing before serving. Store any leftovers in a covered container at room-temperature or refrigerated if longer than a day. Enjoy!


¹ I tested this cake with Grandma’s brand molasses. I would not recommend using blackstrap molasses.
² Fresh ginger paste can be found in tubes/jars in the refrigerated section of most well-stocked grocery stores. You can also use minced fresh ginger root, but be sure you smash it with the side of a large chefs knife into a smooth paste so that it incorporates well into the buttercream. Adjust the amount as desired for a more or less pronounced ginger flavor.
³ Cake base adapted from Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” chocolate cake

  • Category: Baking, Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: chocolate spice cake, chocolate cake, ginger, buttercream, rosemary, layer cake, chocolate gingerbread, holiday, christmas, rosemary trees, frosting, homemade, winter cake, molasses, cinnamon

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  1. 3.7.21
    Jennifer Radcliffe said:

    This cake is a winner! I have made it often since August 2021. It is the most requested cake among our friends. And it was my husband’s birthday cake request. Thank you for sharing it with us,

    • 3.8.21
      Laura said:

      Thanks so much, Jennifer! I’m so happy it’s become a favorite 🙂

  2. 9.10.20
    Lindsay Tubbs said:

    I made this recipe as mini cupcakes. I got way more than I needed, over 4doz and only cooked them for about 9 minutes and they were done but not dry. I also didn’t have cloves and instead used a quarter tsp of nutmeg. Not a huge cloves fan….

  3. 8.30.20
    Julie said:

    Made this recipe using hot water instead of hot coffee and it was still awesome. I cut the cloves down by half though, because I was not brave. Beautifully moist. Thanks for a great recipe.

    • 8.31.20
      Laura said:

      Thank you so much, Julie!!

  4. 9.29.19
    Celeste Koukos said:

    I made this cake yesterday and served it today _ DELICIOUS! I had to make extra frosting because I was running low but this may have happened because it was a very humid day and I was struggling with frosting the cake. ANYWAY, I will Definitely make this cake again! 😋. P.s. I can’t find your Instagram account….

  5. 12.26.18
    Lyana Daisy said:

    Good thing I came across your blog. Your guide is exactly what I need, can’t wait to try this. Happy new year and merry christmas dear!

  6. 12.22.18
    Abigail said:

    What a gorgeous, gorgeous centerpiece cake!
    Ordinarily, I’d be way too intimidated to attempt such an elegant dessert. But your straightforward instructions give me the confidence that I can actually pull it off. I especially love your idea of using upside-down rosemary sprigs for the seemingly snow-dusted trees.
    Merry Christmas, Laura! I can’t thank you enough for all of your delicious recipes this year!

Hi! I'm Laura, the food-obsessed cook, writer, and photographer behind Fork Knife Swoon, where you'll find mostly sweet, seasonal recipes and stories from my Northern Virginia kitchen.

All photography and content copyright Laura Bolton ©2021.