Gingerbread Cake House
Celebrate the holidays with a gingerbread house - made entirely of cake! Features layers of moist gingerbread cake, decadent chocolate buttercream and spiced gingerbread cookies. A show-stopping dessert that's sure to impress. Vegan. <jump to recipe>
On Christmas day, many years ago, I tried my hand at baking for the first time. It was the early 90’s and the Easy Bake Oven was in its heyday. That morning I unwrapped this shiny hunk of plastic, with enough hot pink detailing and well-placed stickers to convince any kid that this was the real deal. From that day on, I was hooked.
My mom loves to tell me how I went on a relentless tear whipping up brownies as dense as hockey pucks, and vanilla cakes that could last years without spoiling. I was so immensely proud of my light-bulb “baked” creations that neither she nor my dad were going to burst my bubble. At least not then, anyways.
Thankfully, these days I’m all about holiday treats that are actually edible. And naturally, this brings me to the topic of gingerbread houses. So often g-bread houses consist of stacks of inedible cookies and rock solid icing - which when combined have at least a 70% chance of chipping a tooth upon contact. Not my cup of tea. Gingerbread houses made of CAKE on the other hand? Now we’re talking.
I first made a version of this cake about 10 years ago, when I spotted the idea in (what I think) was a Martha Stewart magazine. I’m sure it contained pounds of butter and white flour...but the idea, it was genius. My variation features three mouthwatering components: moist and decadent gingerbread cake, fluffy chocolate buttercream icing and spiced gingerbread cookies. All three are completely vegan, with no refined flour or added refined sugar (but you’d never guess it!). In the spirit of full transparency, this recipe is no walk in the park. I mean, you’re building a house out of cake...but if you’re up for it, the end result is an entirely edible showstopper.
There’s A LOT to say about this cake, but it’s the holidays and I know you don’t have time to be dawdling. Let's quickly talk about the vegan chocolate “buttercream” though, because it deserves the airtime. I wanted to create a decadent frosting that didn’t rely on vegan butter. Because that stuff scares me. So instead this chocolate frosting starts as a modification to coconut whipped cream. I then took it one step further to get a fluffier and less dense frosting. The trick? Aquafaba. If you still haven’t heard of aquafaba, know that it’s the liquid in a can of chickpeas. It can be used as a substitute for egg whites in baking, and can be whipped to stiff peaks (seriously). The trick to a fast whipping aquafaba is to reduce it over the stove first. This allows some of the excess water to evaporate - and cuts big time off the beating process. Once combined, the “bean-y” taste entirely disappears (yes, actually) and you’re left with a bowl of the soft and fluffy chocolate vegan frosting.
For those of you that are embarking on this holiday cake adventure, know that the recipes below are extensive to help illustrate every step of the way. Anguel even made a GIF to show how the cake gets assembled. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave it in the comments. Happy holiday baking my friends!
GINGERBREAD CAKE HOUSE WITH VEGAN CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM
SERVES 12 (VEGAN)
1 batch of Gingerbread Cake (recipe below)
1 batch of Vegan Chocolate Buttercream (recipe below)
1 batch of Vegan Gingerbread Cookies (recipe below)
Extra decorations: fondant snowmen, sprinkles, icing, tree branches
To construct the house, take one cake and slice it in half. These two rectangles will form the base of the house. Take the second cake and slice it on the diagonal to form four triangles. The triangles form the roof (you’ll only need three of them).
Place one rectangle piece on a flat work surface. Spread a layer of buttercream icing on the top, then stack the second rectangle. Add a second layer of buttercream on top. Now assemble the roof. Add one triangle at a time, spreading buttercream frosting between each layer to adhere them.Use the remaining buttercream to frost the outside of the cake (all sides and the full roof). Make sure the buttercream is a thick consistency, and if starts to warm, place the icing in the fridge to harden (you can also place the frosted cake in fridge before adding gingerbread pieces).
Decorate the gingerbread cookies if desired. Add windows, door and scalloped pieces to the cake. For the roof, press the shingles down one at a time. Start with the bottom shingles, and overlap them as you work up to the top of the roof. Add any remaining decorations and serve. The cookies will soften on the cake (a good thing!) so aim to assemble at least 1 hour before serving. Extras keep at room temperature for 2 days.
Many components of this recipe can be made in advance. Gingerbread cakes, vegan buttercream icing and vegan gingerbread cookies can be made one day beforehand. Assembly is best done on day-of.
MAKES 2 (8-INCH) CAKES (VEGAN)
1 1/4 cup nutmilk
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted*
1 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses*
1/3 cup applesauce
1 cup coconut sugar
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 2/3 cup spelt flour (19 oz/540 g)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8” square baking pans.
In a large bowl, add all ingredients (except the spelt flour). Ensure nutmilk and apple sauce are room temperature to prevent coconut oil from solidifying. Using a hand/electric mixer, mix on medium-high speed until ingredients are well combined. Add flour and mix until fully incorporated. Split batter evenly into two pans.
Bake for ~35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from center of cake. Let cakes cool in their pans for at least 30 minutes before transferring onto cool rack to cool completely. Cakes can be stored wrapped in saran wrap if you won’t be assembling immediately. Store at room temperature to keep cakes moist.
Measure coconut oil and blackstrap molasses in the same measuring cup. After the coconut oil, the molasses will come out a lot easier!
VEGAN CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM
MAKES ENOUGH FOR 1 GINGERBREAD CAKE HOUSE (VEGAN)
1 cup chickpea brine (aquafaba)*
7 oz / 200 g semi-sweet chocolate
2 cans coconut milk (13.5 oz / 385 g can), refrigerated overnight or ideally ~24 hours**
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add chickpea brine (aquafaba) to a saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer until it’s reduced to 1/2 cup of liquid. Pour into a bowl/jar and set aside until completely cooled. Give chocolate a rough chop. Melt the chocolate, stirring regularly as it cools. Set aside until the chocolate has cooled (but is still in liquid form). The chocolate must be fully cooled for this recipe to work.
In a medium-sized bowl, use a hand/electric mixer to whip the cooled and reduced aquafaba. It should take 1-2 minutes on high speed to whip the aquafaba to the texture of still egg whites. Set aside.
Scoop out coconut cream into a large bowl. Using a hand/electric mixer, beat coconut cream until it resembles whipped cream. Add melted chocolate and vanilla extract. Whip again until thick and fluffy. On medium-speed, add whipped aquafaba. Beat until fully incorporated.
The consistency of the buttercream will vary by the temperature in your kitchen. If it’s on the soft side or if not using right away, cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge. Once chilled, buttercream will stiffen and will need to soften up on the counter slightly (and potentially need to be re-whipped) before spreading on the cake.
*This is the liquid that you get from straining a can of chickpeas. You’ll need 1 (maybe 2) cans (15 oz / 425 g) to strain out 1 cup of brine.
**Should yield ~2 cups of coconut cream. If your cans yield noticeably less, use a third can to supplement.
VEGAN GINGERBREAD COOKIES
MAKES ENOUGH FOR 1 GINGERBREAD CAKE HOUSE (VEGAN)
1 tablespoon ground flax + 3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon spelt flour
In a large bowl, add all ingredients (except the spelt flour). Using a hand/electric mixer, mix on medium-high speed until ingredients are well combined. Add flour and mix until fully incorporated. If the dough gets too difficult to mix with beaters (once flour gets added), use a wooden spoon to mix.
Wrap dough tightly with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 20 minutes. Once dough is chilled, use a lightly floured surface to roll dough slightly thicker than 1/8". Set out a knife, scalloped pastry wheel and toothpicks.
You’ll need to cut out: 25 square tiles for roof, windows and steps (1 ½” x 1 ½”); 1 door (2” wide x 3” tall); 2 small scalloped trims for either side of door (3” long), 1 large scalloped trim for back of house (8”), 3 medium scalloped trims for sides of house and top of roof (4 1/2” long), 4 scalloped roof trims (6 1/2” long). Place cookies on parchment lined baking sheet(s).
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake cookies for 12 minutes until golden brown. Let them cool on the baking sheets. Cookies can be made a day in advance (store in a sealed container).