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Holiday Cake Explosion

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

No I didn't blow up my cake. But that would have been pretty cool! This cake was an explosion of amazing fresh flavors. For me, my favorite cakes have to include sweet and acid (tartness). Cakes that are only sweet on sweet are so heavy and just sink in my stomach. Don't get me wrong, I'll still eat them! But, my ideal cake must have these two elements and to make it even more holiday focused, I threw in the 'spiced' element. Gingerbread offers that hit of cinnamon, chewy molasses, and the sharpness of ginger that brings you back to your childhood of always biting off the heads of the gingerbread men before fully popping them in your mouth.

This week is also Hanukkah and I wanted to give a little acknowledgment to the festival of lights as well as interwine American and German flavors into 1 cake. Here are all the components. For links to recipes please scroll down to the bottom.

Vineyard Baking Presents:

1. A two Layered Gingerbread Cake

2. Homemade Gingerbread Syrup (to soak the cake layers)

3. Glühwein (German mulled wine) infused fresh Cranberry and Orange Filling

4. Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

5. Sugared Cranberries for Decoration

6. Homemade Gingerbread Men (and of course a few Dreidels and a Jewish Star)


I will detail each step of this cake. The recipe for the cranberry filling is detailed in that step as this was my own creative creation.

  1. Gingerbread Cake:

Let's talk about the gingerbread layers. This cake wasn't too difficult to make, but it was a new recipe. And with every new recipe, I always follow it exactly. I should have known better, because this recipe called for both baking powder and baking soda (1.5 teaspoons for each) and that is WAY too much leavening agent for a gluten free cake.

But I preceded and followed the recipe. It is also possible that I over beat the eggs, however I really doubt it. I am very careful when it comes to baking. Making sure to leave my milk, eggs, and butter out to come to room temperature before usage.

Fun German Tip- If you buy eggs from a German grocery store or farm (I buy straight from a farm called Wachholderhof which is about a 15 minute walk from my house. The chickens run free outside and it is so fun to see them all out in the wide open. Often a few get out of the fenced in area and wander into the vineyards where I go walking. Oops!) you don't have to refrigerate them. WHAT? I always grew up keeping my eggs in the fridge. Here in Germany the eggs are not power washed/sanitized on the outside before packaging and selling. This 'natural outer crust' actually protects the eggs and therefore the eggs do not require refrigeration. Sorry, I don't mean to talk about chicken poop in a cake post, but it's true!

Back to making the cake. I followed all the steps, carefully measured all my ingredients and my cake rose so nicely in the oven. I was smiling with glee when the cake was about 75% done baking and I watched the entire middle sink into despair. I was so dissapointed. My cake looked horrible! It had a sinkhole!

Was my cake still edible? Yes, it was fully cooked through. Did I taste it? Duh! It was moist and delicious and chewy from the molasses. I loved it. The taste that is. Cakes that have sunken are not great for stacking. You can do it, but if you have the time I recommend baking a new batch. When you stack and frost a cake that is not level the filling will shift and slide making your cake look messy. What can you do? You can cut out the middle, fill it with fruit, frosting, whipped cream, whatever and just eat it that way. Can you put it back in the oven to maybe fix it, unfortunately not. It is already fully cooked, you'll just over bake it drying it out. So why did my cake sink?

There are actually a few reasons of possibility:

A. I over beat the eggs... unlikely but possible.

B. Too much of the leavening agents AKA baking powder and baking soda.

C. I opened the oven mid bake. NEVER! Seriously don't do that!

Here is the thing. Gluten Free Flour is actually heavier than normal wheat based flour making it much easier for your cake to sink. You have to be extra extra careful! I tried the recipe again, this time, taking out the baking soda and using 2 teaspoons of baking powder. Did you know baking soda is actually 3 times more powerful than baking powder?

Second batch

YAY! Success!! And after letting it cool in the pan for about 20ish minutes. I flipped it and put it on a cookie sheet and immediately started putting on my gingerbread syrup soak. I then wrapped it all in plastic wrap, then tin foil, and put it in the freezer. This is a great 'make ahead' tip. You can freeze cakes ahead of time, I usually won't do more than a week or so- mostly because I just don't have the room in my freezer. Plus frosting cakes is way easier when the cake is cold!

2. Gingerbread Syrup.

This was SO easy to make and kept my cake from drying out which can be a typical complaint concerning gluten free cakes. It was so easy to make too and can be made up to two weeks ahead of time. The recipe made a ton, way more than I needed for the two layers.

Look at how moist that cake is with all that syrup!!

3. Glühwein (German mulled wine) infused fresh Cranberry and Orange Filling

Here are the ingredients that I used. This recipe I actually created myself. If you would like to post about this recipe please tag me and link back to my website at I used a Glühwein from a winery that is local, just about 10 minutes away. If you don't live in Germany I am pretty sure you can buy Glühwein at Trader Joes- BUT I am not sure! Please comment below and let me know when you get your Glühwein in America. It came with its own little spout so I can use just what I need for the recipe and the wine won't go bad! Wahoo! Go here to purchase or find out more about the Glühwein I used.

Recipe for the best cake filling ever

Step 1: In a medium saucepan combine 400 grams (two packages of fresh cranberries), zest and juice of 1 orange, 1 cup of sugar (100 grams) and 1 cup of Glühwein.

Step 2: Turn on heat to medium-high until boiling. Immediately turn down heat so that the sauce simmers. Let simmer for about 10 minutes while stirring every now and then. You will start to hear the cranberries pop, that's a good thing. The sauce will thicken as it simmers and reduces.

Step 3: Just before you have reached your desired consistency, taste test, and add a little bit more Glühwein... or a lot! I added 1 more cup! The Glühwein gets cooked off during the step 2 process and I wanted my filling to be a little boozy. Don't worry if your cranberry mixture thins out.

Step 4: Put in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. This stage of cooling will also thicken up your filling. I made this filling about 4 days before I used it and it was still great!

This recipe made plenty. If I had 3 layers of cake this recipe would still be enough for two filling layers!

This is during Step 2 when the mixture came to a boil.

See how this thickened up and reduced by about half

4. Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

To be honest I used two different recipes for this frosting. I wasn't to thrilled with my first batch and then I wanted to experiment since I had the time and tried a different recipe for the second batch.

1st Batch- I made a standard American cream cheese frosting adding about 2 teaspoons of cinnamon right before it was finished whipping. However, I think I left my cream cheese out too long, and it was too soft, making my frosting a bit runny. It was fine since it was just for the filling and crumb coat, but I do prefer a more stable cream cheese frosting.

I could still pipe my border but you can tell it is not super stable! Taste was on point though.

This was my crumb coat using the 1st batch. After sitting in the fridge overnight it did stiffen a bit but not fully.

2nd Batch- I found a recipe that was for an Ermine Cream Cheese Frosting. Ermine is french and it actually requires you to make a roux. You cook flour, corn starch, milk, sugar (not powdered sugar) and salt until it makes a thick paste. You put it all in the fridge until it completely cools, about 2 hours. Then put it in your stand mixture add vanilla extract and lemon juice. Finally, add in your cubed cream cheese slowly and then cubed butter. Keep your stand mixture going and the frosting will whip into the most creamy smooth frosting you have ever seen. I was shocked at how silky this frosting was, and not crazy sweet like the standard American kind. I will definitely make this again!

I made the roux and once it thickened and reduced it was ready to go into a heat proof bowl and into the fridge to cool.

5. Sugared Cranberries for Decoration

This is so easy and can be made ahead of time. These cranberries are not meant to be eaten, just for a fun wintery effect. I also used this technique for my Yule Log cake posted on the homepage of my website.

All you have to do is make a simple syrup of sugar and water on the stove. Let it cool for ten minutes and dip cranberries into the syrup mixture and then roll in sugar. Place them on a plate and then I put them in the fridge to really harden before using them to decorate. You can do this also with rosemary which adds a more 'forrest' element to your winter scenery.

6. Homemade Gingerbread Men (and of course a few Dreidels and a Jewish Star)

These definitely take time but they were worth it! Plus they make so many that I gave a whole box of them to my husband to bring to his colleagues and staff.

I had three different size 'men' and it was a bit tricky to figure out the bake time. A few came out burnt or I had rolled them too thick and they cracked.

The cracked ones still tasted great. I decorated them all and saved the good ones for the cake. I may or may not have munched on the cracked ones with a cup of coffee throughout the week.

Well that was it! We did it! So many elements and SO much work. The added textures of the crisp gingerbread cookies to the silkiness of the frosting, to the moist delicate cake and the pop of tartness from the cranberry filling created an explosion of international flavors that I can't wait to recreate!

Have you tried out my cake creation? Post a picture and let me know how it went in the comments section below.

Links to Recipes:

Gingerbread Cake:

Ermine Cream Cheese frosting:

Gingerbread Syrup:

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