Fresh Ginger Cake Recipe

If pastry chef and baking expert extraordinaire David Lebovitz were to release a Greatest Hits collection, this Fresh Ginger Cake would no doubt make the cut. Come to think of it, he has and it did: the collection is a book called Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes, and it is a must-own for every baking enthusiast.

I have been friends with David for a good eight years, and I have known about this amazing ginger cake of his for about as long — it is one of his most requested, most celebrated recipes — but for some reason that’s the time it took for me to actually try it myself.

What is it that drives us to make a certain recipe at a certain time? Has anyone ever studied that?

At any given moment, it feels like I have dozens of recipes floating in my brain with a “to try” tag on them — recipes I’ve read about online, or in books and magazines, or ideas I’ve collected during restaurant meals or chef events. Some pop back out in a matter of days, last-in-first-out style, but others linger around for months and often years, bobbing in and out of my consciousness until the urge strikes, presumably when the right alignment of appetite, mood, and ingredient availability is reached.

Is that something you’ve experienced also? Do you let chance and spontaneity rule your cooking and baking projects, or do you have a system?

I’m wondering because, really: all I did was waste eight years of my life depriving myself of this wondrous cake.

It is called Fresh Ginger Cake, which certainly gives you a hint on the main flavor, but in truth it could be called Fresh Ginger and Molasses Cake, as half of the sweetening power is handed over to this tar-like and notoriously tricky ingredient, which can easily execute a coup d’état on your cake if you’re heavy-handed, but helps build complex layers of flavor when used properly.

In fact, David calls for mild molasses, and because there aren’t a million different types of molasses available in France — you usually have a choice of, oh, about one — I was worried mine was too strong. So I took an executive decision and used half molasses, half unrefined cane syrup from Louisiana, the same one I use for gâteau sirop.

And the resulting cake was nothing short of perfect: not too sweet (I did reduce the sugar a little bit) with a hefty ginger kick that warms the back of your throat, and a remarkably fluffy and moist texture. It’s a cake that keeps well, too, so it’s a good one to make for a household of two (I’m not counting the baby, who nibbles on three crumbs): for the next week, sliver after sliver, we kept marvelling at how moist it remained.

I served it to my mother-in-law, who had come to babysit Milan while we went to the movies for the first time in forever — I haven’t been so excited about going to the cinema since age twelve — and although she needs no bait to come and watch her grandson, she was so enthusiastic about it I hope we can do this again — the cake and the movie — very soon.

PS: I have just updated my links section if you want to take a look! And for the French speakers among you, I have done the same with the links section on the French version of Chocolate & Zucchini.

PPS: We went to see The Place Beyond The Pines and L.O.V.E.D. it. Did you?

Have you tried this? Share your pics on Instagram!

Please tag your pictures with #cnzrecipes. I'll share my favorites!

Fresh Ginger Cake Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Serves 12.

Fresh Ginger Cake Recipe


  • 120 grams (4 ounces) fresh ginger (get it from a place with a high turnover so it isn't woody and stringy)
  • 175 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar (I used blond unrefined cane sugar)
  • 200 grams (3/4 cup) mild molasses (I worried my molasses weren't mild, so I used half molasses, half unrefined cane syrup; you could also substitute half rice syrup, agave syrup, etc.)
  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) neutral-tasting oil (David recommends peanut; I used rapeseed)
  • 325 grams (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour (I used the French T65)
  • 2 teaspoons baking spice mix (I used quatre-épices, which is a mix of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 large eggs


  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and grease a 25-cm (10-inch) springform pan. (Alternatively, David suggests using a 23-by-7-cm / 9-by-3-inch round cake pan lined with a circle of parchment paper.)
  2. Peel the ginger (you can use the tip of an upturned spoon to grate the skin easily) and grate it finely, ideally with a Microplane zester. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, molasses, and oil. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, spices, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan, bring 240 ml (1 cup) water to the boil. Stir in the baking soda (it will foam up) and whisk into the sugar mixture until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add in the ginger and the flour mixture. Whisk just until no trace of flour remains. Break in the eggs one by one, whisking well between each addition.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester (such as a toothpick or skewer) inserted in the center comes out clean. If you find the top of the cake seems to be browning too quickly, cover loosely with a piece of foil.
  7. Let the cake cool for 30 minutes, then run a knife around to loosen and remove the cake from the pan to cool completely.

  • This recipe sounds a lot like another amazing recipe, which I’ve made time and again: your own recipe for pain d’epices in your first book “Chocolate & Zucchini.” I’ve tinkered with it many times (including making it with coconut milk for a vegan version) and it always comes out irresistible.

    • Thanks a lot, so glad you like that pain d’épice recipe! You’re right, it’s a close cousin to this one. And I love the idea of making it with coconut milk, I’ll try that for sure!

  • This cake sounds delicious! I know what you mean..I sometimes feel having tons of recipes which I want to try and then I completely forget about them and somedays I feel I just don’t have any recipes to cook at all!! It kind of sucks though lol!
    P.S Did I tell you that I love your book and I had bookmarked so many recipes but still waiting to try them!

    • Thank you, Ami! I hope you’ll report back when you do. :)

  • I have been incorporating fresh ginger in many dishes over the last year or so. It’s great in sauces, soups and salads. Recently I rediscovered molasses via an old-fashioned molasses cookie recipe. I can’t wait to combine both the molasses and the ginger in this recipe! Thanks so much for posting.

  • This cake looks amazing, like a giant ginger molasses spice cookie, but in cake from, so IT’S EVEN BETTER!

    I really want to see the place behind the pines so I’m thrilled to hear that it’s good :)

  • This is a fantastic cake and one I always have on hand around September onward..I think I get that trait from my mom :)

  • Gorgeous cake!

    My system is to be spontaneous. :-)

    For me, it is often a fantastic photo (like the one above) or great description of a recipe (like the above) that keeps jingling jangling in my mind and eventually surfaces.

    Here’s to establishing meaningful traditions (you two going for a movie while grandmom eats cake).

    • Spontaneity is good, for sure! I’m also curious about the inner workings of spontaneity. :)

  • Yep…I need to make this… :)

  • Lena

    Thanks for posting this recipe! I made a few substitutions to make it a teeny bit friendlier for people with blood sugar issues (though hard to reduce the glycemic index on something like this, and I just accept that I’ll eat it in delicious slivers only), up the fiber content/use whole grain flours, and to reduce the oil, and it came out GREAT! Moist and delicious and lofty and full of flavor. Here’s what I changed in case anyone would like to do something similar:

    -I used 1/4 cup canola oil and 1/2 cup applesauce instead of the 3/4 cup oil

    -used 5 Tablespoons grade B maple syrup plus 3/4 cup water plus 3 Tablespoons coconut sap sugar in the sugar plus water step (instead of 1 cup water plus 3/4 cup sugar)

    -I used 1 cup oat flour plus 1 cup spelt flour plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

    Thanks again Clothilde and David!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your version, Lena, it’s most helpful.

  • Jo Green

    I made this a few months ago and served it to some British friends who remarked that it tasted like Parkin which a typical north of England cake but made with oats. Now I want to try making Parkin too.
    I do love David’s recipe for this.

    • Parkin — how intriguing. I do love oats, so I think it would be right up my alley, too. Will you let me know if you try it?

  • This cake is so lovely!!!!

  • Anni

    The recipe sounds great and I looove ginger, but the thing is, I live Paleo. So no sugar, molasses or flour. Do you think I could substitute this ingredients with honey and almond flour? :-)

    • Hm. Those substitutions would definitely change the texture of the cake, but I think the resulting cake, while different, would be very good still! Will you report back if you try it?

  • Annemette

    I have an ever-growing list of bookmarked recipes to try – and then I just choose from my mood/ingredients/who’s going to eat it/etc… but I don’t think I’ll ever catch up! Too many gorgeous recipes, so little time :) But, I will add this one to my list. I adore anything with ginger (and cake)!

  • jenjen

    I have made it David’s cake on different occasions with either maple syrup and golden syrup from England. I like the maple the most, not as sickly sweet as the golden syrup. I guess another solution would be to use some agave and maple or golden syrup rather than adding any sugar.

  • yes yes YES! isn’t this cake just a marvel? i, too, knew of it for years, and still, inexplicably, did not make it. despite the fact i make ginger cake every year. despite the fact ginger’s one of my favorite flavors.

    then, i did. and i never looked back. it is my ginger go-to, full stop.

    p.s.: a dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche improves up on it, if you can imagine.

    p.s.s.: i still remember the first movie i saw after my firstborn came along. every scene, character, and sequence. thrilling, indeed!


    • You either told us too much or too little: what was the movie? :)

  • Nathalie

    Hi Clotilde,

    Found your fresh ginger cake recipe while surfing on the internet. It looks delicious!! Never heard of Molasses. It looks like a kind of sirup. Hope I can find it here, because I live in the Netherlands. Can you tell me in what kind of shop I should look for it? I even don’t if it’s also called Molasses in my country, so that’s another problem.

    Hope to find all the ingredients, because it looks to good not to try!!

    Thank you for the lovely recipe!

    • Here’s the Cook’s Thesaurus definition: “Sugar is made by extracting juice from sugar cane or sugar beets, boiling them, and then extracting the sugar crystals. Molasses is the thick, syrupy residue that’s left behind in the vats.”

      You’re most likely to find it at organic foods stores, and my translation tool says it might be called simply suikerstroop. Does that ring a bell?

  • Nathalie

    You use a better translation tool than me! I could not find it, but suikerstroop certainly rings a bell. Thank you very much!!

    • Glad I could help! Do let us know if you try the recipe.

      • Marloes

        The good thing is that our Dutch suikerstroop isn’t as strong as the one sold in the US or Great Britain. So I don’t think you have to dilute this one with other syrups. So next time you come to Amsterdam Clotilde, step into the supermarket and by some!

        • Good to know, thank you!

          • Marloes

            It is in the oven right now! I used the substitutes for the sugar part as mentioned by Lena on april 17th, I used half Dutch molasses and half apple-sirup (also Dutch: cooked apple-pear-date juice), the normal amount of oil, but half coconut, half rice oil, and for the flour part 100 grams of almond powder, 100 grams of buckweat flower and 125 grams of whole grain spelt-flower. I’ll let you know how it turned out.

  • Kate

    Molasses is called treacle (or black treacle as opposed to the treacle tart which is golden syrup) in the UK if that helps anyone.

  • Sarah

    This cake just came out of the oven and smells absolutely divine! Can’t wait to try it. My kids have asked if I’ll be frosting the cake. I hadn’t planned to, but if I were going to, what would you suggest I frost it with? Thanks!

    • I think a cream cheese frosting would work really well here. Glad to hear you tried this out!

  • This cake looks simply delicious. I love ginger and I love cake, so by combining the two, this cake ought to be out of this world.
    I will have to try the version posted by Danijela with less sugar and a little more fiber though. I can’t wait to try this.

  • I was just about to freak out and ask where you got Steen’s in Paris, but then I went and read the original post and learned that you brought it from the States. It’s one of the ingredients I miss the most, especially during the holidays – I don’t think I can make a pecan pie without it ever again. ;)

  • Fantastic idea! I’ve never thought of using ginger in anything but cookies and chicken soup (adding ginger to soup is great for head colds.) I’m definitely going to try this cake. Thank you!

  • Like everyone else–thanks for posting this recipe. I made it yesterday, and in spite of a weird outcome, possibly based on my substitutions, everyone liked it, and I did, too. I glazed it with a lemon zest/juice and confectioners’ sugar glaze, based on comments on Lebovitz’s post of his original recipe, and it was a great combination.

    • Thanks for reporting back, Joan! What was weird about the outcome? I’m curious!

      • :) Well. In the middle of the baking, I noticed a large lump growing from the top of the cake, kind of off center. Like an alien about to hatch or something. I opened the oven to look, and it was foam. I ended up baking it for the recommended time (even though I was using convection); it took that long for the foam to subside. It ended up looking like a slightly lighter circle on top of the cake. But the bottom was fine when I flipped it over. (And glazed it.)

        My sister suggested that it might have been a lump of baking soda, but we nixed that when I told her the soda was dissolved in hot water first.

        • Hm. That’s very puzzling! I’m not sure what might have caused this. The hatching alien is probably the best guess. :) Oh, and how did you like the cake?

  • msue

    I made this delicious cake, and found that the ginger & overall spiciness increased on day 2. Because of slightly stringy ginger, I also minced what I’d grated. Both recipes (yours & David’s) instruct cooks to add soda to boiling water. What is the chemistry/function of this method? Next time I might sub another liquid, such as apple or orange juice, or possibly coconut water, although that might require a reduction in the sugar content. I loved the recipe, and can report it was met with enthusiasm! Thank you!

    • That’s great to hear, Mary Sue, thanks!

      My hunch about the baking soda and boiling water technique is that it triggers the leavening power of baking soda, and perhaps precludes the need for an acidic ingredient, but in truth I’m not sure. I’ve just asked David and will report back!

  • This looks absolutely divine! I’m glad you’ve tried this recipe and shared it with us…xv

  • Sally

    I made the cake at the weekend and we’ve been enjoying it very much, so thanks for the recipe! Since you had a discussion above about parkin, I thought I’d come back and leave a comment. I’m originally from the north of the UK, so grew up eating parkin, and I’d say it’s quite a bit different. Because of all the oats it contains, parkin has quite a unique texture – crumbly, but in a different way. It’s also not quite as dark as this cake. If you’re curious to try it, this recipe usually turns out well for me.
    (If you can’t get golden syrup, I don’t really know what to suggest as a substitute – I live in Belgium now, and still haven’t managed to find any here, much to my sadness!)

    • Thank you Sally, I’m glad you enjoyed the ginger cake, and appreciate the extra info on parkin. I am able to find golden syrup here (at gourmet grocery stores such as Lafayette Gourmet) and I’m very curious to try this new-to-me confection. Thanks for the link as well!

  • A very interesting idea. I wonder if it tastes like beer :-))) I’ll have to try the recipe

  • cj

    …one of our favorite recipes is Ming Tsais East/West Ginger Cake- now I can’t wait to try David L’s version and compare them! thanks for this. another family favorite is actually the Piege cake I found here years ago- thanks many times over for that one too!

    • I’ll have to look that one up, thank you! And I’m delighted you’ve adopted the PIège cake and love it so. Thanks for telling me!

  • Love all your recipes and food ideas!!cannot wait to try out this ginger cake…thanks for putting this up!!!

  • Christine

    I am wanting to try this recipe. Do you know where I can find molasses here in Paris and under what name? Thanks.

    • You’ll find it at organic stores (Naturalia, Biocoop, Bio C’ Bon and the like) and it is called mélasse. Happy baking!

  • joseph

    Just made this and it smells great! Only took 30 minutes though. thanks!

  • Danielle

    This sounds AMAZING!! I am wondering if you could use something other then eggs? I have an allergy but want to try this delicious cake. Thanks in advance

    • Though I’ve never tried it, I would be confident using the classic flax seed substitution here!

Get the newsletter

Receive FREE email updates with all the latest recipes, plus exclusive inspiration and Paris tips. You can also choose to be notified when a new post is published.

View the latest edition of the newsletter.