This 1850s Gingerbread Spice Cake with Mascarpone Buttercream is a perfect holiday treat

Sarah Gonzalez
Sarah Gonzalez, the Nashville Bread Lady, with her gingerbread spice cake on Wednesday, October 6, 2021 in Spring Hill, Tenn. The 1850s recipe is from her paternal great-grandmother Eva Dobyns.

About the recipe

Yield: 9 x 9-inch cake

Prep time: 10 minutes

Bake time: 45 minutes

Of all the recipes found hidden in my great-grandmother’s cookbook, this one is the oldest, dating back more than 170 years. It was the first of her recipes that made it into my oven, and when the door opened, Christmas morning danced out in a cloud of nostalgia. It was a molasses cookie in cake form. I created a mascarpone buttercream to add a bit of tart sweetness. 

This recipe is courtesy of Baking with the Bread Lady: 100 Delicious Recipes You Can Master at Home.

A gingerbread spice cake made by Sarah Gonzalez, the Nashville Bread Lady, on Wednesday, October 6, 2021 in Spring Hill, Tenn. The 1850s recipe is from her paternal great-grandmother Eva Dobyns.



1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1/2 cup white sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup molasses

1 cup buttermilk

Mascarpone Buttercream

10 tablespoons salted butter, softened

8 ounces mascarpone, softened

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 tablespoon vanilla extract


For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 9-inch pan with parchment paper, and grease with nonstick spray.

In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together butter and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.

In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, and salt.

In another bowl whisk together molasses and buttermilk.

Add flour and buttermilk mixture to mixer in three parts, alternating between the two and mixing well after each addition. Pour into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the pan, then move to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Prepare the mascarpone buttercream (recipe follows), and spread over completely cooled cake.

Lightly dust cake with cinnamon or other preferred spice and serve.

Mascarpone Buttercream Frosting: Cream together butter and mascarpone in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, occasionally scraping down the sides to ensure even mixing.

Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing on low and then whipping on high.

Add vanilla and give a final whip. Don’t overmix, as it will cause the frosting to separate.