Molasses Spice Cake

Half of a molasses spice cake on a silver platter with a serrated knife lying beside it.

The person who created this dream of a molasses spice cake, chef Renee Erickson, is a professed non-baker. So one wonders how exactly this easy spice cake recipe came to be. In her words, “When I discover a cake that’s filled with curious flavors like mustard, coffee, black pepper, and ginger, and is also simple to bake, I stick with it.” Sounds like words to live by to us. And words to eat by. (Trust us. One taste of this aromatic spice cake and you’ll understand why she sticks with this recipe.)–Renee Schettler Rossi

How To Choose The Right Molasses

It’s quite possible that you already have the ingredients for this gingerbread-esque molasses spice cake in your pantry. But as you go through the recipe, making your shopping list and checking it twice, we’d like to draw special attention to molasses. Yes, that sticky bottle of dark brown ooze that you struggle to open each December because you forgot to wipe the gooey syrup from the rim before capping it during your baking craze the year before. Known for its distinctive smoky sweetness, molasses contributes much of what makes gingerbread and gingerbread cookies so darn memorable. The trick is that there are several kinds of molasses, including light and dark, sulphured and unsulphured, and while there are distinctions among these, they’re largely interchangeable. The exception is blackstrap molasses, which is the darkest and most bitter of them all. (Sounds like the sinister baking equivalent of a witch in a fairy tale, eh?) Don’t use blackstrap in a recipe unless it specifically calls for blackstrap. If you’re curious, you may want to check out this post which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about molasses.

Molasses Spice Cake

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 50 M
  • 1 H, 50 M
  • Serves 12
4/5 - 1 reviews
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Special Equipment: Bundt pan


  • For the molasses spice cake
  • For the candied orange peel & syrup


Make the molasses spice cake

Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Butter and flour a Bundt pan, being careful to thoroughly coat all the nooks and crannies.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, mustard, and black pepper until well blended.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 1 minute, until it lightens in color and texture. Add the eggs, molasses, and espresso and mix on low speed just until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. The batter may appear a little lumpy, and that’s perfectly okay. Add the flour and spice mixture and, still on low speed, mix just until the flour is completely incorporated and no streaks remain.

Scrape the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the cake is puffed and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out squeaky clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes. Then invert the cake onto a wire rack situated on a baking sheet and let cool until the syrup is ready.

Make the candied orange peel & syrup

While the cake bakes, halve and juice the oranges and then strain the juice into a liquid measuring cup. Carefully cut the bitter white pith and whatever remains from the orange segments from the orange peels, saving just the orange zest portion of the peel and composting the rest. Slice the peel into strips 1/4 inch thick. Toss the strips in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to boil for 5 minutes. Drain the strips, discarding the water. Let cool.

Add enough cold water to the reserved orange juice to measure 1 cup liquid. Dump this liquid and the sugar into the pan with the poached orange peel. Return the peel to heat and cook at a gentle boil for about 10 minutes, or until the peels are very shiny and almost translucent. Transfer the candied orange peel to a piece of parchment paper to dry. Reserve the syrup.

Assemble everything for serving

After the molasses spice cake has been turned out of its pan, bring the reserved syrup back to a simmer just until it’s warmed through. Then brush some of the syrup all over the top and sides of the warm cake to saturate it. Let the syrup soak in for a few minutes, then brush again, repeating over and over again until you’ve used all the syrup. [Editor’s Note: If you prefer your spice cake with more notes of bitter, serve it while still slightly warm. If you prefer your spice cake to have more pronounced sweet as opposed to savory notes, let it stand at least 8 hours at room temperature.]

Serve the cake slightly warm or at room temperature, sliced into wedges, sprinkled with candied orange peel, and dolloped with freshly whipped cream.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Molasses, ginger, and spices—my favorite combo. This molasses spice cake was incredibly moist and came together rather easily. Though there are many steps from start to finish, it's a fairly easy recipe. The cake turned out to be very moist and delicious. It wasn't too sweet, and the addition of the glaze brought the right amount of sweetness to the cake. The timing of the cake was bang on at about 50 minutes. I really loved making this cake. It's a winner. I'm going to use chai spice the next time around.

If you enjoy gingerbread flavors, then you'll love this Bundt cake with candied orange peel garnish. This is a delicious cake. The flavors are perfect! The crumb is light, and the cake is moist. This molasses spice cake has definitely earned a spot in my holiday baking rotation. The batter came together easily. Since I didn't have espresso, I used coffee. I poured the batter into my 12-cup Bundt pan with enough room left that I suppose a slightly smaller capacity Bundt would work as well. The cake was done in 50 minutes. It took 3 rounds of glazing with a few minutes between each to use up all the syrup. It was certainly worth it! The finished product was bursting with flavor and was incredibly moist. I ate a piece warm—okay, 2 pieces—and another at room temperature and I'd recommend serving it warm when possible, although I loved it both ways. I buttered and floured my bundt pan as directed, but I gave it a quick squirt of nonstick cook spray too. (I found the spray easier to use on my pan's hard to reach crevices. My cake released very easily.)

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  1. I screwed something up while making this and it was STILL delicious!

    I needed a sub for the coffee, which one of my eaters can’t handle. I used orange juice, thinking a) acid for acid, and b) complementing the candied orange syrup. All else was exactly as written. My cake fell badly — or rather, never really rose. When I went to rotate its oven position at 30 minutes, the batter along the pan walls had risen but there was a center ring of flat batter, and it never rose at all there.

    I went ahead and finished it, syrup glaze and all, and it was totally delish, but of course extremely dense, almost like a Sticky Toffee Pudding. I’ll definitely try again, but if anyone has a clue about my mishap, I’m all ears.

    (Oh, and I double checked my oven temp too with an oven thermometer, and all was well on that front.)

    1. Hi Maggie, my first inclination is the orange juice. I’ve never baked with oj as a substitute for coffee so I’m not sure of the reaction with the baking soda. How old was your baking soda? That might be another culprit.

      1. Yes, that was my primary suspect too. But I can’t think of any reason that OJ would cause a failure to rise.

        Baking soda was new, so no suspect there.

          1. Hmm. But wouldn’t you think that orange juice is even more acidic than coffee? Obviously I need to look that up.

            But whatever, I’m making this cake again. It’s really, really good.

  2. I am still a bit unsure about your comments on molasses.
    I understand the uses for blackstrap but, you don’t seem to be considering molasses made from anything except sugar cane but, I am a died in the wool lover of the other types of molasses: sorghum, date, pomegranate, and a few others. It is rare that I ever use cane molasses.
    Any thoughts on using a non-cane molasses in this recipe? I may make one but, it will be with sorghum.

    1. Mike, you make a very good point. We distilled the molasses information down to its essence since we have a lot of readers for whom standard supermarket molasses is the only sort available to them. We weren’t trying to pretend it’s an encyclopedic dissemination of the topic. I think sorghum would be truly lovely in this recipe.

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