A dazzling Christmas ginger cake with gingerbread house cookie decor (photo © Bruna Branco | Unsplash).
 A homemade gingerbread cake, decorated with gingerbread men and cranberries (photo courtesy Violife | Facebook).
 This simple but elegant layer cake from Molly Yeh is a white-iced layer cake covered with coconut, and garnished with marzipan evergreen trees (photo © Molly Yeh | My Name Is Yeh).
 Pastry chef Duff Goldman made green and red layers, covered in white buttercream. You can simplify it with a two-layer cake (photo © Charm City Cakes).
 Another way to use sugared cranberries: a cranberry wreath cake, baked in a ring pan. Here’s the recipe (photo © The Baker Chick).
Here are two approaches to baking a Christmas gingerbread cake with a garnish of gingerbread cookies.
FANCY GINGERBREAD CAKE
You don’t have to make a gingerbread cake. Chocolate or yellow cake work equally well.
You can substitute store-bought gingerbread cookies.
Fresh rosemary and stemmed cherries rim the top of the cake.
It’s so beautiful, it’s a shame to cut into it (and devour it).
But the photo helps keep the memory alive.
As to where to find stemmed cherries in the winter: We have no idea! This cake may have been made and photographed in the summer, to promote a baker’s upcoming holiday wares, or for a magazine article (the shoots can take place months ahead of a magazine’s publication).
As a substitute for fresh, stemmed cherries, try:
Tillen Farms Maraschino Cherries With Stems On. These are superior maraschino cherries, made with sugar (instead of corn syrup) and natural color (as opposed to artificial). We use them as called for in cocktails. You can find them on Amazon.
Cranberries. You can use raw cranberries, but they’re inedible. If you make sugared cranberries, they’re a delight. Here’s the recipe.
THE ANYBODY-CAN-MAKE-IT CAKE
The second version of gingerbread cake (photo #2) is charmingly homemade.
Depending on how much effort you want to put into it, you make the cake from scratch or buy a cake mix.
Frosting. Don’t be tempted to buy canned frosting. It’s a chemical jumble that doesn’t taste good—you can tell immediately that it’s from a can.
Here’s what’s in a can of Pillsbury Supreme White Frosting: Sugar, Palm Oil, Water, Corn Syrup, Corn Starch, Canola Oil, Artificial Flavor, Salt, Mono And Diglycerides, Artificial Color, Polysorbate 60, Modified Corn Starch, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Soy Lecithin, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Antioxidants (Ascorbyl Palmitate, Mixed Tocopherols, Chamomile And Rosemary Extracts).
Here’s what’s in delicious homemade buttercream frosting: butter, confectioner’s (powdered) sugar, milk or water and vanilla extract (here’s a recipe).
Cookies. You can also buy the gingerbread men.
Garnish. Use fresh rosemary to pass for evergreens and cranberries to add a pop of color (consider making sugared cranberries)..
GINGER CAKE VS. GINGERBREAD CAKE
These terms are used interchangeably and can be confusion.
Both can refer to a layer cake, a loaf cake, a bundt cake or other variation. But here’s the difference:
A ginger cake can be any cake flavored with ginger spice.
A gingerbread cake, on the other hand, uses a specific mix of gingerbread spices, as are used for gingerbread cookies.
These include allspice, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, in addition to ginger.
Plus, a gingerbread cake should include molasses, just like the cookies.
A ginger cookie is a soft, molasses-type cookie that is flavored with ginger and other spices. It is larger than, and otherwise differs from, a gingersnap.
A gingersnap, unlike the fancier gingerbread, is a small, thin, plain round cookie with a hard, smooth texture like a gingerbread cookie. It is a smaller version of the traditional German Christmas cookie known as Lebkuchen*, a spice cookie or cake.
Like gingerbread cookies, hard gingersnaps break with a “snap.” Gingersnaps contain a larger amount of ginger, and thus are spicier, than the chewier ginger cookies.
Gingerbread is a decorated cookie, made in different shapes from people to animals to houses, hearts, flowers, carousels…any way the baker wants to create them.
Gingerbread cookies vary by size and are typically iced and decorated. As with gingersnaps, they derive from German spice cookies, Lebkuchen.
GINGER COOKIES VS. GINGERSNAPS VS. GINGERBREAD COOKIES
> THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CAKE
> THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF COOKIES
> THE HISTORY OF CAKE
> THE HISTORY OF COOKIES
> THE HISTORY OF GINGERBREAD
> THE HISTORY OF CAKE PANS
*Lebkuchen derives from the German word Kuchen, cake. The origin of the first syllable is uncertain. The German word for spice is [das] Gewürz.