This festive vegan gingerbread naked cake with generous caramel frosting layers and sugared cranberries on top makes a beautiful dessert for the holidays or anytime in winter.
There we are – the end of our Vegan Christmas Menu already! It’s been very fun for me to create an entirely vegan Christmas menu which, far from the traditional dishes, plays with boundaries and explores new flavors, often exotic. We started with Caramelized red onions polenta bites, had a Coconut pineapple ginger parmentier as a main course, and now we have a gingerbread naked cake to fix our sweet tooth.
Let me tell you more about it. The choice of the Christmas dessert is always a challenge. The French inside me always struggles with two options: Bûche de Noël or Christmas Cake/Dessert? I usually go for the first one though, as a long French tradition I guess (it’s like having a Christmas tree or not). Do you encounter the same issues year after year or do you clearly have preference for one option and would never even think about the second one?
My top 5 Christmas desserts on the blog so far are the following (warning: none of them is vegan though):
- Meringue Lemon Curd Pie Style Yule Log
- Chocolate & Orange Cake Roll Topped with Caramelized Nuts
- Christmas Chocolate Mango Yule Log
- Outrageous Chocolate Mandarin Meringue Cake
- Chocolate Mango-Coco filled Beggar’s Purses
This year I wanted something different. My first rule: I wanted it vegan. My second rule: I wanted some spices. My third rule: I wanted it look both fancy and rustic at the same time. I thought about it for weeks, trying to create the best possible vegan dessert for you. I want to insist on that last point, because too many people still think that vegan food is tasteless and not worth it. What could possibly work better than eggs, milk, butter and cream in a cake, seriously?
If you’re not vegan and recognize yourself thinking all this, I do not blame you here as I once thought the same too. But as you know, kitchen is my playground where I like to experiment, even vegan recipes, as I want them to be accessible not only to vegan people but to everyone, so that you don’t need to feel that you have to cook/bake something special for your vegan guests. Yes, you can prepare a delicious 3-course vegan menu that could please everyone. Just be open-minded as I’m sure you are already.
And if you are tempted by the idea but still don’t feel ready to make the first move for Christmas, start with dessert! Dessert is an easy part and I’m pretty sure none will notice, especially if you go for this gingerbread recipe. No eggs, no dairy, and no refined sugar here. Instead, I used coconut oil, unsweetened apple sauce, and of course molasses, that are a key ingredient in a gingerbread. You will love the beautiful spices that definitely bring the bread to the next level. The recipe here makes 3 (9-inch/23 cm) round cakes. If you want to make one large bread or a loaf instead, I would recommend to divide the quantities by two, minus the spices for which you should stick to the same quantities.
Here, I made 3 of them to create a beautiful naked cake. In between layers, I spread a delicious vegan caramel frosting. If you have a little time ahead, make your homemade vegan caramel. I find it much easier than the classic caramel that always stick to my saucepan (I probably don’t use a thick enough pan); with this vegan caramel made of coconut sugar and coconut milk, there is no way to fail. Just stir constantly, until you get the desired consistency. You will need very little for the frosting, so my advice is to fill a glass jar with the remaining vegan caramel; it will make a beautiful DIY gift for the holidays.
The frosting itself is entirely vegan. I replaced butter with a vegan margarine and cream with coconut milk. The rest is powdered sugar and vanilla extract, as for a classic frosting. You should get a soft and creamy texture, easy to spread all over the cake. If yours doesn’t turn out the way you’d like and is a bit too dry, simply add coconut milk, just a little bit a time, whisking constantly, until you get the desired consistency. When you spread the frosting all over the cake, remember here that it’s a naked cake, not a layer cake covered with frosting. As a result, it is important for you to leave the layers largely exposed.
The final touch are the sugared cranberries. It’s mostly for decoration here, so you should see that mostly as an optional part of the recipe. There is no necessity of doing it, especially if you don’t find cranberries easily, depending on where you are (they are everywhere in the US but I know it’s not the case everywhere). Your naked cake will be high and rather thick, so you will easily make 12-15 slices. I hope you will have fun baking and I wish you a Happy Holidays!
- 1 cup (120g) fresh cranberries1
- 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (240ml) water
- 1½ cup (35 cl) molasses
- 1½ cup (35 cl) maple syrup
- 1 cup (255g) unsweetened applesauce
- 1 cup (25 cl) melted coconut oil
- 5 cups (625g) all-purpose flour
- 3 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger
- 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- ¾ tsp ground cloves
- 2 cup (50 cl) hot water
- ½ cup (55g) dairy-free margarine
- 2 Tbsp vegan caramel sauce*
- 3¾ to 4 cups (450-500g) powdered sugar
- ¼ cup (60 ml) coconut milk (or any vegetable milk of your choice)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- FOR THE CRANBERRIES: the day before, place cranberries in a large bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup of sugar and the water to a boil and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Pour sugar syrup over the cranberries and stir. Let the cranberries sit at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight (ideal). You’ll notice the sugar syrup is quite thick after this amount of time.
- Drain the cranberries from the syrup and pour 1 cup of sugar on top. Toss the cranberries, coating them all the way around.
- Pour the sugared cranberries on a parchment paper or silicone baking mat-lined baking sheet and let them dry for at least 2 hours.
- FOR THE GINGERBREAD X3: preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Grease 3 (9-inch/23 cm) round cake pans.
- In a blender, combine the molasses, maple syrup, applesauce and coconut oil. Blend until smooth.
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, sea salt and spices in a large mixing bowl.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined. Stir in the hot water.
- Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake the cakes on middle rack for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean.
- Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove cake layers from pans and cool completely on wire racks, about 30 minutes.
- FOR THE FROSTING: in a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the margarine until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the caramel sauce*, turn the mixer speed down to low, and gradually add half of the powdered sugar. Add the coconut milk and vanilla extract, followed by the rest of the powdered sugar. Once most of the powdered sugar is mixed in, turn the mixer speed up to medium and then high speed, beating until the mixture is smooth and creamy, 2-4 minutes more.
- ASSEMBLE THE CAKES: place a dollop of frosting in the center of a cake stand or serving plate (to keep the cake from sliding) and place 1 cake layer on top of frosting. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly over the first cake, and just past the edges of the first layer. Place the second cake layer upside-down directly on top of the first layer; repeat frosting process. Place the third cake layer on top of the second layer. Spoon some frosting directly on top of third layer, and lightly frost the entire cake, starting with the top and moving down the sides, leaving the layers largely exposed.
- Place the assembled cake back in the freezer for 20 minutes to allow the icing to set. Decorate with the sugared cranberries.