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Food Network host Carla Hall shares a sweet, make-ahead treat that's great for Thanksgiving, as well as the entire holiday season: gingerbread spice cake topped with cream cheese icing and ginger, cranberry, hazelnut white chocolate bark. YUM! She was inspired to create the dessert by her stint as a judge for the annual National Gingerbread House Competition in Asheville, North Carolina. The event is going into its 30th year, and the contestants enter the most incredible gingerbread houses you've ever seen!  

Note: The iced cake keeps, covered tightly in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days.  

For more holiday desserts, check out Christina Tosi's Pumpkin Dulce Bars and Sticky Toffee Pudding


For the Cake:
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, plus more for greasing, at room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon candied ginger, chopped
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • ¾ cup hot water
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Cream Cheese Icing:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ¾ cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
For the Bark:
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • ¼ cup candied ginger, chopped
  • ¼ cup hazelnuts
  • 12 ounces white chocolate coating
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt


Serves: 8 to 10


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square pan with butter and set aside. 

For the cake, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt and candied ginger until combined, then set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the molasses and hot water. 

In a large bowl, using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy for 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat on high speed for 1 minute until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. On medium-high speed, beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the hot water/molasses, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix. Batter will be thin. Whisk out any big lumps. 

Pour the batter into the buttered pan. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until the cake is baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cake to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack. The cake must be completely cool before frosting. 

For the icing, in a large bowl, using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until creamy and no lumps remain for 2 minutes. Add confectioners' sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Beat on low speed for 20 seconds, then increase to high speed until everything is completely combined and the icing is creamy. Spread on top of cake. Spread around the sides if you have extra icing.  

For the bark, place a medium pot of water on to boil. Once the water boils, reduce the heat to medium-low. 

Meanwhile, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Combine the cranberries, ginger and hazelnuts in a bowl.  

Chop the white chocolate into even-sized pieces and place in a medium stainless-steel bowl. Place it over the pot of simmering water, making sure it does not touch the water. Using a rubber spatula, stir occasionally until more than half of the chocolate has melted. Remove the bowl from the heat; the remaining heat will melt the rest of the chocolate. Add the salt and stir to incorporate evenly and finish melting the chocolate. 

Pour the melted chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet and spread into a ½-inch-thick layer. Sprinkle on the cranberry, ginger and hazelnut mix. Gently press them into the chocolate. Place the sheet pan in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes until the chocolate sets. Break into pieces and garnish the cake.