Applesauce Ginger Cake (Like Starbucks Holiday Gingerbread)

copycat Starbucks Holiday Gingerbread

Added Feb. 19, 2016: Dear Readers, I've seen my recipe get reposted by a lot of different websites, and subsequently pinned on Pinterest, since I published this in 2011. Please give proper attribution. It hurts my heart that so many other bloggers are pirating my content and claiming it as their own. If you'd like to re-use this, just ask! I appreciate you all. Just remember, we are all people with feelings and families to support. And believe me, Dear Pirate, I noticed when you copied my text, word for word

Did you know, the gingerbread loaf cake at Starbucks is really pretty good? It's also a bit expensive. You don't always notice the $1.85 when you buy a few drinks. I had to wait a whole year to get my fix, because this treat is only available between Thanksgiving and roughly New Year's. I scoured the Internet last January but didn't find a suitable recipe. I gave up and ate Lemon Pound Cake or Pumpkin Bread.

This gingerbread season, I managed to buy a whole slab from the store nearest to home.  It was barely a bargain at about $13.00, but I had 8 slices to myself, in my fridge at home.

The best part of this little story, I was dancing around the kitchen, hugging my just-purchased package of yummy cake with such joy.  Then my husband broke the moment of bliss by asking what the hell I was doing to that cake?

Ahem. Dancing. And reading the ingredient list on the top of the package!  Ha HA! Light bulb! Moment of inspiration! I knew it was time to try again.

So I rechecked Ye Olde Internet for some recipe input.  Honestly, people of the Internet, would it really that big of a stretch for you all to try something new?  Because I'm tired, TIRED, of doing a search and seeing the same old recipe reposted by 41,300 different people. So HA!  I made it myself.

Really, I have never considered myself to be such a pioneer of cooking. To try making something myself from scratch, not such a stretch of the imagination for me. Apparently, I am of the minority. It seems that more and more people rely on others for this sort of thing. Getting recipes, buying prepared food, not knowing what to do with your food... I guess I'm surprised, with a hint of disappointment thrown in there. I will continue to blaze this trail for others to follow because I like it. I like to cook. I like to experiment. I like food...Anyhow, I digress.

I expended honest-to-goodness effort!  With mistakes! And good progress! With actually considering the actual ingredients listed on the product itself.  No, there is no mustard, dry or otherwise, for "kick"!  And no molasses. Honest! So technically, it's not a true gingerbread! Except that it does contain crystallized ginger and ground ginger. That's why I called this recipe "Applesauce Ginger Cake."

After much joy from eating the store-bought "gingerbread" (at about 500 calories per slice mind you), and attempting my own home-made version, (and less joy from realizing that I had gained about 10 lbs in a month), I will now present to you my homemade version of Starbucks Holiday Gingerbread Cake.

Ingredients for the cake
1/2 cup butter, salted, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (this makes it more brown looking)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup finely minced candied mild ginger

Method for the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the egg and mix well.

2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and spices.

3. In the mixer, add the applesauce, vanilla, and flour-spice mixture to the creamed butter and sugar.  Mix until smooth. Be sure to scrape down the sides and mix again.

4. Add the candied ginger and mix just until incorporated.

5.  Pour batter into a greased (or nonstick-sprayed) 5"x9" loaf pan. Smooth out the top. Bake about 55 minutes. If you do a toothpick test, it should come out sort of shiny and it's OK if a little bit of crumb sticks to the toothpick. You just don't want it to be goop stuck to the toothpick.

6. Let cool in the pan about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack
to finish cooling.

7. Decorate with orange cream cheese icing and candied orange pieces (recipe below). To make it look more like SBUX, I will not go all the way to the platter with the icing, but you can if you like. Also, I've noticed that if you can manage to wait overnight, the flavors meld and then it really tastes like Starbucks.

copycat Starbucks Holiday Gingerbread

copycat Starbucks Holiday Gingerbread

Ingredients for the orange cream cheese icing

1 8-oz. block cream cheese, softened to about room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 cup candied orange peel

Method for the orange cream cheese icing
1. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the cream cheese.  Add the powdered sugar in intervals, beating after each addition, about 1/2 cup at a time.

2. Add the vanilla and orange extracts and beat until smooth.

3.  Decorate the cake using a spatula to spread the icing.  Sprinkle candied orange pieces on top for decoration. This part of the recipe is perfect for a young sous-chef (assistant), like your kid.

Applesauce Ginger Cake

If you like this, you might also like these recipes.
Thai Iced Tea
Matcha Green Tea Latte
Lemon Pound Cake  
Pumpkin Bread (like Starbucks)


  1. Yumm. Will you make this for me when I come to visit? K

  2. Yummmm... that looks GOOD! After the lunch I ate today I don't dare make it! LOL

    Your dad gave me your site addy. I told him I'd check it out! Feel free to check out my site as well;

    I can't believe how big your helper is in the photo above! I think the last time I saw you you weren't even married! LOL

  3. Thanks for the recipe! Found you via the CI forum while looking for this recipe. I am currently obsessed with this gingerbread, and would love to have some at home. Can't wait to try it! I was a little skeptical about the whole mustard thing, so glad that's cleared up. :)

  4. I've already made 2 double batches of this and everyone loves it!!! I realized I don't have to double the frosting since one batch of frosting is enough to frost two loaves. Thanks for the recipe!! It tastes better and moister than Starbucks's version!

  5. Jenny,
    Thank you so much for your work. I made this exactly per the recipe with the exception that I decreased the salt. I have 3 loaves in the oven! I am going to freeze it in the morning and not bring it out until next Wed. Will let you know how we think it compares, but at any rate, it may just be better!

    1. Thank you so much! I'm so happy you love it!

    2. Jenny, I wrote the above note! All three loaves are gone. Not quite like Starbucks but very good, and I will make it again. I can't figure out what they are doing differently. I wonder if raw cane sugar would make a difference? I will try it next time! Again, thanks for your work.

  6. Made this for family Christmas because I too am hooked on Starbucks gingerbread. Forgot where I put my ginger nibs when making, so increased the ground ginger in the batter. Then found the nibs, so decorated top with those instead of candied orange. Also, decreased xx sugar in frosting by 1/2 cup because all that sugar scared me! And put a little fresh orange zest in frosting. Delicious frosting!

    Thanks for the recipe. I'm plotting to make it again . . . need an excuse, other than just plain WANT IT.

  7. Thank you so much for the recipe. Really appreciated all your efforts.
    The only recommendation i would make is maybe put a little more ginger powder.
    Also, my cake didn’t rise as much as it should be it was a little wet and dense.
    Does it suppose to me like that, everything else looked exactly like yours?

    1. Hi Sobia, thanks for the feedback! My recipe is designed to work well at high altitude for the dry conditions in Northern Nevada. If you live somewhere at a different altitude with humidity, you should increase the baking powder to 1 teaspoon and reduce the applesauce little bit, probably 2 Tablespoons.

  8. Hi Jenny! Checking back looking for more comments and found what I was looking for. I am close to sea level which is why why cakes did not rise like yours did! I though it was something I did! Will try this again with adjustments. I gobbled down a slice of the real thing which is a bit darker, I am wondering if they use some artificial coloring. Maybe increase the ginger a bit also. Thanks again! Diane


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