Ina Garten Makes the Perfect Thanksgiving Dessert: An Easy Make-Ahead ‘Barefoot Contessa’ Cake Recipe

Ina Garten has the perfect Thanksgiving dessert recipe that’s a sweet spin on a fall classic and an alternative to the traditional pies served during the holiday. The Barefoot Contessa star said her lemon ginger molasses cake is a lot like gingerbread but with a lot more flavor.

Ina Garten pours a cosmopolitan cocktail at the bar during a segment on Late Night with Seth Meyers, "Seth Goes Day Drinking with Ina Garten" in 2019
Ina Garten | Lloyd Bishop/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Ina Garten’s easy lemon ginger molasses cake can be made in advance.

Garten demonstrated how to make her delicious cake recipe during an episode of Barefoot Contessa. “You know, instead of pie for Thanksgiving — I mean, that’s really kind of boring — I’m serving this lemon ginger molasses cake,” she explained. Garten said the cake can be made in advance so it’s ready for Thanksgiving day.

She creamed together butter and brown sugar in a mixer for 3 to 5 minutes. Then Garten added eggs, molasses, and grated lemon zest. “That fresh lemon flavor — it’s a really good balance to the sweetness in this cake,” the Barefoot Contessa star noted.

In another bowl, Garten sifted together flour, ground ginger, baking soda, and salt. She alternated adding the dry ingredients and milk to the mixer until everything was combined. “I’m really big on make-ahead things,” she shared. “Particularly Thanksgiving when there’s so much to do.”

Garten continued, “I know pie, the crust gets soggy so I try not to make those. Crisps are great. Like apple crisps, you can make ahead and just assemble it and bake it before dinner. But this cake actually tastes better if you made it ahead.”

She stirred in crystallized ginger, which she said “gives this cake batter real flavor.” Garten poured the batter into a prepared cake pan and baked it in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 to 35 minutes. The Barefoot Contessa star pointed out how the cake “looks like gingerbread but it’s got so much more flavor.”

Ina Garten tops the Thanksgiving dessert with an easy whipped cream recipe

Garten made an easy whipped cream that can be made in advance with one ingredient that will “stabilize it a little bit.”

In a mixer, she whisked together heavy cream, crème fraiche, confectioners’ sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla. Garten piled the cream on top of the cake, spread it to the edge, and sprinkled crystallized ginger and lemon zest over the top. “So you have that edge of the lemon zest and the ginger,” she said of the toppings.

“And the thing is you can make the whole thing ahead because you make the cake ahead, refrigerate it, and then you can make the whipped cream earlier in the day,” Garten pointed out.

The full recipe is available on the Food Network website.

The ‘Barefoot Contessa’ star’s cake earns rave reviews

Garten’s lemon ginger molasses cake earns amazing reviews from her fans, who left comments on the Food Network site’s recipe.

“This is an awesome cake! Very tasty and very easy to make,” one reviewer shared. “It’s not too sweet, so I’ve even served it as a coffee cake.”

Another person noted, “Simply put, I love this cake. It has all the goodness of my childhood memories of my grandmother making gingerbread and then some.”

One commenter served it for Thanksgiving and it was a hit. ‘This is by far the best dessert I have made at Thanksgiving,” they wrote. “It is a delicious version of gingerbread, and it is the only one I will make from now on.”

Another commenter shared, “Ina, you’ve done it again! Everyone at my Thanksgiving table loved this dessert. This is a small, dense-like little gem that will only rise to about 1.5 inches tall, but it is filled with great flavors!”

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