gluten-free spiced gingerbread cake recipe

Back when I was still breastfeeding Kye and eating was like walking on eggs shells (with all fingers and toes crossed) hoping that what I was eating wouldn’t leave him screaming in pain all night, my lovely brother Louie sent me a wonderful and life saving book over from Scotland. Vegetarian cooking without by Barbara Cousins was my saviour. It’s a book full of recipes free from added gluten, yeast, dairy, meat, fish and saturated fat. Yep pretty much everything that I was having to cut out of my diet in the hopes of helping Kye’s sore tummy and for us to have a little bit more than 2 hours sleep a night.

This was one of the first cakes I made from the book, sweetened with stewed dates this cake is so good for you it should really be bad! I’m constantly amazed by cakes like this, there was once a time when I thought you needed lots of sugar, wheat and dairy to make a nice cake but not anymore.

The texture is light and fluffy with a little chewy bite from the almond meal. I don't come across millet flour all that often which is what Barbara uses for this cake, so I've substituted it with the almond meal. I love ginger so I have bumped it up a notch with the crystalized ginger, but if you are avoiding sugar altogether just grate a little knob of fresh ginger in its place. The molasses gives this cake a wonderful flavour and is full of minerals but as it does contain a little sugar, you can use tahini instead, oh and skip the icing too if your sugar-free! We generally eat this icing-free, but this time round I've added it to make this cakes a little more photogenic! They are best eaten on the day they're baked, not that they ever make it past day one in our house anyway!

spiced gingerbread cake recipe
This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free and can easily be adapted to sugar-free. I use New Zealand/U.K Tbsp measurements, 1 Tbsp = 15 ml/3 tsp please make sure you make adjustments if you use the Australian measurements, or just weigh the ingredients! You can use white rice flour in place of the brown rice flour, no worries.

  • scant 3/4 cup (90g) chopped dates
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) water
  • 3/4 cup (90g) fine brown rice flour
  • 1 cup (110g) almond meal (ground almonds)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses/tahini
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 4 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons crystalized ginger, finely chopped, (optional)
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) vegetable oil
  • 1/4-1/3 cup (60-80ml) cold water

ginger icing

  • 3/4 cup (90g) pure icing sugar (make sure it’s gluten-free)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons melted dairy-free margarine or butter if okay 
  • boiling water
  • chopped crystallised ginger to garnish

Preheat oven to 180 C/350F.

Place chopped dates and the first water measurement into a small saucepan, cover and bring to the boil. Turn down and stew 4-5 mins untill all the water has been absorbed and dates are soft. Mash dates in the pot with a fork, to form a thick paste. Set aside to cool.

Sift the rice flour, spices and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add the almond meal and crystalized ginger (I add 2 tbsp but if you don’t love ginger like I do, stick to 1tbsp or omit altogether). Whisk to thoroughly combine and to break up any lumps of almond meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, molasses (or tahini), along with the date paste until smooth. Pour into the dry mix along with enough water (I usually add the full 1/3 cup) to obtain a soft dropping consistency and whisk to form a smooth batter (that’s the beauty of gluten-free cooking, you can whisk cake batters as there is no risk if over-working the gluten!)

Place mixture into a greased, lined 6 inch/15cm cake tin or do as I have here and grease 4 small 4inch/10cm fluted (bundt) cake tins. Bake for 15-20 mins for 4 inch bundt cake tins or 20-30 mins for 6 inch round cake tin, or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool 5 mins in the pan before turning out onto a cooling rack. Eat or cool completely before icing with ginger icing.

To make the icing; sift icing sugar and ground ginger into a small bowl. Add melted margarine/butter and enough boiling water to get a good spreadable consistency. I went for more of a glaze with these ones, but make it thicker by adding less water if you prefer. Garnish with chopped ginger.

Adapted from “Vegetarian cooking without” by Barbara Cousins

P.s Just a wee note; the first link to Barbara’s cookbook (up the top of the page) is for Amazon, whereas this last link is for a NZ online store that sells it.


  1. mmm gingerbread cake…I had forgotten I have this book, its lack of pictures made me loose interested, maybe you should photograph the whole book so I will use it more! hehe xx

  2. [...] a quick wee post, sorry no recipe this time. (I do hope you will try this recipe though). The kids and I had such a great time catching up with old friends the other day that I [...]

  3. oh yeh, glad that book came in handy. I actually got it from Portobello, in London but I’m just being pedantic and nobody cares :) But if you go to London you would probably like it. Its kinda middleclass and almost flash but there are some nice food shops, in line with the book…
    great work Emmy, gonna try some of these when I get home!

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  • Reply
    Janna Hawkins
    September 10, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Not normally the licking the bowl kind [unlike yourself] but the cake just went in the oven and I couldn't resist. Yum the kitchen smells amazing! xx

  • Reply
    September 10, 2010 at 2:19 am

    Hehe, me lick the bowl? Never 😉 Hope you enjoyed the cake Jan xx

  • Reply
    December 2, 2010 at 7:12 am

    I made this for the first time tonight! SO GOOD! It is the first of your recipes I have tried and now I cant wait to try some more.
    Every time I have tried to bake gluten free before it has never worked out. Thank you 🙂

  • Reply
    December 2, 2010 at 7:29 am

    I am so glad you tried this recipe. It's one of my all time favourites 🙂
    my darling lemon thyme is all about making gluten-free food that not only looks good, but tastes gorgeous also 🙂

  • Reply
    August 15, 2011 at 5:34 am

    These are indeed amazing! I am sorry you have left our shores but glad your delish recipes keep coming. I made these in a muffin tray – recipe made exactly 12 in standard size muffin tin. I used stem ginger in syrup in the mix and after cooking drizzled over a little of the ginger syrup. And happy to add the kept delicious and moist even after 2 days (in airtight container). Perfect gift for a new mum.

  • Reply
    August 15, 2011 at 5:42 am

    oh and on a ginger note – made Heidi's sparkling ginger cookies recently,
    totally amazing – first time replaced butter with deoderised coconut oil (Chantal Organics) for dairy intolerant daughter, second time replaced flour with equal parts chickpea, brown rice, and tapioca flours, adding about 2/3 cup more than her flour quantity specified, for a GF new mum, worked a treat!

  • Reply
    August 15, 2011 at 6:09 am

    Thanks for that Rach, so glad you liked them. This is still one of my all time favs. All the best xx

  • Reply
    February 4, 2014 at 3:40 am

    Just whipped these up for dinner with friends tonight (two of whom are gf/df). They are sensational! I also made the creamy coconut rice pudding with date compote to serve with. Am certain I'll be getting thumbs up all round tonight. Thanks again for more fabulous recipes! MDLT is the only site I use when I have to bake with allergys in mind xx

    • Reply
      February 4, 2014 at 6:39 am

      Aww, thank you! Stoked you loved them 🙂

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