Gingerbread Layer Cake with Bourbon Pecans & Caramel Sauce {paleo}

  • Yield: Makes one 8-inch 3-layered cake; about 10 servings.


What makes our holiday Gingerbread Layer Cake wicked good? It’s paleo! That’s pretty wicked, right? Our moist, tender and spicy gingerbread is everything you would expect in traditional gingerbread cake right down to the whipped cream and holiday embellishments. Our cake is both dairy and grain free, and you can even omit the nuts, but does allow for some extras if desired. It is totally up to you if you wish to use organic granulated cane sugar in this recipe to make Paleo-friendly Confectioners’ Sugar to sweeten the Whipped Coconut Cream or to create the frosted cranberries. Upon first bite, you will be smitten with this cake! You just will not find a better paleo gingerbread layer cake. From my house to yours, happy holidays!


  • For the Gingerbread Cake Layers
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (144 grams) arrowroot starch, such as Bob’s Red Mill®
  • 1 cup (112 grams) blanched almond flour, such as Honeyville® Farms
  • ½ cup (56 grams) organic coconut flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill®
  • ¾ teaspoon (3.6 grams) baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon (3.6 grams) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (4.8 grams) kosher salt (or ¾ teaspoon sea or regular table salt)
  • 2½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 large eggs (mine weighed 314 grams w/o shells), divided
  • ½ cup (168 grams) organic amber agave nectar
  • ½ cup (144 grams) unsulphured molasses, such as Grandma’s®
  • ¼ cup (56 grams) organic virgin coconut oil, melted, plus extra for pans
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) organic ghee, melted
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract, such as Nielsen-Massey®
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2¼ cups (243 grams) very coarsely chopped pecans
  • For the Buttered Bourbon (or Buttered Rum) Syrup—Makes ½ cup
  • ¼ cup (84 grams) organic amber (dark) agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) water
  • ½ tablespoon (6 grams) butter flavored palm shortening, such as Spectrum®
  • 1½ tablespoons (22 ml) fine-quality bourbon or rum
  • Pinch kosher or sea salt
  • For the Coconut Caramel Sauce—Makes about 1½ cups
  • 2 (13.5 ounce/400 ml) cans full-fat coconut milk, such as 365 Organics® by Whole Foods
  • 1 (12 ounce/355 ml) bottle raw coconut nectar, such as Coconut Secret
  • 2 tablespoons (24 grams) butter flavored palm shortening, such as Spectrum®
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract, such as Nielsen-Massey®
  • ½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • For the Whipped Coconut Cream
  • 3 (13.5 ounce/400 ml) cans organic full-fat coconut milk, chilled 8 hours or overnight
  • 1½ tablespoons (about 18 grams) Paleo-friendly Confectioners’ Sugar, optional, see Notes below
  • For the Optional “Frosted Holly & Berries” Garnish
  • Fresh mint sprigs
  • Fresh whole cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons (14 grams) organic light agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) filtered or purified water
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) organic granulated cane sugar
  • Special Equipment
  • Three 8-inch by 1½- to 2-inch round cake pans
  • Three insulated cake strips, such as Wilton® Small Bake Even Strips (Two Sets of 2)
  • Four wire cooling racks, the fourth being used to flip cake layers right side up
  • Heatproof 1-cup liquid measuring cup
  • Metal Angled or Offset Icing Spatula, such as Ateco® or Wilton®, helpful
  • Metal Icing Spatula, such as Ateco® or Wilton®, helpful


  1. Prepare the Cake Layers: Arrange oven rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 325º F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with wax paper circles and grease paper lining. If using insulated cake strips, don’t forget to prepare the pans per manufacturer’s directions. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices; set aside.
  2. Using an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or handheld mixer and large bowl, beat egg yolks on medium speed until light and lemon colored, about 2 minutes. Add agave nectar, molasses, melted coconut oil and ghee, and vanilla; beat on medium speed until thick and smooth, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low (stir) and gradually add half the flour mixture blending until no lumps remain. Add milk and blend until well combined. Add remaining flour and mix until well combined. Scrape down bowl as necessary with rubber spatula. Allow mixture to stand for a full 5 minutes. This will allow the flours to absorb the liquids for a moist and tender crumb.
  3. Meanwhile, with a clean work bowl and wire whisk attachment, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until stiff peak stage. Gently fold egg whites into batter, in thirds, using rubber spatula. Sprinkle ¾ cup chopped pecans into bottom of each prepared pan in an even single layer. With a rubber spatula, carefully scrape and pour batter into prepared pans taking care not to disturb pecans and dividing evenly (just over 1½ cups or about 280 ml per pan). Smooth tops evenly with rubber spatula and rap on counter to dispel any air bubbles.
  4. Bake in center of preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 5 minutes. (Waiting any longer will just cause the cake to stick to the pan.) Immediately, run a thin metal spatula around the perimeter to loosen cakes from sides of pans. Invert onto wire rack (I like to grease my nonstick wire racks with coconut oil to prevent sticking). Turn right side up onto wire racks (using an additional rack to flip); cool completely.
  5. Prepare the Buttered Bourbon (or Buttered Rum) Syrup: Using a heatproof 1-cup liquid measuring cup, bring agave and water to boil in microwave. Remove from microwave and immediately stir in shortening to melt. Add bourbon (or rum) and salt; stir until well blended. Set aside to cool completely. If shortening becomes solid again, warm in microwave for 20 to 30 seconds and stir. Cool completely before using.
  6. Prepare the Coconut Caramel Sauce: In a large heavy saucepan, whisk together coconut milk and coconut nectar. Add remaining ingredients. Over medium-high heat, whisk mixture until shortening is melted and then bring to a gentle boil. Only stir the mixture with a long-handled wooden spoon during the first minute or so of cooking. Reduce heat to medium and continue to gently boil (again, without stirring) until caramel turns dark amber, about 30 to 45 minutes. (Cooking times will vary with size of pan.) Stir often toward the end of cooking to prevent caramel from burning or scorching. Be careful and watch closely. Once the caramel turns dark amber, it can cross the line from caramelized to burned in an instant.
  7. Use heavy potholders to protect your hands and arms, then remove from heat and carefully transfer hot caramel to a medium to large heatproof glass bowl. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes on wire rack; then, stir with long-handled wooden spoon until smooth and glossy. Cool an addition 10 to 15 minutes and then stir again. Cool completely; stir again. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 3 days. To reheat, use a double boiler or set bowl or pan holding the sauce over saucepan partially filled with simmering water. Stir until caramel is warm.
  8. Prepare the Whipped Coconut Cream: Carefully open chilled cans of coconut milk without shaking to disturb the contents. Scrape the thick coconut cream, about ¾ cup per can, into chilled bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Reserve the remaining coconut water for another use. (Alternatively, you can use equivalent amount of chilled canned coconut cream.) With mixer speed on low, add sugar (or preferred sweetener) and mix until incorporated. Increase mixer speed to medium-high, then high, and continue to beat until the coconut cream holds soft peaks, about 3 minutes. You will need about 2¼ cups, about ¾ cup per layer. Keep chilled in refrigerator until ready to use.
  9. To Glaze the Cake Layers with Buttered Bourbon (or Buttered Rum) Syrup: Just before assembling cakes, use a pastry brush to brush the syrup over the tops and sides of the cooled cakes on wire racks until absorbed.
  10. To Glaze the Cake Layers with Caramel Sauce: After glazing cakes with syrup, drizzle about 1/3 cup of caramel evenly over cakes. Allow caramel to cool with cakes on wire racks. If desired, use remaining caramel to serve with cake slices on the side.
  11. To Assemble the Cake: After glazing cakes with syrup and caramel, carefully place one onto serving plate, platter or cake pedestal or stand in the center. (I like to use my cake lifter to easily slide cake layers from wire racks onto cake stand.) With icing spatula, spread aobut ¾ cup of the Whipped Coconut Cream over top of cake layer. Repeat process with remaining two layers.
  12. To Decorate the Cake: Adorn cake with sugared fresh whole cranberries and mint leaves. To make Paleo-friendly Sugared Cranberries, please see Notes below.
  13. To Store the Cake: Keep cake covered and stored in refrigerator until ready to slice and serve.
  14. To Slice & Serve the Cake: Slice the chilled cake with a thin sharp knife. Use a cake server to transfer slices of cake to dessert plates. Serve immediately or allow cake slices to sit out at room temperature to soften.

Recipe Notes


To Prepare Paleo-friendly Confectioners’ Sugar: To food processor work bowl, or high-speed blender, add 1 cup (200 grams) organic granulated cane sugar and 2 tablespoons (16 grams) arrowroot starch. (It is helpful to cover your processor or blender with a kitchen towel to prevent sugar dust from flying around the workspace.) Process the sugar mixture on highest speed until powder-fine, about 1 minute. Then, check the sugar mixture texture. If sugar still has crystals, process in 30-second increments until powder-fine. Store in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.

Note: Some processors and blenders may not have the ability to pulverize all the sugar. Therefore, a slight graininess will remain. Should this be the case, simply use homemade powdered sugar only in recipes where a slight granulated texture will not be noticed, such as baked goods. Use only small quantities in batches as too much sugar makes it difficult to reach a powdery texture.

To Prepare Paleo-friendly Sugared Cranberries: Rinse and dry desired amount of fresh whole cranberries. In a small bowl, place ¼ cup organic granulated cane sugar. In a small bowl, combine agave nectar and water. Stir until well blended. Use a small paint brush to coat the cranberries. Coat the berries in sugar using a spoon to turn them; then coat them a second time. Allow to dry on parchment or wax paper for at least 1 hour.

Gingerbread cake layers may be baked one day in advance. Keep covered in plastic food wrap at room temperature until ready to assemble.

Prepare syrup, caramel and garnishes the day before to make the day you assemble the cake less stressful in the kitchen.

For the Whipped Coconut Cream: Whipped Coconut Cream may be made one day in advance. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator until ready to use.

Only use full-fat coconut milk or coconut cream. Do not use “Cream of Coconut” which is pre-sweetened with additives.

Keep as much coconut milk out of the cream as possible for best results.

Use a heavy-duty stand mixer that can whip at high-speed for 3 minutes.

Use granulated or powdered natural sweeteners for best results. Liquid natural sweeteners such as agave nectar, honey or maple syrup will prevent the coconut cream from whipping and holding to soft peaks.

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