Earlier this season, the stunning, elegant and fabulously talented Camille from the entertaining site Camille Styles asked me to contribute to her 12 Tastes of Christmas series (which has been amazing so far, filled with everything from Candied Orange Peel to Winter Citrus Curd). Camille’s work and blog are centered around “creative parties and inspired entertaining,” so I knew that I wanted to create a little something special that I would like to serve at a holiday dinner or party, but that did not take hours and hours to prepare. So, I came up with this Winter Delight Peppermint Cake. Isn’t it funny how the moment the holiday season arrives, we seem to yearn for minty confections? And chocolate? And sparkles? Well, actually, that may be an all-year-long thing, but it’s definitely a much-welcomed winter treat, and I love bringing these flavours together with some contrast: dark fudgy chocolate layer cake filled with fluffy pastel mint frosting, fine-crushed peppermint candy (or as I like to call it, Peppermint Pixie Dust), and a generous coating of sanding sugar. In other words, winter in a cake!
Remember a little while ago, I was writing about some of the sources of inspiration I love? Well, among those was Pinterest, of course, where I came across this vintage Christmas card (a scanned childhood Christmas card of a fellow Flickr member). When I saw that beautiful holly & ivy-adorned glisteny dome (yes, I am creatively writing to avoid the word “muff,” forgive me!), I was suddenly needing to make a domed-style layer cake. I love the retro quality to it all, and it takes no extra time to make, bake, or frost, so why not? Sometimes I think the classic layer cake needs a twist, don’t you?
If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a flurry of baking (and other things) on the go at this time of year, so you might agree that fancy-but-fuss-free is a great approach to holiday dessert. Sure, we could stick with just fuss-free, but who doesn’t want to infuse a little fanciness into their holiday? With a simple (but delicious) one-bowl chocolate cake and a whipped version of a classic bakery frosting, I find this cake to be just the answer (not entirely fuss-free, but pretty close if you go with a simple topper). The cake’s unique dome shape paired with the sparkly sprinkling of white sanding sugar gives it a pretty finish that is actually pretty quick and easy to do. A contour cake pan is the easy trick (I used the 8″ Contour Cake Pan with Rounded Bottom Edge, 8 Inch x 3 Inch) to quickly achieving this shape with no carving (I avoid this at all costs), a generous sprinkling of the crushed peppermint candy between the layers and a simple “tossing” of coarse sugar onto the frosted cake adds a snowy twinkle (and a delightful sugar crunch!).
And of course fuss-free really does matter, because there’s just never enough time to get everything done over the holidays, particularly if you are entertaining (you know…planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, baking, cleaning, setting, decorating, hosting–no biggie, right?), but it’s wonderful when fuss-free tastes so good and pleases your crowd (a few oohs and aahs never hurts a hostess’ feelings either). This old-fashioned chocolate cake is dark and decadent (a good quality dark cocoa powder is key), and the whipped minted frosting is light with a supreme fluffiness (a simple extended whipping of the butter is to thank for this texture)–all with a subtle peppermint candy crunch hidden on top of each filling layer. From what I can tell, this combination never disappoints.
You can also add some glittery holly and ivy decorations for some fun and wintery vintage flair (you can even buy a faux-floral decoration or use your imagination–I think even a quirky ornament would be a cute topper!). I made mine by tinting a small bit of fondant raspberry pink and rolling 3 small “holly berries,” and then some green to cut 3 ivy leaves. I let dry and then dusted with edible glitter. I bet any sparkly little cake topper would add a unique touch, sugar or otherwise. I also loved the look of the sugary mint green cake sans adornment, so you truly can’t go wrong.
- 3 cups 360 g all-purpose flour
- 2 3/4 cups 550 g white sugar
- 1 cup 120 g dark unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Cacao Barry Extra Dark
- 2.5 teaspoons 12 g baking soda
- 2 teaspoon 10 g baking powder
- 2 teaspoon 14 g salt
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons 280 ml buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons 280 ml hot brewed coffee or espresso
- 4 eggs room temperature
- 2/3 cup 150 ml vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons 30 ml pure vanilla extract
- 4.5 sticks 563 g unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
- 4.5 cups 720 g confectioners' sugar (icing, powdered), sifted
- 3 tablespoons 45 ml milk
- 1 teaspoon 5 ml pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon 3.75 ml peppermint extract
- pinch of salt
- Few drops of green food colour + a few drops of pink or a drop of red food colour
- Crushed peppermint candy for sprinkling over each layer of filling
- White sanding sugar for outside of cake optional
Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare one round 8-inch cake pan with butter, a parchment paper round and cocoa powder. Tap out excess. Prepare an 8-inch contour pan with a generous greasing of butter and cocoa powder (or flour), and tap out excess.
In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift and add all dry ingredients. In a larger measuring cup gently whisk together all remaining ingredients.
Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and mix on medium for 2 minutes (you will need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer). Pour into prepared pans--fill the cake pans 2/3 full. Batter will be liquidy.
Bake until a toothpick or skewer comes almost clean, about 30 minutes (this is approximate and can vary) for the standard cake pan and about 40 minutes for the contour pan. Avoid opening oven door during the first 20 minutes of baking, and try not to over-bake.
Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes, then loosen edges with a small palette knife, and gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use "4" on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
Add remaining ingredients and mix on low for 1 minute, then on medium for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
If desired, tint ~2 cups of frosting pink (for filling) and remaining frosting mint green (for outside of cake).
For a thicker frosting, you can add and whip in small amounts of icing sugar; for thinner frosting, you can add a touch more milk until it reaches desired consistency.
Spread a small dollop of pink frosting onto desired cake plate or cake board (this keeps cake from shifting) and place your 8-inch cake layer (standard round), top-side facing up and trim top until flat, if necessary, using a long sharp serrated knife.
Take your 8-inch contour cake, with bottom up, and trim any doming (from the the flat side), and then make 1 horizontal slice in the middle, resulting in 2 layers. You should now have 1 standard 8" layer and 2 layers from the contour pan, totaling 3 cake layers.
Place 1 cup of peppermint frosting on top of your first layer and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife.Sprinkle a generous layer of the crushed peppermint candy on top of the frosting (I like it really fine, like peppermint a "pixie dust" of sorts, but slightly bigger pieces would be great too, giving more crunch), leaving about a 1" edge un-sprinkled.
Gently place the next cake layer on top, with the more narrow end (contour side) up, then repeat previous step. Gently place the final cake layer, smooth domed side up, on top.
Put a very generous scoop of mint green frosting on top, spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. You will want to start with very generous additions of frosting, as much of it will be scraped off with your palette knife when smoothing. To keep the distinct rounded top, be sure to smooth over the domed top as much as possible. Chill until set -- about 30 minutes in refrigerator or 15 minutes in freezer.
Remove from refrigerator/freezer and cover with remaining mint green frosting. Once your cake is frosted, you can place it (cake stand and all) over a cookie sheet and generously sprinkle with sanding sugar for an icy effect (you will actually need to "toss" sugar at the sides, but your cookie sheet will catch excess, allowing you to return remaining sugar to container when finished). Add wintery topper decoration, if desired.
Store in a cake keeper at room temperature for up to 2 days or refrigerator for 5 days. Best enjoyed at room temperature.
- Contour cake pans are available in many sizes at baking supply shops. I used 8″ Contour Cake Pan with Rounded Bottom Edge, 8 Inch x 3 Inch
- You can also bake the cake layers in 3 standard 8″ pans, if you don’t have a contour pan or if you prefer a more classic cake shape.
- The chocolate cake batter also makes delicious cupcakes. For a Winter Delight Peppermint Cupcakes, you can add a generous swirl of minty frosting and sprinkle with the crushed peppermint candy.
- For a quick and tidy candy-crushing method (and to get out all of your holiday-induced stress), place your candy on a large cutting board with a tea towel on top and crush away using a meat pounder, or the like. The more you crush it, the finer it will be. Lift towel, and voila!