Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dark chocolate peppermint cake

Deep, dark, chocolate peppermint cake that is sure to knock your socks off! A rich and chocolate-y cake is topped with dark chocolate ganache, peppermint cream cheese frosting and chopped mint sandwich cookies. Make sure you save some of the cake for yourself!

This cake was so magnificent that I made it twice in a month. That's pretty much unheard of for me, since I try not to repeat cake recipes. I baked this cake at my in-laws' house over the holidays and it was such a huge hit that I baked it again for my family a few weeks later. Yes, it was that good.

I usually bake Patty's White Chocolate Cheesecake over the holidays, but my husband suggested that we try something new this year. I thought about my favorite flavor combination (chocolate and mint) and figured that a layered cake would be plenty for all of us to share. This cake was so big that my father-in-law took the leftovers into work for his team to eat.

This cake has three layers chocolate cake. Each layer is topped with a rich and smooth chocolate ganache and chopped peppermint cookies (I used crushed candy canes for the first cake). As if that's not enough, there is a layer of peppermint cream cheese frosting in between each cake layer as well. Then the whole thing is covered with the same peppermint frosting. Not to mention the cookie bits on top too.

Don't worry - the mint flavor is not overpowering at all. You get a subtle bit of mint from the chopped cookies and the frosting. If you're a mint fiend, feel free to dial up the peppermint extract or even use peppermint chips in place of the candy canes or crushed cookies. Or, even add some into the cake.

You'll want to clear out the refrigerator for this cake. It is extremely tall and might not fit into a regular cake carrier or cake dome. Assuming you have leftovers, of course. Or, you can just invite me over and I'll gladly finish the cake for you.

Dark chocolate peppermint cake
Cake
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • 2 and ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 and ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 and ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons warm water
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons buttermilk
  • 4½ tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Ganache
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
Cream cheese buttercream
  • 4 ounces (1/2 block) cream cheese, softened
  • 3 sticks (1½ cups) unsalted butter, softened
  • 5-7 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½  teaspoon peppermint extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • About 1-2 teaspoons of milk of choice
  • About 4-6 chopped peppermint cookies (can use crushed candy canes as an alternative) for garnish, optional
Directions 
Bake the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease 3 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

In a large bowl (not joking here - you need a REALLY large bowl), whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil and vanilla and mix well until the batter is smooth and clump-free. Do not over mix.

Evenly distribute the batter into your 3 pans and bake in your preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely before assembling the cake.

Make the ganache: While the cake is cooling, make the ganache. Place the chopped chocolate in a small, heatproof bowl. Microwave the heavy cream for about 1 minute (alternatively, you can allow it simmer on a stove, but I'm too impatient for that). Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes untouched. Then whisk with a spatula until the mixture is smooth. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Make the buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixer if using a handheld mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth. Turn the mixer down to low and add the powdered sugar, about 1 cup at a time until it is thick enough to frost. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts and the salt. Add the milk, if desired, to make the buttercream smoother. Set aside until ready to use.

Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer, flat side down, on a cake plate. If desired, shave the domed top off the cake with a serrated (bread) knife to even out the layer. Spread some ganache on top and allow it to set or harden (you can place in the refrigerator for a few minutes to save time on this step). Sprinkle with crushed candy canes or chopped cookie bits. Then spread a layer of frosting on top. Repeat with the remaining layers. Cover the rest of the cake with the leftover buttercream. If desired, sprinkle the top of the cake with additional crushed candy canes or chopped cookie bits for presentation.

Cake should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will keep for about a week.

Yield: About 12-16 servings

Source: Barely adapted from The Baker Chick

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