You know me, I love to bake. Bouncing around my kitchen, whipping this and blending that is a ton of fun but what I really love is delivering the final product. When you hand a person a piece of lovingly made cake, a youthful excitement appears on their face, a twinkle of gratitude in their eye and that goofy grin that says, “Yeah, I deserve this!” I LOVE that! Sadly it doesn’t always go down like that.
I happen to be related to a gang of eaters that do a great job of reminding me that not everyone enjoys food as much as Brett and I do. Sure they seem to like a treat now and then but I get the impression that if it doesn’t come pre-packaged they are not going out of their way to try it. Every Christmas I try to impress with a trendy new dish and every year I end up feeling annoyed and foolish for even bothering. Not this year. This year I will not spend a small fortune on a cheese plate to have them hum and huh over it while discussing Kraft dinner. I will not slave for days in my kitchen to have them pick and poke at my amazing food. This year I am bringing with me a cake so simply festive, so irresistible that all will bow to me – Master of the Whisk, Creator of All Things Delicious and beg for my forgiveness for Christmases past! Clearly I am getting carried away but, seriously, can someone please explain to me how you can hate goat cheese, hate all fish, hate custard, hate mint, hate mustard and love $7 wine??! At least my 3 year old will at least try a new food before making that ridiculous face.
This is The Chocolate Candy Cane Cake and it will win over even the most picky palettes in your family and mine. Of course it does have 3 tiers of moist and distinctly rich chocolate cake paired perfectly with a white chocolate buttercream and crushed candy candy crunch, because, hey, I am who I am. I like it fancy, I like it decadent so eat it.
Chocolate Candy Cane Cake
Straight from the pages of Cook’s Illustrated Holiday Baking Special
Serves 8 to 10
For the cake:
- ½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting pans
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1¼ cups boiling water
- 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped (I like Baker’s Unsweetened squares)
- 1 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder
- 10 tbsp. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1½ cups packed light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup sour cream, room temperature
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the frosting:
- 8 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped, melted and cooled (Again, Baker’s brand White Chocolate squares)
- 1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/8 tsp. table salt
- 4 tbsp. heavy cream
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1¾ finely crushed candy cane
To make the cake, adjust the oven racks to the middle and lower positions. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Grease the edges of three 8-inch round cake pans. For this cake I always use aluminum cake pans. A set of 5 8″ tins cost about $1 in most stores, it gives me 3 same-sized cake pans and the kids can have a drumming parade with them once the cake is baked. I should really just invest in a more permanent solution – eventually. Whichever you’re using, spray with non-stick cooking spray line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper to prevent the cake from sticking.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, whisk the boiling water, chocolate, cocoa powder and instant coffee/espresso powder together until smooth.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the chocolate mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix each addition just until incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans, and give them a little shake to even them out. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 15-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Cool the cakes in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges, turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and peel off the parchment paper. Turn the cakes right side up and allow to cool completely.
To prepare the frosting, melt the white chocolate in the top of a double boiler until smooth. Set aside and let cool until no longer warm to the touch. In the meantime, beat the butter on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer about 30 seconds. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt, and beat at medium-low speed, scraping down the bowl once, about 1 minute. Add the cream and vanilla and beat on medium speed just until incorporated, about 10 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Transfer half of the mixture to a separate bowl and stir in the cooled white chocolate until smooth. Add ¾ cup of the ground peppermint candies to the remaining frosting.
To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cardboard cake round or cake platter. Spread half of the peppermint frosting over the cake. Top with another cake layer and spread evenly with the remaining peppermint frosting. Top with the final cake layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining white chocolate frosting. Coat the top and sides of the cake with the remaining crushed peppermints.
If you’re feeling fancy, reserve ½ to ¾ cup of the white chocolate frosting in a pastry bag. Use the reserved white chocolate frosting to pipe a decorative border around the bottom edge of the cake, as well as decorative swirls on top. Garnish with reserved whole peppermints as desired.
* Apologies for the quality of images. My Nikon battery died through the process and I had to resort to my phone camera. I was tempted to just bake another cake to photograph it but after eating about half of this one I decided, for the sake of my waist band, that you could do with these.