This wintermint cake -- composed of moist dark chocolate cake layers; rich, peppermint-scented ganache; and light, fluffy, minty frosting -- is the quintessential winter holiday cake. The moment I saw a picture of it, I knew I'd be making it for Christmas. While this post comes a little after the holiday, I see no reason why you can't still make this cake to satisfy any lingering chocolate and peppermint cravings. I assure you it's wonderful for breakfast too -- not that I know. And even four days after it's baked and assembled, it's still really moist (though it probably won't last that long unless you're able to snag and hide a big chunk of it, something I highly recommend doing).
Baked Wintermint Cake (adapted from a recipe by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito from Baked in Sweet Paul Magazine)
3/4 cup black cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups hot water
2/3 cup sour cream
2 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla
Mint Chocolate Ganache
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken in pieces (I used Ghirardelli bars)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon peppermint oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut in small pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil
Crushed peppermint candies
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour 3 cake pans, line with parchment circles (if you cut circles from a sheet of parchment, save the scraps for decorating the cake), and butter the parchment.
Mix cocoa powder, hot water, and sour cream together in small bowl or large liquid measuring cup, and set aside.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into medium bowl, and set aside.
In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, shortening, sugar, and brown sugar together on medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla, and beat until incorporated.
Add one-third of dry mixture and mix until incorporated. Then add half of cocoa mixture and beat until combined. Add half of remaining dry mixture, then remaining cocoa mixture, and finally remaining dry mixture, beating after each addition.
Divide the batter among the 3 pans and smooth tops. (It's best to use a scale to portion the batter evenly.) Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating and switching pans a few times during baking. Check cakes with toothpick or tip of knife. Toothpick or knife should come out clean (but err on the side of underbaked to ensure a moist cake).
Transfer cakes to wire racks and let cool for 20 minutes. Then invert cakes onto wire racks, remove parchment, and let cool completely.
Mint Chocolate Ganache
Place chocolate in medium heatproof bowl or large glass liquid measuring cup, and set aside. Heat cream in small saucepan over medium heat until just boiling. Pour cream over chocolate, and let stand for 2 minutes. Whisk chocolate and cream until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Whisk in peppermint oil. Set aside.
In medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk sugar and flour together. Whisk in milk and cream, and cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until mixture just comes to a boil and thickens, 10 to 15 minutes. (Be sure to remove the mixture as soon as it begins to boil or it will start to brown.)
Pour mixture through fine-mesh sieve into bowl of stand mixer. Fit stand mixer with paddle attachment.
Beat on high speed until cool, 7 to 9 minutes. (Hold bags of frozen vegetables against sides of bowl to speed up the cooling.)
Reduce speed to low and add butter, a few pieces at a time, and beat until incorporated.
Increase speed to medium high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla and peppermint oil, and beat until combined.
Assembling the Cake
Place parchment outline saved from cutting out parchment circles (or cut strips of parchment) on serving dish or cake stand. Place one cake layer on top of parchment.
Using offset spatula, spread one-third of ganache over cake layer. (If ganache has firmed up too much to spread, microwave it for 10 to 15 seconds, and whisk it until smooth.) Place cake layer in fridge for about 1 minute to allow ganache to set up.
(You can also spread ganache over all 3 cake layers and transfer the cake layers to the fridge to set up. That way you're not constantly stopping in between assembling the layers to let the ganache set up. I figured this out halfway through assembling the cake.)
Spread about 1 1/4 cups frosting over cake layer.
Place another cake layer on top.
Spread half of remaining ganache over cake layer. Return cake to fridge for 1 minute to allow ganache to set up. Top with about 1 1/4 cups frosting, and place last cake layer on top.
Spread remaining ganache on top of cake layer. Transfer cake to fridge to let ganache set up. Use remaining frosting to frost cake. Heap frosting on top of cake and spread with an offset spatula so it hangs over sides. Then use the offset to press more frosting on sides of cake. Smooth sides with offset. Pull frosting from edges of cake to center to smooth top.
(The original recipe says to do a crumb coat first, but the ganache does a good job of sealing the top of the cake, and if you're careful with the sides, you should be able to frost the cake without a crumb coat. I was also worried about running out of frosting, but I had just enough.)
Decorate cake with crushed peppermint candies. Remove parchment outline. Let cake set up in fridge for 15 minutes before serving. (Store any leftover cake in a cool place but not in the fridge, which will dry it out.)
Watch it disappear!
I cannot even begin to put into words how amazing this cake is. The cake itself is ridiculously moist. The peppermint oil gives the ganache and frosting smooth rather than biting peppermint flavor. And speaking of that frosting... it is so incredibly light and has just the right level of sweetness. It's my new go-to frosting -- I'm already imagining the different ways I can flavor it.
What's the best dessert you had this holiday season?