Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chocolate Peppermint Fudge Cake

Last weekend we celebrated my mother-in-law's birthday with my husband's family.

And a fabulous woman deserves a fabulous cake.

Actually... fabulous is putting it lightly.

Let's just say that any woman who would dress up in a hawaiian shirt, flowered bathing cap, and oversized sunglasses to do a ridiculous 'photo shoot' on the boardwalk with my sister-in-law and me deserves a cake that's out-of-this-world.

(Terrifying, yes - but don't even play like you wouldn't take advantage of the wigs, clothing, and props the photo place has to offer!)

For the birthday shindig we toned the outfits down a bit.

And ate delicious, velvety, fudgy, minty, insanely fattening cake.

Pammy Vittles' favorite candy is Peppermint Patties.  So I wanted to make something that incorporated chocolate and peppermint. 

I wasn't able to find any recipes that I liked so I decided I was just going to have to construct my own 'peppermint patty' cake. 

Originally I considered a flourless chocolate cake with some sort of peppermint ganache, but I figured a birthday really calls for layer cake. 

Which was a great idea until it was an hour and a half before we had to leave, and I went to whip the chilled ganache. 

People, let me tell you something.  I went to town on that ganache. 

And whipped it too much. 

Just past the point of whipped-ganache perfection and into the realm of runny, grainy MESS.

In my panic, I turned to the internet, where Martha Stewart assured me that all was not lost and that I could just re-melt, re-chill, and re-whip.

As usual, she was right.  But I got a little gun-shy.  So there was no re-whipping, just spreading. 

And it came out perfectly lovely.

So let this be a lesson to you. 

1) No need to panic when the ganache-whipping gets out of hand. 

And 2) It's ok to wear Hawaiian shirts and flowered bathing caps.  Because they're cool.

Chocolate Peppermint Fudge Cake

Sour Cream Fudge Cake Layers
  • 1 C. dutch cocoa powder
  • 2 t. instant coffee or espresso powder
  • 1 C. boiling water
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C. sour cream
  • 16 T. (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
  • 1 2/3 C. granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/4. salt

Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 9 by 1&1/2 inch round baking pans with shortening or nonstick spray.  Line bottom of pans with rounds cut out of parchment or waxed paper - grease the top of the paper as well.  Dust pans with a little flour or cocoa powder, and tap out excess.

Mix cocoa with instant coffee in a small bowl; add boiling water and whisk until smooth.  Cool to room temperature, then stir in vanilla and sour cream. 

Beat butter in bowl of electric mixer set at medium-high speed, until smooth and shiny (about 30 seconds).  Gradually sprinkle in sugar, beating until mixture is fluffy and almost white (3-5 minutes).  Add eggs one at a time, beating a full minute after each addition.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.  With mixer on the lowest speed, add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to batter, followed immediately by about 1/3 of the cocoa mixture.  Mix until ingredients are almost incorporated into batter.  Repeat process twice more.  When batter appears blended, stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula.  Return mixer to low speed, and beat until batter looks satiny, about 15 seconds more.

Divide the batter evenly between pans.  Use a rubber spatula to spread to sides of pans and smooth top.  Bake the cakes until they feel firm in the center when lightly pressed and a toothpick comes out clean (with no more than a crumb or two adhering), 23-30 minutes.

Transfer pans to wire racks and cool about 20 minutes.  Run knife around perimeter of each pan (I didn't need to do this- my cakes separated from the sides while cooling) and invert cakes onto racks.  Peel off paper liners and cool completely before frosting. Once cooled, place one layer on a decorative plate or cake stand, with the top of the cake on the bottom of the plate (this way the flattest part is on the top).  Then make filling below.

Peppermint Buttercream Filling
  • 1/2 C. butter, softened
  • 1 T. + 1 t. milk
  • 1 1/2 t. peppermint extract
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 C. powdered sugar

In bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter, milk, and extracts on medium speed until well-combined.  On the lowest speed, gradually add powdered sugar until combined.  Then increase speed to medium-high, and beat mixture until fluffy and white.  Spread evenly over top of first layer and top with second layer (top of the cake facing down into filling, so again the flattest side is facing up).  Then make ganache.

Chocolate Ganache
  • 8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate*, chopped in small pieces
  • 3/4 C. heavy cream
  • 2 T. butter (unsalted is recommended, but I used salted & it was fine)

Place chopped chocolate in a medium-sized heatproof bowl and set aside.  Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, and bring just to a boil.  Immediately pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and let sit, without stirring, about 3 minutes.  Then stir gently (and sparingly, so as not to incorporate too much air) with a spoon or whisk until smooth.

Let the ganache sit until it firms up to a spreadable consistency (sort of like peanut butter).  If you are in a hurry you can put it in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally, for about an hour.  (Heck you could even put it in the freezer for a bit, if you're REALLY pressed for time).  Spread evenly over top and sides of cake with an offset spatula.  If desired, use the back of a tablespoon to swirl patterns into the ganache.

Serve, or cover for later.  You can put the cake in the refrigerator if necessary, but it's not recommended.  It should keep at a cool room temperature for a couple of days, covered.  Serves 12.

*Note: I know there are really amazing brands of chocolate out there, but my problem is that the are usually also really expensive.  If you are looking for a brand that's good and affordable, I would recommend Hershey's Special Dark.  And (unfortunately) I am not being paid to say that.  :)

Recipe for Sour Cream Fudge Cake adapted from Cook's Illustrated; Recipe for Chocolate Ganache from Joy of Baking


  1. OMG!! This looks amazingly good!

  2. What a cute photo of you guys! This cake is right up my alley- I love peppermint like no other! I'm sure your MIL was over the moon with excitement.

  3. I have, happily, buzzed this one! What a terrific cake and a wonderful gift for your mother in law. It looked like a great time!

  4. The title brought me in and the amazing photo sealed the deal. This cake sounds and looks AWESOME! I love chocolate peppermint, so will definitely be making this recipe.

  5. What a fun post and a fun cake! Happy birthday to your mother-in-law. I always make chocolate peppermint around the holidays - now I have to add it to my summer menus.

  6. What a loving daughter-in-law you are! What a delightful cake which I bet disappeared soon.

  7. What a gorgeous cake! I'm sure your mother-in-law and everyone else loved it!!!

  8. What a fun photo. This cake sounds so delicious and looks amazing. I would love a slice right now. Yummy!

  9. Ooooh, my kids would adore this cake. So glad you were able to save the ganache....been there, done that :) And cracked up at your photo are FUN!

  10. Yes, Maggie is the best daughter-in-law ever. The cake was amazing. There was a little bit left after the party, so I hid it until the next day. I did not share even when my husband asked what I was eating. I said, "Sorry honey it is all gone," as I was shoveling it in. Enjoy!

  11. That picture of you guys at the beach is so so cute!!! And that cake looks to die for!

    Happy Birthday to your Mother in law :)

  12. The name of the cake drew me in immediately!! I love that plate that the cake it on too!!

  13. Sounds like you guys had a lot of fun! This cake sounds divine. Peppermint is one of my favorite flavors and combined with cake and ganache - oh man - my mouth is watering. You should come and enter my cookbook giveaway!

  14. What a gorgeous cake! I love chocolate and mint, but I can never get my husband to take a bite... Shame! He doesn't know what he's missing! I love the picture of you and your mother-in-law! It's absolutely adorable! Great post :)

  15. I love that boardwalk photo and this cake looks delicious! What a great way to celebrate such a fun lady!

  16. I LOVE this post! That's a great boardwalk photo! And your cake looks amazing! Glad you had Martha to talk you off the ledge! : )

  17. #1 - I love you!

    #2 - I plan on making this cake as SOON as I can come up with a good enough excuse!! :o)

  18. Too true about the chocolate :-) Lovely rich cake, also visited your coconut cake too.

  19. i am in love. both with you and with this cake. i agree, 100%, that mint can be an overwhelming flavor that i don't always enjoy.
    this looks like one i would DEFINITELY enjoy! thanks for posting, as always i love your blog :)

  20. The cake looks amazing, and the photos are just charming :-)

  21. YUM! Mint and chocolate, cannot go wrong with that!


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