I will apologize in advance for the amount of times you might hear me say this between now and February 1, but: I hate January. It is generally gloomy and dark and such a letdown after the holiday season. Our Christmas tree was just put up this weekend, but last week I felt like it was taunting me. I try to be good and seasonal and keep it up until Epiphany, and sometimes it is a good reminder that we are still celebrating the birth of Jesus. But other times it just depresses me.
So let’s get a little nostalgic for the holiday season here (it’s ok; I give you permission). And, oh look! Here we have this beautiful cake I made that got pushed aside during vacation and the New Year!
Every year, for as long as I remember, we have been having a family Christmas dinner with our close family friends. They are friends my parents had before they had children, and as a result all of us children, very close in age groups, grew up together. I have my oldest friends from this family connection, and really we might as well be extended family.
And while we’ve always done other things together (play dates, the zoo, church, vacations even), there is always this Christmas dinner. And now that we are older and more spread out across the country (ok, maybe just the South), it is often the only time of the year where we all get together. And even now, there have been years where some of us can’t make it.
There is always the adult table and kids table at this dinner (yes, we are still the kid’s table), and there is no end to the hilarity. There are certain rules we all know (really, my brother should not sit near the candles because generally he will catch his napkin on fire, on purpose). There are certain jokes we all know, like the exaggerated waves we do like secret handshakes (from some Easter bunny video we watched years ago. don’t ask.). And there are certain stories we always tell, laughing until the “adults” (aka our parents) often come in to see why we are being so loud (this year, it was the story of the Easter dinner where carrots were thrown across the kitchen and into the dining room where the adults were sitting. and we find the recounting of this hilarious. every year.)
But there is still evidence that we are growing up. Because this year, I was asked to bring food (no more riding my parents’ coat tails). And more specifically, THE dessert.
There was really no question in my mind that I would make this cake, as I had been eyeing it since Thanksgiving and hoping I would have an excuse to make it. I was going to make it anyway I had decided, but thankfully it ended up being sliced until there were only two lone pieces remaining and gobbled up around our respective tables instead of ending up in my freezer.
My favorite description of it from the night was that it was like a giant thin mint. Yes, the Girl Scout cookie. And yes, I’d say this description is accurate. Although I’d say it’s better than a thin mint (because really, those aren’t my favorite Girl Scout cookies).
Best thing about this cake #1: the batter. I could not stop eating it. And it turned into magical cake layers, although I would absolutely recommend freezing them before putting the cake together because they were extremely delicate.
Best thing about this cake #2: the delicate flavor of mint. There is nothing overpowering about this cake. The mint ratio is perfection, making you feel like perhaps you aren’t eating something so heavy and rich.
Best thing about this cake #3: the frosting. I know, it’s just cool whip and marshmallow creme (gasp!) but I was absolutely amazed (and intrigued) by its cloud-like texture and the way the cool whip made the marshmallow creme not so sticky.
Everything about this cake worked together for perfection: delicate layers, heavy filling, light icing. And while I realize that it is January and no longer the holidays (UGH), no time is inappropriate for such chocolate mint deliciousness.
Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cake
from Southern Living magazine December 2012
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes
Wait Time: 4 hours
Serves about 12 to 16 (or more)
For the cake:
1/2 cup boiling water
1 (4 oz.) milk chocolate baking bar, chopped*
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
For the fudge filling:
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz.) package semisweet morsels
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
For the peppermint-cream frosting:
1 (7 oz.) jar marshmallow creme
1 (8 oz.) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
1. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium-sized bowl. Pour the boiling water over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour 3 (8 inch) round cake pans. Or grease the pans, line the bottom with parchment paper, and then grease the parchment paper.
3. In a large bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition until well blended.
4. Add the cooled chocolate mixture with the vanilla, beating until blended.
5. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine.
6. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and beating on low speed after each addition.
7. Wash your beaters and then, in a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter using a rubber spatula.
8. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes and then remove the cake from the pans and cool them completely on wire racks. Wrap the cooled cake layers in plastic and freeze until firm enough to make them easier to work with, about 3 to 4 hours.
9. To prepare the filling, combine the sweetened condensed milk and the chocolate chips in a medium sized saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the peppermint extract. Cool to room temperature.
10. To make the peppermint-cream frosting, in a large bowl combine the marshmallow creme with the frozen whipped topping and peppermint extract. Beat at high speed for 1 to 2 minutes until glossy.
11. Take the frozen cake layers out of the freezer and unwrap them. If necessary, use a knife to level the top of each cake layer off so that they are flat. Spread the fudge filling between each cake layer, and then spread the top and sides of the cake with the frosting. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Garnish with shaved chocolate if desired.
*So I could not find a milk chocolate 4 oz. baking bar. Only 3.5 oz. So I threw in a few semisweet chocolate chips to make it come out to 4 oz. and the cake was still perfect.