Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Chocolate Peppermint Cake

My holiday baking got a late start but then stalled due to a nasty cold I developed. However, I did manage to make this Peppermint Chocolate Cake for a holiday party at work.


This cake is extremely rich, but is definitely a crowd pleaser. The chocolate cake is a plain chocolate cake, and I might try to experiment to add a bit more moisture to it. The three layers are separated by a peppermint buttercream frosting and a chocolate ganache glaze is used to coat the cake. This has been requested for next year already, but I might make it a bit sooner, as my sweetie has indicated he wouldn't mind this in the house again....His waistline disagrees.


Chocolate Peppermint Cake - from Ladies' Home Journal

Makes 12 servings

For the cakes:
4 sticks (1lb) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for pans
3 cups cake flour, plus additional for pans
1 3/4 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
1 bar (4oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature

For the buttercream:
2oz (12 to 13) whole round hard peppermint candies, plus 1/2 cup chopped for garnish
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 pkg (12 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate ganache:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 bars (4oz each) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Directions:
~ Make cake: Preheat oven to 350 degree F and arrange racks in upper and lower thirds; butter 3 round 9x2-inch cake pans. Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper and dust pans with flour, tapping out excess.
~ Whisk boiling water into cocoa in a heat proof bowl until smooth. Add chocolate and let stand 1 minute. Whisk until smooth; let cool 5 minutes. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla extract.
~ Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in another bowl. Beat butter and sugars together in a large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down sides of bowl with a spatula after each addition. Reduce speed to low; alternately add flour and chocolate mixtures, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating until just combined. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans (about 4 cups each) and smooth tops.
~ Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of each cake comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pan, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer cakes in pans to a rack and let cool 5 minutes.
~Run a thin knife around edges of pans and place racks over pans; invert cakes onto racks. Peel off paper and invert cakes again so they are right side up on racks; cool completely. (you might have to level cake layers after cooling)

~Make filling: Meanwhile, place whole peppermint candies and confectioners' sugar in a food processor; pulse until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract. (I beat cream cheese, butter & extract with mixer before adding peppermint/sugar)

~Make glaze: Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over moderate heat. Remove from heat; add to chocolate and butter in a large bowl. Stir until smooth, about 5 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes.

~Assembly: Meanwhile, place 1 cake layer on an 8-inch cardboard round. Spread 1/2 of filling on top and cover with second cake layer, right side up. Spread with remaining filling and top with remaining cake layer, bottom side up. (I do this to ensure a smooth and flat top of the assembled cake) (At this point, I also use an icing spatula to remove excess filling that squeeze out sides and use it to fill in any gaps in between layers - this will help give you a smooth covering of glaze) Place cake on a wire rack over a baking pan (to catch any drippings) and pour some glaze over top, smoothing on sides with a small metal spatula. Continue to pour and spread glaze, using drippings in pan if necessary, until cake is evenly coated. Chill cake on rack until glaze is just set, about 15 minutes. Cake can be stored in refrigerator, but do not garnish with chopped candies until ready to serve (refrigerator softens candies).

~Transfer cake on cardboard round to a cake stand or plate. Bring to room temperature before serving and garnish with chopped candies around top edge of cake, if desired.

It seems like a lot of work, but really takes only a few hours to bake and assemble. I especially like how the cake doesn't have to look pristine, but really looks homemade. Enjoy!

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