🍬 HOLIDAY RECIPE There's no better way to celebrate the holidays than with this festive, super-moist peppermint chocolate cake.
About this Recipe
Peppermint and chocolate is a flavor combination I look forward to all year long, and it makes a perfect cake for holiday parties. Decorated with mini candy canes and drizzled with extra ganache, this Peppermint Fudge Cake will complete your Christmas table.
It combines layers of super moist and rich chocolate cake with fudgy chocolate peppermint ganache and creamy peppermint buttercream. At Amycakes Bakery, Peppermint Fudge Cake was our most popular seasonal cake flavor! I'm excited to share the bakery recipe with you today!
Make This Chocolate Peppermint Cake in Advance
You all know by now that I LOVE baking in advance, especially leading up to busy events or holidays (my Super-Moist Pumpkin Spice Cake is another great holiday cake to bake ahead). All my cake recipes are extra-moist so they freeze really well (you can learn more in my article Seven Bakery Secrets to Moist Cake).
I prefer to bake and decorate this cake, then wrap the finished cake in a cake box and freeze. The night before serving, simply let the cake thaw in the fridge overnight, then remove the cake from the fridge 2-3 hours before serving so that it can come back to room temperature.
Layer this Cake using the Cut and Stack Method
I bake all my cakes in sheet pans and cut them out with cake rings. I talk about this in detail in 5 Easy Steps to Baking and Layering Cakes Like a Pro, but here's a quick rundown:
1. Bake the Cake in a Sheet Pan
2. Wrap and Freeze the Cake in the Pan
3. Cut Desired Cake Size with Cake Rings and Layer the Cake from Frozen
4. Crumb Coat the Cake
5. Decorate and Serve
About the secret bakery ingredient in this recipe
This bakery recipe uses Instant ClearJel, a type of cornstarch that serves as both a thickener and a binder. It’s tasteless and has no artificial ingredients. You can also use Instant Pudding mix (when it's listed in the recipe), which contains Instant Clearjel as the second ingredient!
It’s often used by professional bakers because it produces a smoother and glossier consistency than cornstarch, tapioca, or other starches. Even better, it enhances moisture and texture in cakes and thickens and stabilizes frostings. Here are a few brands I recommend:
Although it's not often available in grocery stores, it's sold in a variety of online stores--just make sure whatever you purchase is labeled as INSTANT (cooktype and original clearjel will not work the same). It's also frequently found in Amish Markets. (Learn more about Instant Clearjel in Baking→)
Peppermint Fudge Cake Recipe FAQ
What are your refrigeration and storing recommendations for this cake?
Nearly all of my cakes are best at room temperature! When the cake is cold it will have a firm and different texture due to all the yummy butter in the cake and buttercream. I want to make sure you enjoy the soft and moist chocolate cake and buttercream texture that is intended by eating the cake at room temperature.
You can refrigerate the cake after decorating it, but allow it to come back to room temperature 2-3 hours before serving. (Keep in mind the buttercream can melt in warm conditions). I keep my leftover cake out of the fridge for up to 24 hours, but I’ll refrigerate or freeze anything that won’t get eaten within that time.
Can I Freeze the Cake?
Absolutely! One of the best things about cakes made with buttermilk, vegetable oil, and Instant Clearjel is they stay very moist when frozen (read more in Seven Bakery Secrets to Incredibly Moist Cake Every Time). I recommend you freeze the cake before layering it so that it’s easier to layer (as detailed in How to Bake and Layer Cakes Like a Pro).
A lot of times I’ll make my cake a week before I frost and layer it. You can also freeze the entire finished cake. If you place your cake in a cake box or container then wrap it thoroughly in plastic wrap, it should stay moist when frozen for at least a few weeks, if not longer. Most articles say cakes can be frozen for up to three months, but I’m hesitant to try it longer than a month.
What Peppermint Extract Do You Recommend for the chocolate peppermint ganache and peppermint buttercream?
I recommend a pure peppermint extract that's made with real peppermint oil. I love and have always used Olive Nation's peppermint extract. They sell it on Amazon, or use the code AB20 for 20% off for Amycakes Bakes readers on Olive Nation's website.
Disclosure: Olive Nation has provided the discount code AB20 for Amycakes Bakes readers, and I make a small commission when the code is used on their website at no additional cost to you. I only promote products that I love, and Olive Nation is a company that I have ordered from since the beginning of Amycakes Bakery. Thank you for supporting the content on this website!
How long can the peppermint cream cheese buttercream stay at room temperature?
Most of my buttercreams contain some cream cheese for a creamy smooth texture. And according to many articles it can be left out overnight, although I recommend refrigerating your finished cake until 2-3 hours before serving just so it doesn’t get too soft on your cake-–For decorated cakes, I’ll remove the cake from the fridge 2-3 hours before serving so the cake and buttercream can come back to room temp. I’ll leave my cake leftovers that have cream cheese buttercream out for up to 24 hours because I want it to have a soft texture when I’m ready to eat it.
The peppermint buttercream can stay in the fridge for up to a week, or you can freeze it for even longer! Just thaw it in the fridge overnight, and allow it to get to room temp before using.
Can I substitute out the Instant Clearjel?
If you’d like to try it without the Instant Clearjel, I’d recommend using 3 tablespoon Jello Chocolate Instant Pudding Mix in place of the 2 tablespoon Instant Clearjel in the chocolate cake batter (not the frosting) in a 1x batch. Instant Pudding Mix has Instant Clearjel (aka modified cornstarch) as the second ingredient, and we used it in cakes at my bakery before I discovered the awesome baking benefits of Instant Clearjel.
In the peppermint frosting, just leave the Instant Clearjel out (I don’t recommend adding pudding mix to the frosting as it will affect the texture). If needed, add more powdered sugar to get a thicker frosting. If you have success with one of these substitutes, let me know!
Can I substitute out the corn syrup in the chocolate cake batter?
Yes, you can substitute 3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar (43 grams) in place of the 3 Tablespoons dark corn syrup in a 1x batch. I use corn syrup for a slightly better rise and texture, but it will still be delicious with this substitute.
More Winter Desserts
Here are some more delicious recipes that are perfect comforting treats for cold months.
I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I enjoyed creating it! I can't wait to hear what you think of it!
Thanks for Reading. ❤️
Moist Peppermint Fudge Cake
- 170 grams (1 ¼ cups + 2 Tablespoons) All-Purpose Flour (I use Gold Medal)
- 1 ½ teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- ¾ teaspoon Salt
- 3 Tablespoons Chocolate Instant Pudding Mix or 2 Tablespoons instant clearjel (a food starch used in commercial baking that you can use at home, see Note #1)
- 26 grams (¼ cup) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (I use Hershey's)
- 100 grams (½ cup) Sugar
- 113 grams (½ cup packed) Brown Sugar
- 2 large Eggs
- ¾ cup Buttermilk
- ¼ cup brewed Coffee
- ¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon(s) Vegetable Oil
- 3 Tablespoons Dark Corn Syrup (or use light corn syrup)
- 1 ½ teaspoons Vanilla Extract
Chocolate Butter Mixture
- ¾ stick(s) (3 ounces) Salted Butter
- 43 grams (¼ cup) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (I use Nestle)
Peppermint Fudgy Ganache
- ½ cup Heavy Cream
- 172 grams (1 cup) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (I use Nestle)
- ¾ teaspoon Pure Peppermint Extract (I use Olive Nation)
- 455 grams (3 ½ cups) Powdered Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon(s) Instant Clearjel (optional, a food starch used in commercial baking that you can use at home, see Note #1)
- 4 ounces Cream Cheese
- 1 ½ sticks (6 ounces) Salted Butter (at room temperature)
- 48 grams (¼ cup) Shortening
- 1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
- ¾ teaspoon Pure Peppermint Extract (I use Olive Nation)
Make Chocolate Cake
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 1" tall ¼ sheet pan with parchment paper, then spray the bottom (on top of the parchment) and sides of the pan with cooking spray (See Note #2). Or choose a different cake pan(s) using the chart in my post about Half-Batches and Cake Pans.
- Using a sifter or fine mesh strainer, sift the first seven Dry Ingredients into a large bowl, then add brown sugar. Whisk until well blended. If you see any large brown sugar clumps, break them up and blend them in with your fingers.
- Combine Wet Ingredients in a separate large bowl and whisk until smooth and well-blended.
- Melt salted butter in the microwave (or over the stove) until just melted. Avoid overcooking. Add semi-sweet chocolate chips and whisk until melted and smooth (Whisk for 30 seconds to 1 minute--the heat from the melted butter plus the whisking will melt the chips).
- Pour Wet Ingredients into Dry Ingredients and whisk until incorporated. Pour Chocolate Butter Mixture over batter and whisk until smooth and lump-free. (A few teeny brown sugar lumps are ok and will dissolve as it bakes).
- Pour batter into the prepared ¼ sheet pan and smooth out batter until even (an offset icing spatula works well for this). The batter will be about ¼ inch from the top of a 1" tall sheet pan.
- Allow pan to set for 5-10 minutes before putting it in the oven. This will give time for the instant clearjel (or instant pudding mix) to thicken the cake batter before it bakes, allowing for a better rise.
- Bake in the middle or top rack (avoid bottom rack) of a preheated 325-degree oven for 16 minutes. Without opening the oven, turn the temperature down to 300 degrees and bake for another 6-10 minutes. Check the cake at this point. See if it is done by lightly touching the top of the cake--try to avoid moving the cake pan or baking rack, which could cause an underdone cake to sink. If jiggly at all to your touch, bake for another 1-5 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick or small paring knife comes out clean when quickly stuck in the cake. A few moist crumbs on your knife are fine, but they shouldn't look wet.
- Once the cake is cool, I recommend wrapping and freezing the cake in your cake pan for at least 2 hours or overnight, then cutting out the cake layers with cake rings as described in How to Bake and Layer Cakes Like a Pro. The cake will be much easier to layer when cold or frozen. (You can even bake the cake up to a week ahead of time and freeze). To wrap the cake, I pull the plastic wrap out and place the pan on top of it. Then I wrap 2-3 ways horizontally and one way vertically so that there are two layers of wrap on all sides of the pan including the bottom).If you will be freezing it for more than a couple of days, I recommend brushing the cake with simple syrup before wrapping it (see Note #3).
Make Peppermint Ganache Filling
- Combine heavy cream and semi-sweet chocolate chips in a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at 30-second increments, stirring for 30 seconds to one minute in between each heat. (It should only take two to three heats in the microwave. Lots of whisking will melt your chocolate faster and prevent the chocolate chips from overcooking in the microwave.
- Once all the chocolate chips are melted and your ganache is shiny and smooth, whisk in the peppermint extract. Place the peppermint ganache in the fridge to cool. Stir occasionally until it is has cooled to a very thick and fudgy consistency. Once it is the right thickness, remove it from the fridge until you are ready to fill and layer your cake. (If your ganache gets too cold, it will be too thick to spread. Simply reheat in the microwave at 5-10 second increments, stirring frequently, until it is the right consistency.)
Make Fluffy Peppermint Buttercream
- Whisk the powdered sugar and Instant Clearjel together until well-blended. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer (preferred) or handheld mixer and a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until broken up and softened. Add the room temperature salted butter and continue to beat, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the shortening and beat and scrape the sides until there are no lumps. The creamed mixture should look fluffy and creamy with no lumps. If you see any lumps, beat on high and scrape often until they dissolve.
- While the mixer is on low, slowly add the powdered sugar mixture. Add the pure vanilla and peppermint extract, and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Beat the buttercream on high for 2-3 minutes. This will add air into the buttercream and make it light and fluffy. The Instant Clearjel will cause the buttercream to thicken slightly during the next 10 minutes as it sits.
Layer, Decorate, and Serve
- The easiest way to layer the cake is to layer the cake from frozen the day before you plan to serve it. If serving the cake the same day you are layering it, use refrigerated cake layers instead of frozen. Reserve ¼ cup chocolate ganache for drizzling down the sides of the cake (optional). Cut the cake layers with cake rings as described in How to Bake and Layer Cakes Like a Pro. Fill each cake layer with the remaining fudgy peppermint ganache (about ¼ inch high). An offset icing spatula (I use the small and medium-size on all my cakes) helps with this. I recommend frosting a thin crumb coat of peppermint buttercream on the outside of the cake which will catch all the crumby edges, then allow it to set up in the freezer for about 10 minutes until the buttercream is firm. The remaining cake scraps can be used for cake truffles if desired.
- Frost the cake with a final coat of peppermint buttercream. Microwave the reserved ganache until thin, and drizzle down the sides of the cake using a spoon or squeeze bottle. There is enough fluffy peppermint buttercream to frost a row of tall rosettes around the top of the cake using a pastry bag and 1M star tip (or get creative with a different design!). You can let the cake set up in the fridge, but remove it from the fridge 2-3 hours before serving so it can come back to room temperature. Top the cake with mini candy canes before serving. This cake has the best texture at room temperature. Enjoy!
- Read my article Instant Clearjel: a Magical Little-Known Bakery Ingredient to see why I think this ingredient is worth having in your pantry. Instant Clearjel must always be whisked thoroughly with other dry ingredients before being added to wet ingredients to avoid clumping. I have tested this recipe with the following Instant Clearjel brands: Prepared Pantry, Hoosier Hill Farm, and Ingredion (Make sure what you purchase is labeled as "Instant." Cooktype Clearjel is a different product that does not work the same in cakes). If you need a substitute, in the cake batter you may substitute 3 tablespoon Jello Chocolate Instant Pudding Mix in place of the 2 tablespoon Instant Clearjel in a 1x batch, but just leave the Instant Clearjel out of the frosting, adding a little more powdered sugar if you need a thicker frosting.
- When baking cakes in a sheet pan, the cake bakes more evenly (flatter on top and with no dark edges), and you get to choose your cake size after baking! With a 1x recipe in a ¼ sheet pan you can make a 6" 3-layer cake (2 full rounds, one pieced round from two half-circles) or several little cakelets. In a 2x batch in a ½ Sheet Pan you can make a three-layer 8" cake (two full rounds, one pieced round from two half-circles), an extra tall six-layer 6" cake (5 full rounds, one pieced round from two half-circles), TWO 3-layer 6" cakes (eat one now and freeze one for later. 🙂 Or have a baking party with a friend and you each get a cake!) or several little Cakelets using a 4" cake ring or 3" or 2" round cookie cutters.
- Simple Syrup is optional, but I use it to seal in the moisture for cakes that will be refrigerated or frozen for more than a couple of days. While the cake cools, make a simple syrup by combining 2 teaspoons water and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until the sugar is dissolved after whisking, about 20-30 seconds. Lightly brush the simple syrup on top of the cake with a silicone pastry brush (you won’t need to use all of it in a 1x batch baked in a ¼ sheet pan). You can also make a larger batch of this (1 part sugar to 1 part water) and keep it in the fridge if you’re doing a lot of cake baking.
Delicious! I made the 2x size, and it was a hit. The directions were easy to follow. I used the cut and stack method. Since this is the first of your recipes I tried, I followed all directions and used every ingredient as written with one exception. Oddly, I could not find buttermilk anywhere right now so I substituted a mix of sour cream and half-and-half. Now I have to make more cake so we have some for Christmas! Looking forward to trying more of your recipes. Thanks for the instant clear gel tip. I had never heard of it before but after making this cake with it I understand why it is recommended!
I'm so happy you enjoyed the recipe, Cat! Thanks so much for your comment. 🙂