Peppermint Fudge Cake
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A triple layer cake with luscious buttercream frosting and chocolate ganache, this Peppermint Fudge Cake is the ultimate Christmas dessert. It’s rich, decadent, and guaranteed to steal the show!
A Decadent Holiday Cake
Isn’t this Peppermint Fudge Cake stunning? It screams holiday just like my yule log cake and peppermint meringue cookies!
The cake is coated in a thin layer of peppermint frosting as well and decorated with crushed candy cane all around the sides.
A decadent chocolate ganache is layered over the top of the cake and allowed to drip halfway down the sides. Then, for a finishing touch, red and white swirled peppermint frosting is piped on top of the cake.
With all of the layers, this chocolate peppermint cake does require some work – this isn’t a last-minute recipe – but it’s worth every second!
The peppermint flavor and red frosting make it perfect for the holidays and no matter where or when you serve this cake, it will steal the show. Be prepared to impress!
- Dutch-processed cocoa powder – It’s essential that you use Dutch-processed cocoa powder in this cake. Its rich dark flavor works best with this recipe.
- Unsweetened chocolate – I don’t recommend substituting bittersweet or semisweet chocolate here. The cake is already sweet enough without it.
- Buttermilk – Buttermilk helps create a soft crumb in the cake. It should be at room temperature.
- If you don’t have any, see my buttermilk substitute.
- Coffee – Coffee enhances the chocolate flavor without making it taste like coffee.
- If you want, you can substitute extra buttermilk instead.
- Peppermint extract – Gives the frosting the lovely mint flavor but a little goes a long way.
- Candy canes – Crushed candy canes decorate the bottom half of the cake.
- I’ve also seen candy cane sprinkles that will work.
- Red food coloring – A small portion of the frosting is dyed red to create a candy cane effect for the swirls on top of the cake.
- Light corn syrup – This is optional but adds a glossy shine to the ganache.
* The full ingredient list can be found down below in the recipe card.
How to Make Peppermint Fudge Cake
Making this chocolate peppermint cake is a process and does require a couple of hours to pull it all together but it’s worth every second!
Make the cake batter. Whisk together the dry ingredients and step aside.
Carefully melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract. Add in the melted chocolate.
Add half the flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk and coffee, then the remaining flour mixture.
Bake. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Take care not to overbake.
Cool. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans then invert on a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the Frosting & Assemble
Make the peppermint buttercream frosting. Beat the butter until pale and creamy. Add half of the confectioners’ sugar at a time, beating until just fully moistened.
Add in the peppermint extract then slowly add in the heavy cream, until well incorporated. Place a cup of the frosting in a bowl and set it aside.
Assemble the cake. Place one layer of cake on a serving platter. Spread a generous amount of frosting on the top.
Repeat with the second layer and another generous amount of frosting. Add the third layer and cover the top and sides of the cake with frosting.
Chill the cake. Press crushed candy canes into the sides of the cake at the bottom. Freeze for 20 minutes.
Pour chocolate ganache over the top center of the chilled cake. Use a spatula to spread the ganache to the edge so it drips over the sides of the cake. Return to the freezer for 10 minutes.
Pipe red and white frosting swirls on top of the cake. Keep the cake refrigerated and remove it 30 minutes prior to serving.
Tips for Success
Here are a few things to keep in mind that may help make this recipe a little easier – or at least ensure that you end up with the perfect cake on the first try!
- Be sure to use quality chocolate. This will greatly impact the flavor of the cake. Ghirardelli is one of the brands of chocolate I use most and chose to use it for today’s peppermint fudge cake.
- Level the cake batter in the cake pans. Use an offset spatula to spread the batter all the way to the edges of the pan and smooth out the surface.
- Add more heavy cream if necessary. Check the consistency of the frosting and add more cream, ½ tablespoon at a time, if needed. The frosting should be soft and spreadable but not so loose that it doesn’t hold its shape.
- Chill the cake layers. Cold cake layers are easiest to work with. Wrap cooled layers in plastic wrap then freeze. Thaw on the countertops for 30 minutes then continue frosting.
- Follow the recipe as written. Normally I encourage some variation in the recipes I share but with this one, I recommend making it only as written in the recipe. The cake needs a certain texture for the layers and any adjustments to the recipe can affect that.
- Bake the layers evenly. For perfectly baked cake layers, I always suggest using bake-even strips. They are cloth strips that you soak in water and wrap around the cake pans. They promote even heating around the pans allowing the layers to bake up moist and level.
Can I Make This In Advance?
Yes, you can make parts of this cake in advance.
The cake layers can be tightly wrapped in plastic and stored in the fridge or freezer for up to 2 days. The frosting can also be refrigerated overnight. You may need to re-whip it after it comes to room temperature.
The frosted cake can also be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge then allow it to come to room temperature before serving.
*If you want to serve it at Christmas, I suggest making the cake layers and frostings 2 days ahead. Then assemble on Christmas Eve.
How to Store
- How to store leftover chocolate peppermint cake. You can store leftover cake in the fridge for up to 3 days. It’s important to keep the cake refrigerated until serving and not to leave leftovers out on the counter.
- Can I freeze this? Yes, you can freeze this cake for up to 2 months.
Frequently Asked Questions
Not all cake recipes will work with bundt pans and this is one that won’t. The layers are too fragile. I only recommend making this cake exactly as written in the recipe.
I’ve not tried this myself but the recipe is very similar to my favorite chocolate cupcakes. You may want to bake those instead.
While coffee is used in the cake batter, it does not taste like coffee. Coffee enhances the chocolate flavor and since there’s plenty of chocolate in the recipe, you won’t notice the coffee.
Rodelle has a quality Dutch-processed cocoa that I highly recommend.
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I made this cake this weekend for an early Christmas gathering. I used Swiss meringue buttercream for the frosting, but otherwise followed the recipe. It was unbelievably delicious! I’m so glad I took a chance on a recipe I had never made before. I will definitely make this again!
I made this cake yesterday for a family member’s birthday. It looked amazing, but unfortunately for me, it looked much better than it tasted. The cake was extremely crumbly and difficult to work with, even after freezing the layers as recommended. It wasn’t dry, but it lacked richness-not fudge like at all. I used dutch cocoa, but the ratio of cocoa to melted chocolate was too high.. The cake was not sweet enough either compared to the sweet icing.
I also found the buttercream icing was much to heavy for the light crumb of the cake. I added 4 more cups of icing sugar after my crumb coat to make the icing lighter. Very disappointed overall after the several hours of work it took to put it all together. Will not make this chocolate cake again. Will stick to my regular chocolate cake recipe.
I’m sorry you were unsatisfied with the recipe, Donna. The goal when creating this recipe was to achieve a deep chocolate flavor without weighing it down by adding too much melted chocolate. Otherwise, the texture would have been much like that of a brownie instead of cake. And I purposely wanted the cake layers not to be overly sweet since it was being frosted with American buttercream. American buttercream is notorious for being cloyingly sweet.
The buttercream is nothing more than my most popular basic buttercream which is incredibly light and silky. Adding 4 more cups of powdered sugar is not going to make the frosting lighter, it’s actually going to do the opposite and make it very stiff and difficult to work with. It will also cause the frosting to be overly sweet. So, I’m really not surprised that it wasn’t unenjoyable. To lighten a frosting, try adding a little more heavy cream, 1/2 a tablespoon at a time until it’s light and smooth.