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Chocolate Peppermint Cake

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This Chocolate Peppermint Cake is a rich chocolate cake filled with a silky white chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream. It’s topped with crushed peppermint bark and makes the perfect Christmas-themed cake for the holidays!

Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Frosting and Peppermint Candy

I have a lot of Christmas cake ideas…but this Chocolate Peppermint Cake may be my best one yet. It’s a homemade chocolate cake that’s layered with an amazing white chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream and crushed peppermint bark chocolate.

This cake is light, fluffy, and full of chocolate flavor without being way too rich. The frosting is light, sweet, and delicate, and the peppermint bark adds just the right amount of peppermint flavor and a little bit of crunch.

If the process feels intimidating to you, just take it one step at a time. I have a lot of tutorials available for you if it’s your first time making a layer cake or working with Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I’ll break it down step by step.

Christmas just won’t be the same without this delicious holiday dessert! Looking for more Christmas desserts? Try this Christmas Tree Cake, or some of these easy Christmas Cupcakes.

overhead of a whole chocolate peppermint cake on a plate garnished with peppermint bark and red and green sprinkles

Important Ingredient Recommendations

The full list of ingredients can be found in the recipe card, but here’s a few helpful pieces of advice before you begin.

  • Sour Cream – sour cream is the key to a super moist cake. I use light sour cream, but regular will work too.
  • Cocoa Powder – I love using Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
  • Espresso Powder – this is optional but does enhance the chocolate flavor. Fine ground coffee also works.
  • Brewed Coffee – coffee adds moisture and brings out the flavor of the chocolate. And no, it doesn’t make the cake taste like coffee!
  • White Chocolate Bars- This frosting has melted white chocolate, and I highly recommend a chocolate bar like Ghirardelli over chocolate chips.
  • Red Food Gel – red food gel is also optional, but you can use it to color the frosting to make it look extra festive!
  • Andes Peppermint Baking Chips- The baking chips can sometimes be hard to find, so I also buy the little peppermint squares and chop those up. Either one will work! You can see I used the squares to decorate.

What Makes a Chocolate Cake Moist?

We’re using oil, sour cream, and coffee in this cake, which are all added to provide tons of moisture.

To make sure these ingredients can work their magic, make sure you don’t over-bake the cake. If it cooks too long, it will dry out. Take the cakes out as soon as a toothpick comes out clean!

side view of a slice of chocolate peppermint cake on it's side on a white plate

How to Make Chocolate Peppermint Cake

This chocolate peppermint cake is perfect for the holidays and so simple to make!

Make the Cake

Combine the wet ingredients: In a large bowl, mix together sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat until incorporated, then mix in sour cream.

Add the dry ingredients: In another bowl, sift the dry ingredients. Alternate adding half the dry ingredients followed by half the coffee to the wet ingredients. Mix only until the flour starts to incorporate, then use a spatula to scrape from the bottom up to make sure everything is well-mixed.

Portion and bake: Divide the batter evenly between three lined and greased baking pans, then bake at 350ºF until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cakes before assembling.

Make the Frosting

This is a chocolate Swiss merginue buttercream, but made with white chocolate. I’ve included some helpful notes below. The butter needs to be at room temperature, so be sure to allow enough time for that to happen.

Clean the bowl and utensils: Just a tiny bit of grease can throw off a merginue. Use some white vinegar to wipe dowl the bowl, beater blades and spatulas before beginning.

Heat the egg whites and sugar: Combine sugar and egg whites in a mixing bowl and then attach an oven thermometer. Set the bowl over a pot filled 1/4 of the way with water. Cook over medium heat until the mixture is 140-160 F, you’ll need to stir it frequently to help prevent the egg whites from cooking. The sugar should be dissolved in the egg white.

Melt the chocolate: Break up the chocolate bar into smaller pieces and melt in the microwave at 50% power in incredments of 30 seconds until it’s melted and smooth. Then set aside to cool.

Beat the egg whites: Using the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low for 2 minutes then increase to medium-high. Beat for another 5 minutes, the body of the meringue will star to take shape. At this point, increase the mixing speed to high and the meringue will look glossy. Beat it until stiff peaks form, this may take another 5+ minutes.

Add the butter: Tough the bottom of the mixing bowl and make sure it’s no longer wamr. Turn down the mixing speed to low. Slowly add your butter, 1 tbsp at a time until all the butter is added. As you add more butter, the frosting might appear to have curdled and lost its body, but that’s ok. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Switch to the paddle attachment, add the vanilla extract and continue beating on medium-high speed until the frosting starts to form into a smooth and consistent mixture. Slowly drizzle in the chocolate and continue beating until stiff peaks form about 3-5 minutes. It’s ready to use!

Assemble the Cake:

Level: Level the cakes off using a serrated knife or cake leveler so they’re nice and flat on top. Place a dollop of frosting on your cake board, then set the bottom layer on top. This helps hold it in place.

Fill the layers: I prefer to use a piping bag to fill my cake. I pipe in circles filling working outside edge to the middle. Spread evenly with an offset spatula. Sprinkle each layer with ½ cup chopped peppermint bark. Add the second layer of cake and add the remaining frosting. Place the third layer of cake on top.

Frost: Use your offset spatula to press any excess frosting onto the edges of the cake. To finish, pipe the frosting along the outside edge of the cake using a large open round tip or a cake icer tip. Then use an offset spatula or icing smoother to create a smooth edge.

Decorate: Gently press sprinkles into the bottom edge of the cake. To pipe, the rosettes on top, use a large piping bag, drizzle red food gel down one edge of the bag, and spread using a toothpick or knife. Fill the piping bag with the remaining frosting and pipe the border of the cake using an open star tip.

a fork being plunged into a slice of cake on a plate

Tips for Making Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I do have a full tutorial for making Swiss Meringue Buttercream that you may find helpful, but here is a few key pieces of advice.

  • Clean the bowls and utensils. Meringue is delicate, so we want to make sure the bowl is spotless. To clean it, wipe the inside out with a paper towel dampened with vinegar.
  • Room temperature butter: The temperature of the butter is really important. It should be at room temperature but not too soft or melting.
  • Properly beat the meringue: Before adding the butter, make sure the merginue has reached the stuff peaks phase. This means you can run the beater through it and it will hold it’s shape.
  • Use high quality chocolate: I always recommend using a chocolate bar like lindt or Ghirardelli over chocolate chips. The chocolate bar will melt down a lot smoother than the chips.

Cake Baking Tips

When it comes to assembly, take a look at this tutorial for baking layer cakes.

  • Line and grease the pan. I line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper, then I grease the sides. This makes it so much easier to get them out after baking!
  • Sift the dry ingredients to prevent clumps in the batter.
  • Use bake even strips. Bake even strips help prevent the edges of the cake from baking too quickly which causes the middle of the cake to dome. We want nice flat layers. The less we have to cut off, the less cake we waste!
  • Rotate halfway through. If you oven has hot spots, I recommend rotating each cake pan halfway through the baking time to make sure everything cooks evenly!
side view of a whole chocolate peppermint cake on a plate

Does this Cake Need to be Refrigerated?

Finished chocolate peppermint cake will last covered on the counter for up to 3 days. It should not be stored in the fridge or the frosting will get hard. However if you live in an environment that is hot or humid, then it is recommend to refrigerated and then serve at room temperature.

How to Prepare Ahead of time.

If you want to prep ahead of time, you can bake the cakes, wrap them tightly, and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to serve, thaw, make the frosting, assemble the cake, and enjoy!

Swiss Meringue Buttercream can be made in advance, and kept on the counter for up to 2 days. Rebeat with the paddle attachment until it is silky and creamy again. If you plan to store longer, then you can refrigerate for up to 7 days, bring to room temperature and rebeat with the paddle attachment.

overhead of a slice of peppermint cake on a plate next to a fork
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closeup of a slice of cake on its side on a white plate

Chocolate Peppermint Cake

  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 12 slices

Description

This Chocolate Peppermint Cake is a rich chocolate cake filled with a silky white chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream. It’s topped with crushed peppermint bark and makes the perfect Christmas-themed cake for the holidays!

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 1 ½ cups (285g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (118 ml) light sour cream
  • 2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (55 g) cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon (5g) espresso powder  (optional)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons (9 g) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (2 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 1 ¼ cup (355 ml) brewed coffee

For the Frosting:

  • 10 large egg whites
  • 2 ½ cups (475 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 cups unsalted butter (24 oz), at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
  • 12 ounces white chocolate bar, melted

Decorations

  • 1 cup chopped Andes Peppermint Bar Chocolate
  • Sprinkles
  • Red food gel (optional)
  • 810 Andes Peppermint Bar Chocolate for garnish

Instructions

For the Cake: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare three 8-inch round baking pans, line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the sides. Prepare your bake even stripes if desired.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed until the eggs and oil are well incorporated and the batter is lighter in color. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Then add half the dry ingredients followed by half of the coffee and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate. Then add the remaining dry ingredients and coffee. Beat until all of the ingredients are well combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans, about 1 2/3 cups of batter per pan. Bake at 350°F for 20-24 minutes. Rotate your pans in the oven halfway through baking.
  5. Test the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, your cake is done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For the Frosting:

  1. Wipe down the inside of your stainless-steel bowl with vinegar to remove any grease. Combine sugar and egg whites in the bowl with the candy thermometer attached.
  2. Set the bowl over top of a pot with 1 ¼ cups water covering the bottom. Place over medium heat.
  3. Stir constantly with a whisk until the mixture reaches 140°-160°  The sugar should be dissolved in the egg whites. You can test this by placing a drop on your fingertips and rubbing them together. The mixture should be completely smooth.
  4. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the chocolate 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring each time until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.
  5. Immediately place the mixing bowl on your stand. Using the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low for 2 minutes then increase to medium-high.
  6. Beat for another 5 minutes. At this point, your frosting should have turned white and the body of the meringue starts to form. Increase the mixing speed to high. It will start to look glossy as the peaks begin to form. Beat for another 5-8 minutes until the bottom of your bowl is cool to the touch and your meringue has stiff peaks.
  7. Turn your mixer down to medium-low. Slowly add your butter, 1 tbsp at a time. As you add more butter, the frosting might appear to have curdled and lost its body, but that’s ok. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  8. Switch to the paddle attachment, add the vanilla extract and continue beating on medium-high speed until your frosting starts to form. Slowly drizzle in the chocolate and continue beating until stiff peaks form about 3-5 minutes.

Assembly:

  1. Level off your cakes by removing any domes. Place a dollop of frosting on your cake board and place the bottom layer of cake over that.
  2. Pipe the first layer of frosting, pipe in circles filling working outside edge to the middle. Spread evenly with an offset spatula. Sprinkle each layer with ½ cup chopped peppermint bark. Add the second layer of cake and add the remaining frosting. Place the third layer of cake on top.
  3. Use your offset spatula to press any excess frosting onto the edges of the cake. To finish, pipe the frosting along the outside edge of the cake using a large open round tip or a cake icer tip. Then use an offset spatula or icing smoother to create a smooth edge.
  4. Gently press sprinkles into the bottom edge of the cake. To pipe, the rosettes on top, use a large piping bag, drizzle red food gel down one edge of the bag, and spread using a toothpick or knife. Fill the piping bag with the remaining frosting and pipe the border of the cake.

Notes

  • Substitutions: 
    • Sour cream can be substituted with Greek or Plain yogurt but it adds moisture and texture to the cake, so don’t skip it.
    • Brewed coffee helps bloom the cocoa, you won’t notice the coffee flavor, It simply enhances the chocolate flavor. If you have to, you can substitute it with milk.
  • Storing frosted cakes: Desserts that are frosted with Swiss Meringue Buttercream can be stored at room temperature unless it’s hot or humid. In that case, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and bring to room temperature before serving. 
  • It’s recommended to use a chocolate bar instead of chocolate chips.
Nutrition Information:
1 Slice
1433
128 g
404.7 mg
90.7 g
149.4 g
3.2 g
14.6 g
189.7 mg
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Christmas Cake ideas, Peppermint Cake, Christmas dessert ideas

Leave a Comment

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18 Responses
  1. Kym

    I made this cake for Christmas. For chocolate and peppermint lovers it is a perfect match. The Swiss buttercream is delicate and silky.

    Did not deviate from the recipe and came out perfectly!

  2. Demetra

    I made this cake (with a few tweaks to be gluten free) for our family Christmas. It was delicious! Thank you!

  3. Karen Donahue

    I made this cake recipe and it did not at all turn our like the photo above. The batter was watery and not enough for three fluffy layers. Instead, I got three layers, not even an inch thick. Shame on me for not trying it out prior to Christmas Eve for what I ended up with was a disappointment to say the least.

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi Karen- The batter is thin, that’s the way it’s suppose to be. What size pans did you use? This is my standard chocolate cake recipe and works great for 3 8-inch layers, plenty of batter.

  4. Mere

    Going to make this for Christmas dinner! If I make the cakes and icing tomorrow, do you recommend waiting to assemble/decorate the cake till Christmas Day? Or do it all tomorrow and just leave cake covered on counter?

    Thanks!

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      This will be fine on the counter overnight and up to 3 days. If you have an airtight container, that is preferable. PLEASE let me know how it goes!

      1. Meredith

        Everyone is raving about this cake, including me (still in a blissful food coma )! The cake was so moist/rich in flavor and the Swiss merengue buttercream was out of this world! I will make this cake for many occasions to come and just swap the peppermint bark for other flavors!

        Thank you for this recipe…it was a real Christmas treat!

        Can’t wait to see what else you have in store for me to bake 🙂

  5. Kristy

    For the peppermint bark between the layers, did you use real peppermint bark, or the Andes candies? Looking forward to making this!!

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Unfortunately I am not familiar enough with dairy free products to recommend one, and the frosting itself is entirely butter. I am so sorry it couldn’t be more help!

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