Take Two: Devil's Food Layer Cake with Peppermint Frosting

Matt is Jewish and as recently as last year asked, "Christmas is always the third Thursday of December, right?" With questions like these, I feel a special obligation to share my Christmas traditions with him while at the same time, with our jobs keeping us from traveling home for the holidays, a certain freedom to drop the ones I never liked in the first placelike everyone disbanding into separate rooms moments after the presents were opened and the (perhaps somewhat related) complete absence of champagne or mulled cider or holiday cocktails of any kind.

And so, with some traditions stricken from the record, I realized that we had space to create some new ones of our very own. For example, last year, with my brother visiting from North Carolina, we thought it might be fun for each person to contribute one dish to Christmas dinner. And so, Christmas dinner became a small, three-dish potluck, or as Matt referred to it, "a weird hodge podge of foods." Needless to say, it didn't stick. So, this year, we decided to go back to something we tried out two years ago and have been thinking about ever since.

Bon Appetit's version:

our 2008 version:

our 2010 version:
Truth is, I've been thinking about remaking a lot of the early appetempts. Some of them are just plain jenkyOrange Polenta Cake, Mushroom Turnover, just to name a few. I'd like to think that for those early posts, the blog and I were still finding our voice and aesthetic. But there was one attempt that cast a large shadow over the others. It was the very first one, the first fail, the impossible cake that birthed Bon Appetempt. If I was going to move forward, I knew I'd have to deal with the past, and that meant retrying my hand at the Devil's Food Layer Cake with Peppermint Frosting.

Though the above slice looks a little anemic and isn't standing upright as we hoped (Wasn't gonna happen.), the cake as a whole survived. Even after we sliced it. (See below.)
Over the past two years, I had really built up the challenge that was this mega-cake. But on Christmas Eve, as I finally rolled up my sleeves and began the two-day process, I kept thinking of the advice Anne Lamott's father gave to her brother in her book, Bird by Bird. The title comes from an anecdote Lamott tells about her ten-year-old brother who had had three months to put together a massive book report on birds, but had only just begun working on it the day before it was due. He was frantic and stressed. And her dad's advice? "Just take it bird by bird."

After all, I was reminded, I had bird-by-birded this thing two years ago when I knew nothing about making cakes. And two years later, the behemoth came together quite nicely—the only real failing arriving when trying to plate the perfect slice for the photo. (It should be noted that the cake is enormous. It weighs about 15 lbs and is roughly the size of a microwave oven.)

Time will tell, but I have a feeling this tradition will stick. It's a major crowd-pleaser and putting it together is the sort of undertaking one looks forward to exactly once a year.

p.s. My Christmas iPad from Matt came in handy.
Happy Holidays! See you in the new year!

Recipe via Bon Appetit:

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 cups ice water

Dark chocolate ganache
1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
14 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

white chocolate cream

12 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), finely chopped
3 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons pure peppermint extract

peppermint frosting
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 large egg whites
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
Bittersweet chocolate curls



Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Dust pans with flour; tap out excess. Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in yolk. Add cocoa and beat until well blended. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with ice water in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating until just blended and smooth after each addition. Divide batter between prepared pans; smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks and cool completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil; store at room temperature.

Dark chocolate ganache
Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat; add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer to small bowl. Chill until firm enough to spread, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Before using, let stand at room temperature until soft enough to spread, about 30 minutes.
White chocolate cream
Place white chocolate in large heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup cream to simmer in saucepan. Pour hot cream over white chocolate. Let stand 1 minute; whisk until smooth. Whisk in extract. Cover; chill until mixture thickens and is cold, at least 4 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.

Add 2 cups chilled cream to white chocolate cream and beat until smooth and peaks form. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Rewhisk to thicken, if necessary, before using.

Using long serrated knife, cut each cake horizontally in half. Place 1 cake layer on platter, cut side up. Spread 1/3 of dark chocolate ganache over cake. Spoon 2 cups white chocolate cream in dollops over cake; spread evenly to edges. Top with second cake layer, cut side down; spread 1/3 of ganache over, then 2 cups white chocolate cream. Repeat with third cake layer, cut side up, remaining ganache, and remaining cream. Cover with fourth cake layer, cut side down. Chill while preparing frosting.
Peppermint frosting
Combine sugar, 1/2 cup water, egg whites, and corn syrup in large bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer. Whisk by hand to blend well. Set bowl with mixture over saucepan of gently simmering water; whisk constantly with hand whisk until mixture resembles marshmallow creme and ribbons form when whisk is lifted, 8 to 9 minutes. Whisk in peppermint extract. Remove bowl from over water and attach bowl to heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until mixture is barely warm to touch and very thick, 7 to 8 minutes.

Using offset spatula and working quickly, spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle chocolate curls over top and sides. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; chill.


greenbeenfood said...

oh wow fabulous! and love the ipad inclusion - would love one of those!

Danielle (elleinadspir) said...

Cheers to new traditions. I'm wishing we could ditch a bunch of ours and start fresh!

Danielle (elleinadspir) said...

Cheers to new traditions. I'm wishing we could ditch a bunch of ours and start fresh!

Andrea said...

Isn't Matt still Jewish? Just asking. :-)

Way to go on the cake!!! (And my oh my, those brussels sprouts look amazing. Did you know that brussels sprouts are my favorite?)

Sara said...

Happy holidays! I love the peppermint cake - looks delicious! It is so awesome to return to recipes that once gave you a headache and realize that now they don't feel so hard. :)

Amelia Morris said...

andrea: good point. making a little edit NOW. :)

Matthew said...

Having a piece of this cake every night is the highlight of my holidays!

Megan Taylor said...

love the booties! did you know sissy gave me a pair too!? xo

Mary Anne said...

Bravo! How much you've grown.....

Sunday Taylor said...

Amelia, you have definitely found your voice and your aesthetic. And that voice is witty, smart, charming and knowledgeable. I love your blog, it reminds me of when I was in my twenties, and Gourmet and Bon Appetit were the two giants of cooking and lifestyle magazines and we all worshipped them (reading every word) and cooked from them. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not! Anyway, thanks for the original and fresh voice and aesthetic that definitely stands out amongst all the "food magazines," online and in print. You remind me of Laurie Colwin. She used to write for Gourmet.

Amelia Morris said...

Sunday: that is so very nice to hear. Thank you so much! AND, as luck would have it, I just purchased Endless Feasts: 60 years of Writing from Gourmet and there is an essay by Laurie Colwin! It's called "A Harried Cook's Guide to Some Fast Food." I cannot wait!

jeana sohn said...

*awww. love sunday's sweet comment.

*ipad!!!! matt is good!!

*the cake looks so yummy and i love that you tried it again.

*bootie twins! i'm wearing mine now.

Anonymous said...

i want the cake and i want the kitty calendar on your wall!

you're awesome.

Marsha and Mark said...

Amelia, you and your blog certainly have found your voice and your aesthetic -- and they are spectacular.

Rachel said...

I second the cheers to new traditions - we are embarking on the blending of traditions and religions, too. although, less religious... more ritual. looking fwd to seeing how re-appetempts pan out!

Heather Taylor said...

how have i not commented on this yet? this is delightful, delicious and delectable looking in every way. loving take two although grateful for take one as it got the ball rolling. thank you my swan!!

Stephanie Niko said...

oh yum!! that cake looks so good.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and I've actually made that cake a few times and love it. One thing we did was decorate the outside with crushed candy canes. The first time I did it because my cake wouldn't stand up straight and that helped create an optical illusion, the second time it was just pretty.

One thing I will NEVER figure out how to do with that cake is cut pieces without it falling apart. I've made the cake three times and the second time learned not to just plop it on the buffet because everyone will destroy it which makes me sad. You HAVE to serve it, but even then I'm not sure how to get it right. So could you, ya know, figure that out for me?