Candy Cane Cocktail Cake

About a year ago, I had my first encounter with Godiva's white chocolate liqueur...

...and I’m STILL obsessed with it, especially around Christmastime! 

I also love peppermint schnapps, but the sharpness of the peppermint definitely needs some tempering (otherwise it feels like a peppermint stab to the sinuses. No thank you). The combination of the white chocolate liqueur and peppermint schnapps in these red marbled cake layers was to DIE for! Recipe below!

Candy Cane Cake Layers:
1 French Vanilla boxed cake mix
½ cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks) melted & cooled
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (or buttermilk powder with water is an option if you can’t find liquid buttermilk at your grocery store!)
4 eggs
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
Few drops of liquid red food color
Melt butter and allow to cool slightly (so it doesn’t cook your eggs when you add them!) Whisk in buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract, and whisk in cake mix for 2-3 minutes until well combined.

(An alternate option if you don’t want to use a boxed mix – a half batch of my favorite Vanilla Cake Layer recipe!  
Note - this is a slightly-simplified layer cake recipe from ChelSweets.com - I highly recommend checking out her site if you haven't before; it's amazing!! 
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup  granulated sugar
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
½  teaspoon  salt
½ cup unsalted butter (or 1 stick) room temperature
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
3 eggs 
¾  cups buttermilk, room temperature (or buttermilk powder with water is an option if you can’t find liquid buttermilk at your grocery store!)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Few drops of liquid red food color

Instructions: 
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 6-inch cake pans with parchment rounds, and /or grease with non-stick or baker’s floured cooking spray. 
(For scratch cake recipe:) Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined. 
Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly. 
Pour in eggs and mix on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds. )

Whichever recipe you choose – when your batter is prepared, divide it evenly evenly between the prepared cake pans (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part). This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height. Add a few drops of red food color to each pan, and marble it in with a knife or offset spatula.

Bake for 28-35 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Allow cake layers to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack before removing from pans – it helps to run an offset spatula or knife around the perimeter of the pan first. Cool completely before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.

Once the layers have fully cooled, the caramelized bits can be trimmed from the sides / top of the cake using a serrated knife if desired. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart.

This is a great time to make your frosting!

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:  
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
6-7 c powdered sugar 
2-4 Tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1/4 t. salt (if using unsalted butter)
(Save and add later!) 3-4 drops Americolor red gel food color
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt if needed and beat until well combined.
Remove about 1 cup of frosting from the bowl and color with the red gel color – you’ll use this in a bit for decorating!

Additional Supplies/Equipment:
- Squeeze bottle OR jigger (I used one from my Nau mixology set) to add liqueurs to the cake layers
- ¼ cup each Peppermint Schnapps (I used Rumplemintz) and Godiva white chocolate liqueur
- 1 7- or 8-inch cardboard cake circle (I prefer Wilton’s center-punched circles)
- Small piping bag + small round tip (to pipe the frosting to make stripes) – this set has been one of my favorites!
- Large piping bag & tip – I use this set of reusable large bags & tips more than almost any of my others!
- about 1 cup crushed peppermint candy or candy canes
- bit of Crisco (vegetable shortening) – to add the peppermint candy stripe to the cake 
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, large offset spatula, and pastry cutter/bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! (Here’s a link to the cake turntable I use)
- Cake comb (if you want to add stripes) – I used the ‘Two Tone Random Stripe Contour Comb’ from this set!
- Two mini candy canes – if you want to add a ‘heart’ to the top of your cake!

Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle. Use a squeeze bottle (or jigger like I used) to infuse each layer with about 2 Tablespoons of a 1:1 mixture of peppermint schnapps and white chocolate liqueur. Spread the layer with frosting, and sprinkle a bit of crushed peppermint candy over the frosting. Place your next cake layer on top, and repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.
Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like – spreading a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer. I usually do this with my large offset spatula.
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Once the frosting is mostly smooth, work your way around the cake several times with the textured cake comb, until the stripes are smooth and even. Place it into the fridge or freezer to set the frosting and chill the cake before adding the stripes!

Now the fun part – stripes!  Transfer some red frosting to a small piping bag with a small round tip, and fill the small gaps left by the cake comb with red frosting. Over-filling a bit is fine, and actually makes the smoothing process easier. Turn the cake comb to the smooth side, and run it around the cake until the stripes appear smooth – work gently; you don’t want to scrape off all the stripes! This is where having the cake well-chilled is helpful; it makes it easier to smooth the stripes without scraping them off.
Now to finish decorating! Transfer the rest of the red frosting to a large piping bag fitted with a star tip, and pipe a rim of large frosting swirls around the top of the cake – I alternated large swirls and slightly smaller stars. Sprinkle crushed peppermint candy over the frosting swirls and around the cake base, pressing them gently into the frosting around the base. Place two mini candy canes together to form a ‘heart’ in the center of the cake if desired!

Stand back and congratulate yourself – and enjoy!

Make this recipe? Let me know how it went - or find me on Pinterest or on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!

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