Candy Cane Cake Layers:
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!!
3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks) room temperature
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1 cup egg whites (About 7-8 eggs depending on size, or you can use egg whites from a carton to avoid wasting the yolks!)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature (or buttermilk powder with water is an option if you can’t find liquid buttermilk at your grocery store!)
1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil
Save and add later: 6-9 tablespoons crushed peppermint candy (If you live anywhere near a Winco Foods store, I found it in bulk there!)
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 peppermint extract 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.
Divide batter 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. Sprinkle 2-3 Tablespoons of crushed peppermint candy over each pan, and marble it in with a knife or offset spatula.
Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8-inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7-inch cake pans (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 + 3-4 drips Americolor leaf green gel food color
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add peppermint extract and salt if needed and beat until well combined.
Remove about ¾ cup frosting from the bowl and mix in your red gel food color; you’ll use this to pipe the border around the top of the cake! Add green food color to about another 1/4-1/3 cup of frosting; you just need a bit to pipe the outline of your tree!
- 1 8- or 10 -inch cardboard cake circle (I prefer Wilton’s center-punched circles)
- Small piping bag & small star tip – this set has been one of my favorites!
- Large piping bag & large star tip – I use this set of reusable large bags & tips more than almost any of my others!
- about ½ cup crushed peppermint candy or candy canes
- Parchment paper
- Pencil + scissors + printable clip art (or hand-drawn) Christmas tree outline shape (to make your stencil) – I used this one
- Green candy melts and whipping cream for the drip (recipe below!)
- Small offset spatula
- Sprinkle mix of your choice! (I used Sweetapolita’s ‘Christmas Crackers,’ but this Sprinkle Blend from ManVCakes is pretty similar!)
- bit of Crisco (vegetable shortening) – to add sprinkles to the drip
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. 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. Place it into the fridge or freezer to set the frosting and chill the cake before adding the sprinkle tree and the drip!
Now the fun part – the stencil! Cut about a foot or parchment paper, and with the paper held next to the cake, place the Christmas tree outline where you want it on the parchment paper. Trace the tree onto the parchment paper, and cut it out with the scissors.
Adding the sprinkles will be a bit messy, so it’s probably best to set your cake in a baking tray or pan, but take a small handful of sprinkles and press them into the frosting left uncovered by the stencil. I found I had to make several passes to get the frosting as covered as I wanted, and I hand-placed a lot of the larger sprinkles to get them evenly spaced. Once you’re happy with the look of the tree, carefully peel away the parchment paper stencil. Transfer your green frosting to your small piping bag, and add an outline around the tree edge to give it more definition.
Candy Melt Drip:
- 4 oz green candy melts (I used the Wilton brand green)
- 2 ½ Tablespoons heavy whipping cream (the brand I usually use comes from Costco and is incredibly thick; you may need a bit less depending on the thickness of your heavy cream!)
This recipe is very similar to my white chocolate ganache recipe – you’re basically using candy melts instead of white chocolate to make a very similar drip ganache. Place heavy cream and candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on 50% power in 30-second intervals until smooth, stirring in between.
I usually find a squeeze bottle or piping bag work the best for this ganache, but I’ve used a spoon for similar drips before.
When your candy melt mix has cooled to a moderate temperature – it should feel slightly warm and still be fairly liquid – transfer it to a squeeze bottle or piping or small ziplock bag. A spoon will work if you don’t have either of those; I’ve just found spoons to be a little bit more difficult to work with.
Slowly drizzle ganache around the upper edge of your cake, pausing every inch or so to let more fall in a drip down the side of the cake. I had to stick with very small drips close to the tree! Add the rest of the mix to the top of the cake and smooth (and texture if desired) with a small offset spatula.
When the drips have set slightly, get a bit of shortening on your finger and add sprinkles to your drip. As long as the drip’s not set too firmly, the sprinkles will stick to your finger just well enough to transfer to the drip!
Now to finish decorating! Transfer the rest of the red frosting to a large piping bag fitted with a star tip, and pipe a circular border of frosting around the top of the cake. Add some more sprinkles over the frosting border and around the cake base, pressing them gently into the frosting around the base.
Stand back and congratulate yourself – and enjoy!