If I could bake just one thing during the holiday season, it would be this coffee-spiked chocolate cake topped with a sea of crushed peppermint candies. It's a humble cake that couldn't be easier to whip up on a weeknight. It has a balanced richness and a pillowy-soft texture, and it's right at home everywhere from holiday parties to book club.
Bloom cocoa powder for a bigger chocolate flavor
Blooming cocoa powder is a technique used twice in this recipe: once in the cake and again when making the frosting. For the deepest, richest chocolate flavor possible, cocoa powder is bloomed with hot coffee when preparing the cake batter. Coffee is excellent at enhancing chocolate's flavor.
What it means to bloom cocoa powder
When cocoa powder is "bloomed" it's mixed with a hot liquid, stirred well to break up any lumps, and then left to sit for a minute or two. The cocoa powder dissolves, which thickens the liquid and releases flavor particles within the powder. This technique brings out the best in cocoa powder and unleashes its ultra-chocolatey potential.
Peppermint Mocha Snack Cake
Makes 1 (9-inch-by-13-inch) cake
Serves 12 to 15
For the cake:
Cooking spray or butter
3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 cup black coffee, hot
2 cups granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole or 2 percent milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the frosting:
1/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup whole or 2 percent milk
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup finely crushed peppermint candies (12 to 15)
Make the cake: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 325 F. Generously coat a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray or butter; set aside.
Place the cocoa powder in a medium heatproof bowl. Add the coffee, and whisk until smooth; set aside.
Place the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and whisk to combine. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the cocoa mixture and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute more. The batter will be thin. Transfer the batter to the baking dish.
Bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the baking dish, and bake until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 20 to 30 minutes more. Remove the pan to a wire rack and let cool until warm to the touch, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, make the frosting.
Make the frosting: Place the cocoa powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Add the butter, and whisk until dissolved. Add milk and peppermint extract. Turn the mixer to low speed, and slowly add the powdered sugar. Once incorporated, increase the speed to medium and mix until smooth and creamy.
Spread the frosting in an even layer on the cake. Sprinkle with the crushed peppermint candies.
Recipe notes: Leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to three days.