Cakes Holidays

chocolate mint cake (otherwise known as candy cane cake)

Candy Cane Cake

This is an older post, originally posted in 2011, that I’m highlighting this December. My daughter and I were looking through old blog posts, trying to decide on a birthday dessert for her upcoming day, and she died laughing at how terrible the photos were for this post (they were pretty bad). So I remade the candy cane cake this week updating not only the photos, but the recipe as well. I’ve used peppermint candies here instead of candy canes (ground into sparkly dust in the food processor), and the chocolate cake from my cookbook. I also added some gold leaf just because, but it isn’t necessary.

Original post: This past week we celebrated my daughter’s birthday. The last two years I’ve let her ‘design’ her own cake, meaning she gets to pick colors and flavors and a basic theme, and I try to make something not quite as elaborate. Last year was a very vibrant purple cake , and I had assumed this year it would be something similar (or something worse – she had been eying those Barbie cakes at the grocery store). So I was slightly shocked, when after asking her, she yelled ‘A PINK CANDY CANE CAKE!’ But it all makes sense: pink is her favorite color, and she did get slightly teary-eyed when she discovered no one gave out candy canes at Halloween (for real. It was precious). So here it is in all it’s glory: a sparkly pink candy cane cake. She chose well – we were all in enamored with the chocolate and the mint, the creamy but not-too-sweet frosting, and those little tiny flecks of red.

Some other recipes you may enjoy: Triple Chocolate Peppermint Bark, Chocolate Ice Cream Cake with Chocolate Mint Meringue, Creme Fraiche Cheesecake with Mint Meringue, and Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Cake.

Candy Cane Cake

Candy Cane Cake

Chocolate Mint Cake (otherwise known as Candy Cane Cake)
Notes: Hot water can be substituted for the hot coffee. I like to crush my peppermint candies into sparkly dust – I hate biting to large pieces of hard candy on my cake, and this gives it a little crunch without breaking any teeth. However, if you prefer larger pieces, you can certainly use them. I use a mini food processor to crush them, but you could also put the candies in a ziplock bag and take a hammer to them (this does get messy, but it works!) I prefer mint extract over peppermint, but you can use either here. This makes quite a bit of buttercream, but I wanted to make sure you had enough for the crumb coat and decorating. If you do frost this cake right away after it cools, you will have quite a bit of crumbs. I like to make the cake layers the night before, wrap them in plastic, and freeze them, then I frost the cake cold and let it come to room temperature before serving. 


3 ounces [85g] bittersweet chocolate
1 cup freshly brewed coffee, hot
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup canola oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups [284g] all-purpose flour
2 cups [400g] granulated sugar
3/4 cup [75g] Dutch process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

mint buttercream
6 sticks [678g] unsalted butter, room temperature
Pinch salt
5 cups [565g] confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons pure mint extract, more or less to taste
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream
pink food coloring, optional
15 peppermint candies or 5 candy canes, crushed in a food processor (see note), for decorating
gold leaf, optional, for decorating

Preheat the oven to 350F [180C]. Butter and flour two 8 by 2-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Put the bittersweet chocolate in a small bowl. Pour the coffee over it and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the sour cream, milk, canola oil, eggs, and vanilla.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa poweder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt on low speed until combined. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the sour cream mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat until combined, 20 to 30 seconds.

Whisk the chocolate and coffee together until completely smooth. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour the coffee mixture into the batter and mix until just combined. Using a spatula, give the batter a couple of turns to make sure it is fully mixed.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, until a wooden skewer  or toothpick comes out with the tiniest bit of crumb.

Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, removed the parchment paper, and let cool completely. Once cool, the cakes can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated overnight or frosted.

For the buttercream
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter and salt on medium until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the confectioners’ sugar. Mix on low until combined and then beat on medium for 3 to 5 minutes, until creamy and smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the mint and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add a few drops of food coloring, if desired, and mix on low until it is completely incorporated. Add the heavy cream and mix on medium until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.

To assemble
Place one layer of the cake on a turntable or serving plate. With an offset spatula spread the top with 1 cup buttercream. Place the second layer on top and frost the cake as desired. Sprinkle the cake with the crushed candies. For the two tone buttercream, I made the frosting, took out 3/4 cup, added two drops of food coloring, and very gently swirled it, only until there were obviously stripes. I applied the crumb coat and frosted the cake with the straight pink frosting, and then embellished with the two tone buttercream. 

Candy Cane Cake

  • Reply
    Tuesday, November 30, 2021 at 11:51 pm

    Can this recipe be converted to cupcakes? I want to make this & take it to a Christmas potluck!

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Saturday, January 8, 2022 at 6:42 pm

      This batter bakes up for cupcakes, but it will have a flat top vs a domed top. You also want to fill the cupcake liners just a little more than half; any more and the batter will spill over as it bakes.

  • Reply
    Andrew Paul
    Wednesday, August 18, 2021 at 2:33 am

    Thank you for this wonderful recipe dear , i definitely prepare this at home and spread sweetness

  • Reply
    Ronak Mehta
    Tuesday, September 15, 2020 at 1:30 am

    Thank you for sharing this delightfully easy, mouthwateringly delicious recipe. Have baked this cake several times since I first tried it a few weeks back and it’s been a huge success each time!

  • Reply
    Luna @ Healthy Kitchen 101
    Friday, July 17, 2020 at 10:49 pm

    I really like the way you decorate the frosting. It’s so naturally gorgeous!

  • Reply
    Tuesday, February 25, 2020 at 11:39 am

    Oh. My. Gosh. This candy cane cake looks sooo dreamy! The color of it is just amazing! I’m definitely saving the recipe for later.
    Many thanks for the utterly fabulous recipes! I’m a real fan of what you do. You’ve created a brilliant blog. Keep up the good work! <3

    Best wishes,

  • Reply
    Monday, December 23, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    Help? Ok – cake part came out great but I am confused about the frosting directions. When do you add the crushed peppermint candies? Does it go onto the frosting or is it strictly for garnishing? And why, in the frosting ingredients, are there 2 listings for vanilla – one for vanilla, and one for a different amount of vanilla extract? No mention of when they are both used, just one instruction for adding vanilla.

    • Reply
      Monday, December 23, 2019 at 6:08 pm

      Sorry about that! The extra vanilla is a typo. I changed it in the recipe. If you did use the extra amount it won’t hurt anything, and still taste good.:) I just use the crushed candies for sprinkling on top, but if you really like mint, you can spinkle it in between the layers as well – totally up to you.

  • Reply
    Monday, December 23, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Just about to make the buttercream and I see that vanilla is mentioned twice in the ingredient list. Did you mean for one to be creme de menthe? Also as you are calling it chocolate mint cake should there be mint in the cake? This will be our Christmas Eve cake.

    • Reply
      Monday, December 23, 2019 at 6:09 pm

      Sorry about that! The extra vanilla is a typo. I changed it in the recipe. If you did use the extra amount it won’t hurt anything, and still taste good.:) I just put mint in the buttercream, but if you really like mint, you could add 1 teaspoon mint extract to the cake as well.

  • Reply
    Friday, December 20, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    This looks wonderful. I would like to t make it for Christmas dinner dessert. Do you have to store it in the fridge or can it stay on the counter? Many thanks.

    • Reply
      Monday, December 23, 2019 at 6:21 pm

      I would store the frosted cake in the fridge, but pull it out an hour or two before serving and serve it at room temperature (that way the buttercream won’t be hard).

  • Reply
    Monday, December 16, 2019 at 3:15 am

    This is one of the best blogs I have read on this topic.

  • Reply
    Jessi Cross
    Saturday, December 14, 2019 at 8:28 am

    This looks amazing!
    I’m a huge fan and I’ve baked about 75% of the recipes from your VBB Book. I will be baking a wedding cake for my brother and soon to be sister in-law, for June 2020, and I was wondering if you have a favorite book or site for wedding cake recipes/advice.

  • Reply
    Friday, December 13, 2019 at 7:37 am

    This cake is gorgeous, Sarah, I can’t get over that lovely pink frosting! And your daughter is too cute, haha. xoxo!

  • Reply
    Karen Brooks
    Thursday, December 22, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Looks spectacular! I will definitely bake this cake!! I love anything peppermint and candy cane!!

  • Reply
    Kelsey G.
    Sunday, December 28, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    This is mouthwatering and SO beautiful. Thanks for sharing!!

    ~ ~

  • Reply
    Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    You need two 9″ pan or 3 8″pans, I used two 8″ and it spilled over.

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      I’m sorry you had trouble with this! I’ve been making this cake for years in two 8 inch pans and never had it spill over. The original recipe from the Barefoot Contessa also calls for 8 inch pans.

  • Reply
    Friday, December 16, 2011 at 4:43 am

    [Insert audible gasp] This looks so good!!

  • Reply
    Averie (Love Veggies and Yoga)
    Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I found you linked from Matt’s post…he is such an amazing person. I took a workshop with him last year and I live in San Diego…and was reading about your past and the Blue Heron Cafe. You lived in MN! I grew up in MN and a part of me will be that midwestern small town girl even though life in CA is wayyy different. Beautiful food and recipes you have!

  • Reply
    Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    oh geez.

  • Reply
    Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    I’m totally making this for Christmas. Although mine will not look as beautiful as yours! It’s so pretty!!

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