This might very well be the ultimate Christmas cake. With melt-in-the-mouth chocolate sponges, fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream frosting, a luscious chocolate ganache drip and a small forest of candy canes on top… this candy cane cake is dressed to impress.
3 1/3cups(400 g) plain gluten free flour blend(I've used a simple store-bought blend containing only rice, potato and maize flours, with no added xanthan gum)
2/3cup(85 g) cocoa powder
2 1/4tspbaking powder
2 1/4tspbaking soda
2 1/4cups(450 g) granulated sugar
3mediumeggs, room temperature
1 1/2cups+ 1 tbsp (375 mL) milk, room temperature
3/4cup+ 1/2 tbsp (187 mL) vegetable oil
1 1/2cup+ 1 tbsp (375 mL) boiling hot water
For Swiss meringue buttercream:
2cups(400 g) granulated sugar
1/4tspcream of tartar
4sticks(450 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1tspvanilla paste(or peppermint extract, or other extract/flavouring of choice)
red food colouring, preferably in gel form
For chocolate ganache drip:
2oz(3/8 cup, 57 g) finely chopped dark chocolate
3/8cup+ 1 tbsp (87 mL) double/heavy cream
7oz(200 g) white chocolate, melted
candy canes and other red&white candy of choice
For chocolate sponges:
Pre-heat the oven to 355 ºF (180 ºC) and line three 6 inch (15 cm) round cake pans with greaseproof/baking paper.
In a large bowl, sift together the gluten free flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder.
Add the granulated sugar and salt, and whisk well.
Add the eggs, milk and vegetable/sunflower oil. Whisk well, until you get a smooth cake batter.
Add the boiling hot water, and whisk until you get a runny cake batter with no lumps.
Evenly distribute the cake batter between the two lined cake pans, and bake in the pre-heated oven at 355 ºF (180 ºC) for about 45 minutes or until spongy to the touch and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool.
For Swiss meringue buttercream:
Mix the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a heat-proof bowl, and set the bowl above a pot of simmering water.
Heat the meringue mixture with constant stirring until it reaches 150 ºF (65 ºC) and the sugar has melted.
Transfer the heated meringue mixture into a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (or use a hand mixer with the double beater attachment) and whisk the mixture for 5 - 7 minutes, until it reaches room temperature and forms glossy peaks. Do not over-whisk as you can lose some of the fluffiness. (NOTE: The meringue must be at room temperature before you start adding the butter – otherwise, you'll get a soup and not a deliciously fluffy buttercream!)
Add the butter, 1 - 2 tbsp at a time, while constantly whisking/beating at medium speed. If using a stand mixer, I prefer to switch to a paddle attachment for this step.
Continue until you've used up all the butter.The buttercream will probably look like it's split at some stage (or it might become very runny, almost "soupy") – don't worry, that's normal. Just continue adding the butter and whisking/beating. The buttercream will eventually become velvety smooth. Be careful not to over-beat it, though – you will lose the air (and fluffiness) from the original meringue!
Add the salt and flavouring of choice, and whisk/beat briefly until evenly incorporated.
Separate the buttercream into three equal parts. Colour one part a vibrant red colour – if it seems too light, add a sprinkling of cocoa powder to get a deeper red colour.
For chocolate ganache drip:
Place the chopped dark chocolate into a heat-proof bowl. Heat the double/heavy cream until only just boiling (either on the stove or in the microwave), then pour it over the chocolate.
Allow to stand for 2 - 3 minutes, then stir well until you get a smooth glossy ganache.
Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
To make the peppermint bark, spread the white chocolate on a baking sheet covered with cling film or aluminium foil, and sprinkle it evenly with crushed candy canes. Allow to set either at room temperature or in the fridge/freezer.
Set some of the crushed candy canes aside (or crush some more if you've used them all up for the peppermint bark) for the "collar" around the bottom of the cake.
Assembling the cake:
Place the bottom cake/sponge layer on the cake stand of choice. Pipe concentric circles of alternating white and red buttercream on top of the sponge.
Place the other sponge on top and repeat, creating the opposite colour pattern to the one below (if red is the outermost colour in the bottom layer, start with white this time – see post for pictures).
Place the final sponge layer on top. Frost the outside of the cake with the remaining white buttercream, creating an even smooth layer.If your buttercream isn't perfectly smooth, you can use a cake smoother (metal bench scraper) dipped in hot water (and dried) to create a super smooth surface by "melting" the outermost buttercream. Do this gently – you want to smooth away any imperfections, not completely melt your frosting.
Chill the cake in the fridge for about 1 hour.
Once chilled, decorate the bottom third of the cake with the crushed candy canes.
Check the consistency of the chocolate ganache. It should be runny enough to drip, but not too hot (otherwise it will melt the buttercream). If it's too thick, heat it up briefly in the microwave.For the easiest (and prettiest) drip, transfer the chocolate ganache into a squeeze bottle.Create the chocolate drip: first allow the chocolate ganache to gently run down the sides, then fill out the top of the cake by drizzling on more ganache and smoothing it out with an offset spatula.
Break up the peppermint bark (or cut in into neat triangles), and use it and the other candy of choice to decorate the top of the cake.NOTE: The candy can go soft and sticky after a while – I recommend putting it onto the cake just before serving, or just before it's about to be "unveiled".
That's it! Enjoy!
The cake keeps well in a closed container or wrapped in cling film, in the fridge for 3 - 4 days.
Recipe by The Loopy Whisk (www.theloopywhisk.com).