Peppermint candy cane cake
Surprise guests with Martha Collison’s alternative Christmas cake. The reverse creaming method creates a sponge that stays moist for days, so you can get ahead.
- Prepare1 hr 30 mins
- Cook30 mins
- Total time2 hrs
For the sponge
- 120g unsalted butter, cold, plus extra for greasing
- 375g caster sugar
- 300g plain flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 250ml whole milk
- 3 British Blacktail Free Range Medium Eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the meringue buttercream
- 5 British Blacktail Free Range Medium Egg whites
- 275g caster sugar
- 325g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
- 1 tsp Cooks’ Ingredients Peppermint Extract
- 19g tube Cooks’ Ingredients Red Gel Colouring
- 5 candy canes (preferably red and white), to decorate
Preheat the oven to 170ºC, gas mark 3. Grease and line 3 x 18cm round sandwich tins with baking parchment.
Place the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on low, until all the butter is rubbed into the dry mixture and it has a sandy texture. You could do this by hand, rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients, as if making pastry.
In a jug, beat together the milk, eggs and vanilla. Gradually, with the mixer running, pour the mixture down the side of the dry ingredients bowl and beat until everything is mixed together. When all the liquid has been added, beat on a high speed for 2 minutes, until well combined and smooth. If doing this by hand, use an electric hand mixer. Divide the batter between the prepared tins and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown, risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
For the buttercream, place the egg whites into a large bowl, or the cleaned bowl of the stand mixer. Combine the sugar and 125ml water in a small saucepan and set over a low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then bring the syrup up to a simmer. Use a sugar thermometer to monitor the temperature.
When the sugar syrup reaches 110ºC, start whisking the egg whites at speed so they form stiff peaks. When the syrup reaches 118ºC (the soft ball stage), remove from the heat and slowly pour into the egg whites, whisking all the time. Continue to whisk for 5 minutes, beating until the meringue is glossy and the outside of the bowl feels cool to the touch.
Add the butter, chunk by chunk, whisking between each addition until incorporated and the buttercream is smooth. It is likely to look curdled at some point, but persist with whisking and it will come together. Add the peppermint extract and beat well.
Spoon 1/3 of the icing into a small bowl and add enough red food colouring to turn it a bold crimson colour. Put a plain 0.5-1cm piping nozzle into 2 piping bags. Transfer the red buttercream into one bag, and spoon the white into the other.
Place the first sponge onto a serving plate or cake board, then pipe a spiral of red buttercream, starting at the centre and leaving an equal-sized gap in the spiral to fill with white buttercream. Fill the gaps with white buttercream, then stack the second sponge on top and repeat. Top with the final cake.
Cover the cake with a thin layer of buttercream to trap any crumbs, then chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, roughly crush the candy canes in a mini food processor, or place into a food bag and bash with a rolling pin.
Use a palette knife and a scraper to cover and smooth over the entire cake with the remaining buttercream. Pipe pea-sized dots of buttercream around the bottom of the cake where it meets the plate, and around the top edge too. Sprinkle a border of crushed candy around the top or the base of the cake (or both), leaving the piped dots and the middle area clear, to finish.
You may have a little buttercream left over, as for a professional-looking cake you need to have the freedom to scrape excess icing from the sides for clean, crisp edges. Don’t throw it away – you can use it to sandwich together cookies, or to decorate cupcakes. It also freezes well in a food bag (defrost and beat thoroughly before using).
Using the reverse creaming method creates a cake that stays moist for several days, but you can get ahead even further by freezing the sponges for up to 3 months. Wrap well before freezing, and defrost before decorating.
If you’re more of a chocolate lover, peppermint is a spectacular flavour match. Why not make half the Italian meringue icing specified to use for the filling, but cover the cake in chocolate ganache instead?
Typical values per serving when made using specific products in recipe