Merry Holiday Chocolate Peppermint Layer Cake

Holiday Chocolate Peppermint Layer Cake. Gluten and dairy-free. Crazy good cake.

When I first proposed this combination for a layer cake someone (who would not be me) said that fluffy peppermint frosting might be too festive for such a plain chocolate cake.  Like a perfectly plain chocolate cake can’t stand up to fluffy frosting (said no one ever).  

Just to show the bossypants that chocolate cake can hold up to any amount of fluffy peppermint frosting, I made a few of these layer cakes. You know. To prove the point a few times more than necessary. I did  learn a few useful things that might come in handy.

Really, really tall cakes (no matter how much you trying to impress someone) are adorably whimsical but if they don’t fit under the cake dome they can get stale really fast. And that is sad. You cannot wrap  fluffy frosting in anything so it has to go under a cake dome. Or you just have to eat the whole cake all at once.

And who knew that crushed candy cane melts soon after it hits frosting? Not me.

Heck, I also learned that candy canes melt if they get too old. I saved some fancy schmancy Hammond’s from late last year thinking they were like candy corn – good for 50 years. Turns out not quite. They pretty much dissolved in their wrapper. Creepy candy canes is what they were. Science projects. Let that be a lesson. Candy corn = 50 year shelf life. Candy cane = less than a year.

I digress. Back to cake.

The cake layers should bake without a dome but if they do, no worries. Place the first layer upside down on the cake plate and press down gently. Genius, huh? The top is now flat.

Add the icing, being sure to pile it up more in the center of the layer. Place the 2nd layer, dome side up and you’ve managed to make the center flat. Press down again just until you see the icing start to creep out of the layer from the center (think making sandwich cookies). That way you can be sure there is solid frosting between the layers and no air pockets. Frost the sides of the cake and make sure you add a little extra to the top just because you can.

The simplest way to create a festive looking cake is to create a decorative pattern with the icing. Use a fork and barely touching the icing, make vertical lines. Or use a butter knife or an offset spatula – even a spoon will work and make wide lines on the surface of the frosting. Fluff the top into little puffs by making concentric swirls with the spoon, knife or offset spatula. If piping is your thing, go for it.

There might be a touch of leftover frosting. It would make a terrific filling for whoopie pies or sandwich cookies (click on the index for ideas). Or just get a spoon and you know, eat the stuff. I even shared with bossypants who never made that silly remark again about chocolate cake.

Tis the season for merriment and really crazy fun baked stuff. Stay tuned.

PS – need a gift idea for your other GF peeps? Coming up – some of our favorite GF books and things.

Meantime. Cake. Chocolate Peppermint.

Holiday Chocolate Peppermint Layer Cake. Gluten and dairy-free. Crazy good cake.

Merry Holiday Chocolate Peppermint Layer Cake
Chocolate Cake
  • 50 grams Hershey’s dark unsweetened cocoa (1/2 cup)
  • 220 grams water, boiling (1 cup)
  • 80 grams olive oil (4 tablespoons)
  • 120 grams Spectrum organic shortening (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 300 grams granulated or superfine sugar (1 ½ cup, divided)
  • 2 extra large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 extra large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 260 grams Canteen flour blend (2 cups) (see notes)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Fluffy Peppermint Frosting
  • 400 grams granulated sugar (2 cups)
  • 55 grams water (1/4 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup (optional, though important)
  • 5 extra large egg whites, room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 30 grams powdered sugar, sifted (1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons pure peppermint extract
  • 2-4 tablespoons candy cane, crushed or holiday coarse sugar
Chocolate Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans and line bottom with parchment paper. Grease parchment paper.
  2. Pour boiling water over cocoa in a small heat-proof bowl and whisk until the mixture is smooth and forms a slurry (it might not be thick which is fine). Let cool.
  3. Using a mixer, beat oil, shortening, 150 grams of sugar (3/4 cup) until very light and fluffy- about 4 minutes. Don’t skimp on this step because the cake will rely on the fats and sugar becoming emulsified and fluffy (think: looks like mayonnaise). Add eggs one at a time until blended and keep mixing on medium-high so the mixture looks even more fluffy. Add vanilla extract.
  4. In a small bowl whisk together remaining sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add in the flour mixture and cocoa alternately to the egg mixture beating on low. Make sure everything is well incorporated, scraping down the sides and bottom and making sure the batter is light and fluffy.
  5. Divide evenly into each prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes or just until a toothpick comes out without crumbs. The cake layers should be relatively flat and not cracked on top. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then invert onto clean parchment paper on a rack to cool completely before frosting.
Fluffy Frosting
  1. In a deep sauce pan heat the water with the sugar and the corn syrup without stirring until the mixture reaches 230° on a heat proof thermometer. The actual temperature is not important as long as it is between 225°F and 240°F.
  2. While that is heating, whip the whites with the cream of tartar and salt on high speed until it forms peaks but be careful that the peaks don’t separate or look dry. Stop before that – depending on how powerful your mixer is that could take one to two minutes.
  3. Once the sugar mixture is the right temperature, very carefully (because it is ridiculously hot!) pour it over the egg whites while the mixer is on high, a little at a time – think slow stream. Keep whipping it together until the mixture looks huge and glossy which should not take long. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla and peppermint extracts. Whip for 2-3 minutes and when the bottom of the bowl is just warm enough to touch, get ready to spread the icing.
  4. If at any time you find the frosting starting to set-up in the bowl use a whisk to blend it so it smooths out. Works every time.
  5. Place one layer on a cake plate. Apply a layer of frosting and use a generous amount in the center. Add the next layer and press slightly to adhere and center it. Apply more icing (whisking what is in the bowl as needed to keep it smooth). Use a cake scraper or a fork to apply a design if you wish.
  6. Top with crushed peppermint candy canes right before serving for the best result (candy canes melt if left too long on the frosting). Or sprinkle with holiday coarse sugar or even sprinkles. Best served the same day.
Canteen flour blend is 2 parts superfine brown rice flour plus 1 part each superfine white rice flour and tapioca flour by weight. See About Flour or Resources: Flour for more information.

Holiday Chocolate Peppermint Layer Cake. Gluten and dairy-free. Crazy good cake.



  1. Thank you for this recipe. I don’t use xanthan or guar gums and I was shocked that you can bake a cake with out them. Can’t wait to try this recipe!!

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi Jo Ann. Yep. You can. I’ve been baking without gums for a long time and most of the recipes don’t contain any. However, some recipes just need that extra little help, like breads, but I use as little as necessary. But generally, no gums in most of the cakes, cookies, pastry. Enjoy!

  2. Do you think this cake will work with standard or cake flour instead? It’s hard to find tapioca flour where I live…

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi, Ellie. Not sure what you mean. Regular gluten cake flour? Or other GF flour mixes? If you mean regular gluten based flour, you’d have to experiment because it was formulated for GF flours. If you mean some other starch other than tapioca, first try to look for cassava root flour (another name for tapioca). Otherwise, try arrowroot or cornstarch in place of the tapioca portion. I’m afraid we don’t use either starch so I am not certain how it would taste, but it should be fairly close if not just about the same.

  3. Interesting that you would use olive oil in a cake. I would probably use grapeseed oil.

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi, Deb. Although I haven’t used it, grapeseed should work. The idea is to use an oil that will help emulsify the eggs which olive oil does. Since grapeseed does that, too I am guessing it would also be a good choice. Enjoy!

  4. Slightly off the subject but I had to mention my library not only accepted and catalogued your cookbook that I donated but I saw they also catalogued an e-book for the patrons. Guess they like your cookbook as much as I like the one I purchased for myself.

    Having said that just wanted to add this one looks perfect for my gardener and her son for their Christmas gift! Can’t wait to make it!!

  5. Hi, I was wondering if you could make this cake one day in advance?
    If you can how would I store it?
    Thank you so much for all of you recipes, we love them!

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi, April. This cake is best served on the day it is made. The frosting is not its best the 2nd day. But you might be able to bake the chocolate cake layers the day before and frost them the next day. I’m afraid I haven’t tried it so you’ll have to experiment. Once the cake layers are cool I would probably put a piece of parchment on the top and bottom and then wrap it securely in plastic wrap. I’d refrigerate it and bring the cake layers to room temperature the next day before adding the frosting. Hope that helps. And thanks for the kind comment about the recipes. Appreciate that!

  6. I just made this delicious cake for a party tonight. The icing tastes amazing, however, mine was runny and goopy, not fluffy at all like yours. I ended up pouring it over the top and let it run over the sides. Doesn’t look as pretty, but I’m sure it’ll taste EXCELLENT!! Did I not whip it long enough? Or let it cool?

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi, Jeanette – Yep. that can happen. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when making egg white frosting. Be sure to whip those egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt (before adding the hot sugar mixture) until they form peaks but before they get that haggard dry peak, separated look. They should be very white and fluffy but not yet shiny and glossy (the addition of the sugar does that). Then while the machine is still whipping the whites, add the hot sugar mixture very very slowly in a small stream down the side of the bowl (so you avoid it catching on the wire whisk and having it splash out – it is very hot) and keep whipping on high. The heated sugar mixture goes in while very hot and the egg whites are room temperature. The whites plus sugar will form very glossy, high white peaks and begin to look like marshmallow – which means it is getting pretty stiff. If it comes out too thin and liquidy then you might try whipping it longer. Then add the powdered sugar, vanilla and peppermint and whip just until it is combined. So two key things. The whites (without the hot sugar) must look like whipped whites first before adding the sugar. And keep whipping on high while adding the hot hot sugar mixture slowly and make sure the hot sugar mixture has reached the temperature range indicated in the recipe. Keep whipping until it gets to stiff peaks and looks like marshmallow. Hope that helps.

  7. Nevermind, I reloaded the page by coming at it through facebook and that solved the problem. This will make a delicious appearance on our table tomorrow. Thanks so much!

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Glad you were able to get to the page. Having a bit of trouble with an update. Enjoy the cake!


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