Ugly Sweater 2.0

Chocolate Mocha Cake ft. Peppermint Frosting + Chocolate Peppermint Ganache

This year's holiday remix is a redux of last year's Ugly Sweater remix, since there are surely infinite ways to don an ugly sweater. I went with an argyle pattern this year, using a diamond paper template as my guide, though this one came in a close second place for inspiration. There's always next year...

If your holiday isn't defined by the Ugly Sweater and the parties that go with it, then perhaps it is defined by the Starbucks Peppermint Mocha and the ubiquitous red cups which go with that. This remix is made of a rich coffee-and-chocolate mocha cake, a fresh peppermint frosting (made with melted candy canes - or you can use peppermint extract), and coated with a peppermint ganache.

I made the ganache with red chocolate and not the red candy melts (which do not mix well with liquids). You can heat the red candy melts and simply pour on the cake to coat - just leave out the other ingredients. If you use chocolate (dark, white, etc), add the peppermint syrup and heavy cream to make the ganache and then whip with the powdered sugar and milk to create a fluffier frosting to spread on the cake.

The history of the candy cane originates in 17th century Germany when a choirmaster requested candy  sticks be produced and given to children as a twofer - to keep them occupied during the worship service and as a symbol of the shepherd's canes at the birth of Jesus. Eventually the peppermint flavor and stripes were added, and now candy canes are mass-produced in flavors based on other candy and for the more daring: in pickle, Sriracha, and bacon flavors.

This remix relies on the traditional peppermint candy cane and is by far one of the easiest and most festive cake/frosting combinations. Just crush some candy canes to garnish, pop in that Mariah Carey song, and you're ready to deck some halls. 

chocolate mocha cake
1 box chocolate cake mix
4 oz. chocolate pudding mix
4 eggs
1 c. strongly brewed coffee
1/3 c. vegetable oil
Brew a pot of coffee and let cool to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, sift cake mix and dry pudding mix together. In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs together and then use a mixer to beat in coffee and oil for 1 minute on low.  Slowly add dry mix into the large bowl, beating well after each addition. 

Slowly add in cake mix, beating well after each addition. Pour batter into greased cake pans until each is 2/3 of the way full and bake for 30-35 minutes. Use a toothpick to check doneness - if the toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cakes, remove from oven and set on cooling rack.

peppermint syrup
3-4 candy canes
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
Heat sugar and water in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-high heat, and once boiling, add candy canes. Keep stirring to keep from mixture from sticking. Once candy canes have completely dissolved and thick syrup has formed (mixture has reduced to half the original amount), remove from heat and let mixture cool.

peppermint frosting
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
4 c. powdered sugar
3-4 tbsp. peppermint syrup (see above)
2-3 tbsp. milk
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, peppermint syrup (see above), and milk until blended. Slowly add in sugar and continue to mix on high until frosting forms. Add more milk if frosting is too thick.

red chocolate ganache
10 oz. chocolate (or white chocolate), chopped
1 c. heavy cream
3-4 tbsp. peppermint syrup (see above)
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. butter
In a small saucepan on the stovetop, bring cream to a boil. Remove from heat, added in chopped chocolate and peppermint syrup, and whisk mixture until blended. Let liquid ganache cool to room temperature and thicken without hardening.

Add powdered sugar, milk, and butter to ganache and beat for 1-2 minutes until a fluffier frosting forms. Quickly use a spatula to frost cake or cupcake (whipped ganache will start to harden again within a few minutes). Refrigerate.

ugly sweater 2.0 cupcakes
For cupcake versions, use an ice cream scoop to fill liners with batter and bake on 350 degrees for 22-24 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

For candy cane cupcakes, use an angled spatula to spread frosting onto cupcake in a thick layer, and run the spatula around the rim to create a smooth edge. Use a food processor to crush candy canes into fine crumbs. Before frosting has hardened on cupcakes, roll the edge into the bowl of candy cane crumbs.

For ugly sweater cupcakes, use a spatula to spread freshly whipped ganache on top of cupcake before it starts to cool and harden - create as smooth a surface as possible. Use frosting in a pastry bag and tip #2-4 to pipe an argyle pattern across the top and a back-and-forth motion to create a woven border.