Peppermint Hi-Hat Cake Recipe on Food52 (2024)


by: Erin Jeanne McDowell



5 Ratings

  • Prep time 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Cook time 55 minutes
  • Makes one 9-inch cake

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Author Notes

A single, tall devil’s food cake is topped with an almost equally tall mound of peppermint 7-minute frosting. After a brief chill in the fridge, it’s doused in an all-over layer of thin milk chocolate glaze, that sets up like magic shell. You can toss a little crushed peppermint candy around the base to give a clue as to what’s inside—but this is one of those cakes that impresses even more once it’s sliced! Recipe adapted from the Peppermint Hi-Hat Cupcakes in my book, The Fearless Baker (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: 3 Showstopping Holiday Cakes That Taste As Good As They Look. —The Editors

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

  • Devil's food cake
  • 1 cup(85 g) cocoa powder (I especially like black cocoa from King Arthur Flour)
  • 2/3 cup(162 g) boiling water
  • 3/4 cup(171 g) whole milk
  • 6 ounces(170 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups(397 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large (170 g) eggs
  • 2 teaspoonsvanilla extract
  • 2 cups(241 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoonbaking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoonbaking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoonfine sea salt
  • Milk chocolate glaze
  • 10 ounces(238 g) milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup(113 g) coconut oil
  • Peppermint 7-minute frosting
  • 5 large (178 g) egg whites
  • 2 cups(397 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup(60 g) water
  • 1/4 teaspooncream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoonpeppermint extract
  • 1/2 teaspoonvanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 drops red food coloring (optional)
  • Crushed peppermint candies, as needed for finishing (optional)
  1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line the base and sides with parchment paper.
  2. Place the cocoa powder in a medium heatproof bowl. Whisk in the boiling water until fully combined. Stir in the milk and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add one third of this mixture to the mixer and mix on low speed to combine. Add half of the cocoa-milk mixture and mix to incorporate. Repeat, alternating between dry and wet ingredients, until both are fully incorporated and the batter is smooth.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes. Cool 20 minutes in the pan, then release and remove the outer ring and cool completely.
  6. When the cake is cool, make the glaze. Place the chocolate and coconut oil in a medium heatproof bowl, and set over a medium pot of simmering water (like a double boiler). Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a vessel with a pour spout (like a large liquid measuring cup) and let cool while you make the frosting.
  7. Make the frosting: combine the egg whites, sugar, water, and creaam of tartar in a large heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a medium saucepan of barely simmering water (with the bowl not touching the water) and heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is slightly warm to the touch (it should read 140°F on a thermometer), 2-3 minutes.
  8. Transfer the mixture to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip on medium-high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy and holds medium peaks, 6-7 minutes. Add the peppermint and vanilla extracts and food coloring, if using, and mix to combine.
  9. Frost the cake: mound the frosting (or pipe using a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip) into a sort of an upside down cone shape on top of the cooled cake. Chill in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.
  10. If necessary, warm the milk chocolate glaze in the microwave in 15 second bursts until it’s fluid, but not hot. To glaze the cake, place a wire rack on a baking sheet. Place the chilled cake on the wire rack and pour the glaze slowly over the cake to fully coat it. If needed, you can spoon the glaze that’s fallen onto the baking sheet over any bare spots. Scatter the crushed candy around the base of the cake, if desired.
  11. The glaze should firm up within 5 minutes. If it doesn’t, pop the cake in the refrigerator for a few minutes. The cake is now ready to be sliced and served—it will hold at room temperature once the glaze is set, but you can hold it in the fridge for up to 4 hours before serving as well.


  • Cake
  • American
  • Christmas
  • Winter
  • Holiday
  • Dessert

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kirsten Seymour

  • Stephanie

  • Seth Gross

  • Kate

Recipe by: Erin Jeanne McDowell

I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

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4 Reviews

Stephanie November 7, 2020

Made this for a birthday party and got rave reviews!! The only slight drawback was that the chocolate shell tasted so much of the coconut oil. I weighed it out and used high quality milk chocolate so I don't know if this was just the way it was supposed to taste or not. The coconut was less present once on the cake but I could still taste it. Anybody else find this to be the case?

Kate December 1, 2020

You can use refined coconut oil. It doesn't taste or smell coconut-y like the unrefined one usually found in grocery stores. (I have recently seen refined coconut oil at my local Trader Joe's but ordered online before that.)

Seth G. January 1, 2019

Although this cake involves three steps it is not really that difficult to make and it is a crowd-pleasing showstopper. It makes quite an impression when you slice it! I served it on New Year’s Eve and it was a hit.

I followed the instructions exactly and it came out as expected. One thing that would have helped is some kind of nine-inch cardboard cake round to put under the cake while icing it. I had the cake on a plate, with a sheet pan under the plate. As the icing flowed down the sides of the cake it pooled on the plate and while I spooned it off and poured it back over the cake, some of it inevitably hardened on the plate making for a less professional-looking finish.

Kirsten S. January 20, 2019

Slide some wax paper under the edges of your cake on all sides before icing it. When you’re done, pull them out and your plate will still be pristine :)

Peppermint Hi-Hat Cake Recipe on Food52 (2024)
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