I have wanted to bake this cake for several months and the initial plan was to make it for myself for my birthday at the end of February. Fast forward to being sick most of February & March and it never happened. Thankfully I have completed the task and it did not disappoint.
For some reason this year we have been plagued with every sickness possible. I often question if it is because I work in a school and continually share sicknesses with 450 other students. Or maybe the fact that my toddler spends time at daycare and does not understand the facets of how to stay germ free yet? Whatever the case, it was a rough two months as we battled sickness after sickness.
I’m curious what do you all do to stay healthy? I have heard of many concoctions of vitamins, airborne drinks, natural oils, but doesn’t it really just boil down to washing your hands? I feel like I do this liberally! I also try to take care of myself because I think if your body is worn down, sickness tends to grasp on with a vicious bite. What has worked for you, because I’m all ears!
All that I know is that I am so thankful for SPRING! It is such a wonderful time of year. The sun is out, the birds are back, and it seems that the haze of sickness has dissipated (for now).
To celebrate this momentous occasion I FINALLY got to bake this beautiful cake that I found in The Vanilla Bean Baking book. Mint chocolate chip ice cream is my all time favorite ice cream, so naturally I was intrigued by this combination all whirled up into a delicious cake!
I added a little springtime spin on the cake with the addition of a chocolate nest and peep birds. The chocolate cake is a rich sponge cake paired with the minty buttercream, this cake screams spring from every angle. ENJOY!
Mint Chocolate Chip Cake with Peeps Nest
from the Vanilla Bean Baking Book
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 c. mocha frappuccino coffee, hot
1 c. buttermilk
½ c. olive oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 t. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 cups (396 g) sugar
¾ c. cocoa powder
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
8 large egg whites
2 ¼ c. sugar
¼ t. salt
1 ½ pounds – 6 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 T. crème de menthe
½ t. mint extract plus more to taste
1 t.vanilla extract
½ c. chocolate chips, chopped small
Green food coloring (optional, if your crème de menthe is not colored and you want a nice minty green)
Bittersweet chocolate, cut into strips
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Butter and flour two 8 by 2-inch round cake pans (see note) and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
Put the bittersweet chocolate in a small bowl. Pour the coffee over it and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the buttermilk, olive oil, eggs, and vanilla.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt on low until combined. (If the cocoa powder is lumpy, you can sift it into the other ingredients.) With the mixer running on low, slowly add the buttermilk mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat until combined, 20 to 30 seconds.
Whisk the chocolate and coffee together until completely smooth. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour the coffee mixture into the batter and mix until just combined. Using a spatula, give the batter a couple of turns to make sure it is fully mixed.
Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, until a wooden skewer or toothpick comes out with the tiniest bit of crumb. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment paper, and let cool completely. Once cool, the cakes can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated overnight or frosted.
Put about 1 inch of water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the egg whites, sugar, and salt until combined. Put the bowl over the saucepan, being careful not to let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula until the sugar is completely melted, and the mixture reaches a temperature of 160⁰F, about 4 to 5 minutes. While you are stirring, be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with the spatula—this will ensure no sugar grains are lurking on the sides and will help prevent the egg whites from cooking.
Remove the bowl from the heat and place it in the stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Whisk the mixture on medium-high until stiff, glossy peaks form, 8 to 10 minutes. With the mixer running on low, add the butter, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated. Add the crème de menthe, mint extract, vanilla, and a couple drops of green food coloring (if using). Beat again and then taste test. If you want your buttercream to have a stronger mint flavor, add more mint extract ½ teaspoon at a time, until you are happy with the taste. Add the chocolate (if using) and stir with a spatula to combine.
Make sure your cakes are completely cool before you frost them. If your layers have a large dome, you can slice off the rounded bump for a straight top if desired. This will help make your cake look even and professional.
Apply a crumb coat: Make sure your cake layers are even; you want them to line up together, and none of them should be sticking out farther than the others. Gently press to adjust them if you need to and you a ruler or straightedge to make sure they are lined up evenly. With an offset spatula, apply a thin, even layer of buttercream to the top and sides of the cake, covering every surface, and filling in the gaps between layers. Smooth out any bumps or lumps in the thin coat. Be careful if you need to apply more buttercream to not get crumbs from the spatula back into your mixing bowl. Move the cake into the freezer or refrigerator to chill the cake and harden the buttercream. This will keep the crumbs in place, locking them into the crumb coat.
Apply a finishing coat: Take the cake from the freezer or refrigerator and put it back in the center of your turntable or cake stand. Place a large amount of buttercream on the top of the cake. With an offset spatula, smooth the buttercream on top of the cake so that it is a perfectly level layer. When the top is even, move onto the sides. Put a good amount of buttercream onto the spatula and then use the spatula to put the buttercream on the sides of the cake in a thick layer. Don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth at this point, just make sure you have a nice thick coat, covering all the cake. Press the spatula very gently against the cake at a slight angle and move the turntable or cake stand in a constant fluid circle. As the table/stand moves, the spatula will begin to collect some of the excess buttercream and even out the sides. Stop to clean the spatula off a few times. You want to be careful not to take too much of the buttercream off, or you will start to see the cake layers underneath. Keep turning the table/stand until the buttercream is as smooth and even as possible. A slight edge will have built up on the top of the cake and with your spatula at an angle, run it across the top to even it out.
Finish decorating: The cake will be smooth at this point. You can leave it as is, or add some more decoration to it. When finished decorating, move the cake to a cake stand to serve or clean your cake stand if you have been assembling on the cake stand.
Assemble the chocolate strips into a nest shape and place your peeps on top!