With less than a week till the Christmas holiday, I know we’re all rushing to finish last minute tasks. What better way to procrastinate than by tossing responsibility aside and baking a stunning seasonal layer cake? But wait! This may just check something off your to do list after all, if you are bringing something to a get together or hosting one yourself. Though it feels a bit like Ross admitting he doesn’t like ice cream, I just do not like peppermint (or mint in general, for the most part.) Nevertheless I find ways to work it into my holiday baking since everyone else seems to love it so! Peppermint mocha was a perfect flavor combo just dying to be layer-caked for my holiday party, so I set out to make it happen.

The breakdown of this cake includes the usual components of any Milk Bar style layer cake: cake, soak, filling, crumb, frosting. For this version I used chocolate cake, espresso soak, peppermint liquid cheesecake, chocolate crumb, dark chocolate fudge sauce, and ganache on top. I cannot trust my own palate to comment on this cake but the consensus is that this was very well received. This is surely a show stopping dessert for your holiday meal!

If you find the idea of a cake with so many components, do not let yourself be intimidated! Though there are many parts, each part is pretty quick to make and all save the ganache can be made in advance, meaning you can get all of the components prepped here and there as you have free moments, and then assemble when they are all complete. The assembly itself is the most fun (other than removing the acetate strips!) and only takes a few minutes. You can do this! I believe in you!

  • Yield 1 6-inch round layer cake


For the fudge sauce: 

  • 30 grams (1 oz.) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 18 grams (2 tbsp.) cocoa powder
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 100 grams (¼ cup) glucose
  • 25 grams (2 tbsp.) granulated sugar
  • 55 grams (¼ cup) heavy cream

For the cake: 

  • 115 grams (4 oz.) butter, at room temperature
  • 300 grams (1½ cups) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 110 grams (½ cup) buttermilk
  • 40 grams (¼ cup) grapeseed oil
  • 4 grams (1 tsp.) vanilla extract
  • 38 grams (3 tbsp.) fudge sauce (already made, above)
  • 155 grams (1¼ cups) cake flour
  • 70 grams (½ cup) cocoa powder
  • 6 grams (1½ tsp.) baking powder
  • 6 grams (1½ tsp.) kosher salt

For the liquid cheesecake: 

  • 225 grams (8 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 150 grams (¾ cup) granulated sugar
  • 6 grams (1 tbsp.) cornstarch
  • 2 grams (½ tsp.) kosher salt
  • 25 grams (2 tbsp.) milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extract
  • Red gel food coloring (optional)

For the chocolate crumb: 

  • 52 grams (1/3 cup) flour
  • 2 grams (½ tsp.) cornstarch
  • 50 grams (¼ cup) granulated sugar
  • 33 grams (1/3 cup) cocoa powder
  • 2 grams (½ tsp.) kosher salt
  • 43 grams (3 tbsp.) butter, melted

For the soak: 

  • ¼ cup brewed espresso

For the ganache: 

  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 oz. heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. butter, at room temperature

Crushed peppermint candies, for garnish


  • 01

    To make the fudge sauce, combine the chocolate, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the glucose, sugar, and heavy cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as it boils, pour into the bowl with the chocolate. Let stand 1 minute. Begin whisking the mixture, slowly at first and eventually increasing until a smooth glossy fudge sauce has formed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (Rewarm briefly in the microwave when ready to use and to assemble the cake.)

  • 02

    To make the cake, heat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter the edges of a quarter sheet pan and dust with cocoa powder, shaking out the excess. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugars. Beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in the eggs, and mix on medium-high for 2-3 minutes more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

  • 03

    With the mixer on low speed, stream in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix for 4-6 minutes, until the mixture is nearly white and twice the size of the original batter, and completely homogenous (there should be no streaks of fat or liquid.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the fudge sauce and mix until fully incorporated. Scrape down the bowl again. In a small bowl, combine the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt and whisk briefly to blend. Add the dry ingredients into the bowl of the mixer and on very low speed, mix about 45-60 seconds, just until the batter comes together and no dry streaks remain. Spread the batter in the prepared quarter sheet pan.

  • 04

    Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through baking, until the cake is puffed and the center is no longer jiggly (the cake should bounce back when lightly poked with your finger.) Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely.

  • 05

    To make the liquid cheesecake, heat the oven to 300˚ F. Line a small loaf pan (8 x 5-inches) with parchment paper. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the sugar and mix 1-2 minutes more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and salt. Whisk in the milk and then the egg until you have a homogenous slurry. With the mixer on medium-low speed, stream in the egg mixture. Blend in the peppermint extract. Mix for 3-4 minutes, until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. If using food coloring, add just a few drops to the mixture and barely stir in with a spatula. As you spread the cheesecake in the pan and again into the cake, the color will blend in, so for a swirled appearance, you want to avoid overmixing up front.

  • 06

    Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Bake 15-20 minutes. Gently shake the pan. You want the cheesecake to be firmer toward the outer edges but still jiggly in the center. Continue to bake as needed until this texture is achieved. Do not overbake – you want this to be under baked! Transfer to a wire rack to cool, then transfer to the fridge to cool completely before using in the recipe.

  • 07

    To make the chocolate crumb, heat the oven to 300˚ F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix on low speed until combined. Add in the butter and mix until the mixture starts to form small clusters. Spread the clusters on the prepared baking sheet. Baking for 20 minutes, breaking them up occasionally. Remove from the oven. The crumbs will dry and harden as they cool. Cool completely before using.

  • 08

    To  assemble the cake, invert the cake from the sheet pan onto a work surface. Use a 6-inch cake ring to cut out 2 circles from the cake (these will be the top two layers.) Wipe off the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment or a silpat. Use a strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring. Use scraps from the leftover cake to place in the ring and tamp together in a flat, even layer. Use a pastry brush to soak the cake with half of the espresso. Spread half of the liquid cheesecake in an even layer over the cake. Sprinkle half of the chocolate crumbs evenly over the cheesecake, using the back of your hand to gently adhere them and anchor them in place. Drizzle about a third to half of the fudge sauce over the chocolate crumb. Gently tuck a second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top ¼-inch of the first strip of acetate. Set a cake round on top of the frosting, and repeat the layering process once more (espresso, liquid cheesecake, crumb, fudge sauce.) Place the remaining cake layer onto the fudge sauce.

  • 09

    To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Warm the cream in the microwave or a small saucepan just until bubbling. Pour over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes before whisking into a smooth, thick ganache. Whisk in the butter until smooth. Spread the ganache over the top of the final cake layer. Sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies (you may need to wait a few minutes if the ganache is thin so it may thicken slightly and the candy pieces won’t sink in.)

  • 10

    Transfer the assembled cake to the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 12 hours to set the cake and the filling. At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve, remove the pan from the freezer, pop the cake out of the cake ring, and peel away the acetate layers. Transfer to a cake platter and defrost for at least 3 hours before slicing and serving.