It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
And it certainly feels like it, too. This is the first time in several years that December is actually chilly where I live and I have to bundle up.
I’m actually rather enjoying it this year because it’s definitely putting me in the holiday spirit.
I’ve got to be honest, I have been daydreaming about making this cake for weeks now because of this ubiquitous holiday feel. The cake turned out nothing like I had envisioned, but it still tasted pretty dang good and really that’s the most important part of cakes, amiright?
What we have here is a white chocolate cake, layered and coated with white chocolate peppermint mousse, followed by a coating of Italian buttercream, and topped with candy cane pieces.
For this week’s tip of the week, I want to show you how I made this peppermint mousse - the most important technique I used being the rule of thirds. This is how airy desserts like mousses and macarons get to keep their fluff. I’ll explain - to make this peppermint mousse, I started with a white chocolate peppermint ganache. I heated up the cream on the stove and poured it over the bowl of white chocolate pieces. I stirred them together as they melted and let it cool wayyy way down before I added the peppermint extract (read this post to find out why it’s important to add your extracts after removing from heat).
Once the ganache cooled entirely, I whipped heavy cream to stiff peaks and folded it into the ganache to give it that light, pillowy characteristic that we all know and love about mousse. This is where the rule of thirds comes in. In order for the whipped cream to retain its puffy texture, you have to be very careful about not “deflating” it as you fold it into the thicker ingredients.I start by dividing my “fluff” portion into thirds - typically by carving a peace sign into it with my spatula.
Scoop out the first third to fold into the mixture. I tend to think of this first bit as a sacrifice (the pastry gods are definitely a thing).
This is the portion of the fluffy stuff that gets beaten into the mix with a little more force. This helps to bring the textures of the two different mixtures into a more similar state. After that, fold in the second third of the whipped cream with a much gentler touch, followed by the third and final portion with the gentlest of folds to preserve the fluff.
(Bonus material: Every time I talk about puffy and fluffy stuff, it always reminds me of the Little Albert experiment I learned about in one of my college Psych classes, and it makes me sad. But after watching this video of the experiment I have to say that the Christmas mask they used creeps me out as an adult, so I don’t blame baby Albert for being so scared of it!)
Back to the mousse. Here's a visual on the rule of thirds:
Now that the peppermint mousse is ready, I piped a border of Italian buttercream around the edges of each cake layer as a dam, and then smoothed out the mousse for a bright, fluffy filler. I had so much extra peppermint mousse that I smeared it all around the cake for an all over candy cane experience.
For my planned piece de resistance, I intended to arrange candy canes standing tall and coming out from the top of the cake, but I’m sure you know what happened before I even say it: Safeway delivery demons.
I ordered all the baking ingredients I would need for this week on Monday and put everything away without taking the candy canes out of the box they arrived in to, you know... protect them from breaking.
Imagine my fury when I opened the box right as I finished decorating the rest of the cake only to find that Every. Single. Candy cane was broken in multiple spots. I almost pulled a Karen right then and there.
Fortunately for the Safeway demons' manager, I didn’t have time to do so because my guests were arriving any minute, therefore I placed some of the broken pieces of candy cane around the edges of the border and called it a day. We went out for dinner and drinks with some friends for San Francisco's last night of outdoor eating before total shut down, and when we got back, this cake was the perfect Christmas-y ending to my somewhat doomsday-ish feeling evening (we kept joking that it was San Francisco's end of the world). But the peppermint stood out as a bright, fresh flavor against the sugary sweetness of the white chocolate cake and definitely cheered us up.
I’ve actually made this flavor combination before, and it was just as great as I remembered. I decorated that cake with peppermint macarons, cake balls, and (intentionally) crushed candy canes.
So if you’re starting to plan your Christmas party menus, I highly recommend using this flavor combo for your baking this year!
Happy eating, y’all!
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