Andes Mint Chocolate Chip Cake

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Julie over at White Lights on Wednesday. She invited me to enter her Unique Sweets baking challenge along with several other bloggers. At first I had a hard time thinking of something unique to bake, you know, something that required some skill and that wasn’t very common. That’s when I thought about making this cake.
Growing up I remember my mom taking me to my dad’s work at the car dealership. He and my grandfather worked alongside one another so it was always fun to go see the two of them. I’d always leave with a few Andes mints in hand, a chocolate candy I still love today- yes, I get excited about getting them after eating at Olive Garden… what can I say? I’m not sure why there was always an excess of them, but it was definitely something I loved about visiting their work. The chocolate mint obsession is certainly something that has carried over to every member of my family. Our freezer is always stocked with a half gallon of mint ice cream and around Christmas my mom makes these amazing chocolate mint cookies that everyone we know craves. So I thought to myself, what haven’t we tried/made with mint in it? Cake. I’m not particularly confident when it comes to baking cakes, especially multi-layered cakes. It seems like the cake always ends up sticking to the pan, or the levels are uneven and need to be cut down to look right. Regardless of my anxieties, I got to baking.
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I started off by slightly adapting one of my mother-in-law’s chocolate cake recipes. I baked it in three 9×2″ round pans, there was no cutting or leveling required. I followed some very good advice to place buttered and floured parchment paper at the bottom of each pan. The cakes came out clean and crumb-free.
Next I whipped up a batch of peppermint buttercream. I tinted it with some AmeriColor soft gel paste (Avocado 129 + a few drops of Wilton green) and then added a fair amount of peppermint oil to give it that refreshing minty flavor. Because I was unable to find Andes Mint Baking Pieces, I bought a few sleeves of the whole candies and chopped them finely. I folded them into the buttercream and frosted the cake. I followed this tutorial over at Whisk Kid, it’s full of good tips and tricks!
Then came the topping. I’m a huge fan of ganache, especially when it’s paired with mint! So I made a batch of a thick and silky ganache and poured it over the top of the cake. To give it a little extra shine, I sprinkled it with luster dust.
Lastly I wanted something eye-catching in the middle. I thought about just piping some frosting and placing some Andes in the center, but instead I made mint bark. It only took a few minutes to prep, make and chill, but it tastes excellent and gives the cake a more dramatic look. Overall I’m incredibly pleased with how it turned out. Not only does it look fantastic, but it tastes absolutely delicious! If a novice cake-baker like me can put this cake together in less than an hour and have it turn out perfectly, you can do it too!



Chocolate Cake
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2¾ c. all-purpose flour
2½ c. sugar
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 eggs
2 c. boiling water + ¾ tsp. espresso powder (dissolved)
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three 9×2″ round baking pans with parchment paper. Butter and flour the bottom and edges to prevent cakes from sticking. Set aside.
2. In a medium size mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk together until combined. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together hot water (with dissolved espresso powder) and cocoa powder. Once smooth, set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs (for about 4-5 minutes). Turn speed to low and begin alternating dry ingredients with cocoa mixture (adding about ⅓ of each at a time). Mix until combined.
4. Divide and pour mixture evenly into the three prepared pans. Place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top of the cake is firm and has some spring to it. Remove from oven and cool for 10-15 minutes in the pan. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
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Andes Mint Buttercream
16 tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4½-5 c. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. peppermint oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1-2 tbsp. heavy cream
¼ tsp. salt
¾ c. chopped Andes
2-3 drops green food coloring

DIRECTIONS:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter for 1-2 minutes. Add peppermint oil, vanilla and salt. With mixing speed on low, gradually add powdered sugar. Then add heavy cream and food coloring. Beat until fluffy (3-4 minutes). Remove bowl from stand and fold in chopped Andes pieces.

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Chocolate Ganache
⅓ c. unsweetened chocolate (60% cocoa)
⅓ c. heavy cream
2 tbsp. butter
¹⁄₈ tsp. vanilla

DIRECTIONS:
1. Over a double broiler melt butter, heavy cream and chocolate. Once mixture has reached a smooth and silky consistency, remove from heat and add vanilla. Allow to cool for 5-7 minutes before pouring over frosting.

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Homemade Andes Bark
½ c. dark chocolate
1 c. white chocolate
¹⁄₈ tsp. peppermint oil
8-10 Andes, chopped
1-2 drops green food coloring

DIRECTIONS:
1. Over a double broiler melt dark chocolate until smooth. Remove from bowl and pour into a parchment-lined 8X8 square pan. Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt white chocolate. Remove from heat when smooth and add in food coloring and mint extract. Pour over cooled dark chocolate. Smooth out and top with chopped Andes. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes before cutting.

Adapted from Baker’s Royale, Mint Chocolate Chip Bark