Merry Christmas! I hope your holiday was full of joy and the blessings of family and fellowship. My family and I had a lovely day and lots of glorious food: eggs benedict for breakfast; turkey with all of its best flavorful friends, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc…; and, to finish off the day with a tremendous amount of sugary lusciousness, my aunt’s old fashioned chocolate pie and this towering chocolate peppermint trifle.
When it comes to baking, I like to complicate things, thus this trifle came to be. The recipe itself is very easy, it just takes a while to make all of the different components and assemble them. Is it worth all of that time and trouble? Yes, absolutely yes.
Trifles, though very popular in the UK, are not so dearly loved here in the USA. I was enchanted by those striped bowls of baked goodness after seeing the contestants on The Great British Bake-Off construct their own fruit and custard filled delicacies. A trifle is composed of various layers of cake or cookies, cream, custard, and fruit. Traditionally, trifles are considered a summer dessert because they feature fresh fruits and jellies or jams, but this one has a wintry mint twist.
Chocoholics, this dessert is for you. I chose the chocolate peppermint combination for my older brother, the mint chocolate fiend that he is. Since the dark chocolate ganache slips down into the cracks between the morsels of cake in each chocolate layer, you get unbelievably decadent stripes of velvety chocolate. These, on their own, would be so rich as to be all too shocking; however, the light coolness of the mint cream and meringues cuts through the chocolate perfectly and balances the flavors.
The recipe for the chocolate cake is actually a recipe for cupcakes. I used it to make chocolate cupcakes with caramel berry buttercream for my graduation party, which remain the finest cupcakes I have ever made. Surprisingly, it is leavened with baking soda and a dash of vinegar; that seems to be the key to its airy yet fudgy texture. For the trifle, I halved the recipe and baked it in an 8 in. x 8 in. pan. If I were to bake it again, I would use a sheet cake pan instead, which is what I recommend in the recipe. You will need a clear glass dish for serving. I used an over-sized brandy snifter, but a trifle dish with straight sides is ideal. The peppermint meringue recipe is taken from Skip to My Lou.
Chocolate Peppermint Trifle
Serves 10 to 12
Time: 1.5 hours active time, 3-4 hours total
Can be made up to 2 days in advance
- Peppermint meringues
- 3 large egg whites (room temperature)
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
- 1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
- dash of salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- red food coloring gel (optional)
- Peppermint Cream
- 1 c heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons vanilla instant pudding mix
- 1/4 tablespoon peppermint extract (to taste)
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar (also to taste)
- red food coloring (optional)
- Dark Chocolate Cake
- 1 & 1/2 c all-purpose flour
- 1 c granulated sugar
- 1/4 c high-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup whole milk (or 2% w/ a bit of cream)
- 2 oz melted and cooled (but not hardened) very dark chocolate
- 1/4 c hot black coffee
- 6 tsp melted butter, cool
- 1 large egg @ room temp.
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 c heavy cream
- 10-12 oz dark chocolate chips
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 225° F and line 2 baking sheets w/ parchment
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, whip egg whites, cream of tartar, and peppermint extract w/ whisk attachment on high until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
- If you want striped meringues, paint vertical stripes of food gel on inside of piping bag, like so. Fill piping bag with meringue and, using star or round tip, pipe small rounds onto parchment covered sheets.
- Bake them for 90 minutes, but don’t let them brown.
- Store in airtight container @ room temp.
- Peppermint Cream: While those meringues bake, mix up the cream and cake batter.
- Combine cream and pudding mix in bowl of stand mixer (or use mixing bowl and handheld mixer). Using whisk attachment, beat on high until soft peaks form. Add sugar and peppermint to taste and a few drops of food coloring, beat until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until needed.
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare sheet cake pan by greasing, lining w/ parchment, and flouring.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, & salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or w/ handheld) whisk egg until pale and thick, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add milk, vanilla, butter, and vinegar and beat until combined.
- Add chocolate to wet ingredient mixture, beat until combined.
- Switching to paddle attachment, add dry ingredients to wet ingredient mixture. Mix until incorporated.
- Add hot coffee and mix until combined.
- Pour batter into pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on size of pan) or until toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool for at least 15 minutes in the pan, then remove to wire rack and let cool completely.
- Place chocolate in small mixing bowl. On the stove top, heat cream in a sauce pan until it steams but doesn’t boil.
- Pour cream over chocolate. Let sit 5 minutes, and then whisk until smooth.
- Add vanilla and mix.
- As you assemble the trifle, you may need to reheat the ganache to keep it pour-able.
- Cut cake into 2 to 3 inch squares. Neatly cover bottom of dish w/ a layer of cake pieces. Cut a couple of squares into triangular halves to fill in gaps if needed. Pour or spread ganache over cake pieces, making sure it reaches the edges of the dish to form a visible stripe. Wipe any unwanted splatters of ganache from sides of dish with paper towel as you go to keep appearance tidy.
- Place half of meringues on top of the ganache.
- Cover meringues with another layer of cake, and pour more ganache over cake.
- Neatly pipe or spread peppermint cream on top of ganache.
- Pour remaining ganache over cream.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve. Prior to serving, top with the other half of the meringues (they lose crispiness when refrigerated).