My go-to chocolate cake is from the ancient days of the Food Network, when it was located in Long Island (instead of Chelsea Market in Manhattan), and AOL was synonymous with the Internet. Actually, back in the 90s, you could request recipes by sending a SASE envelope to their offices (in case you didn’t have Internet access). It only took two months before you received the recipe in the mail.
Nowadays, you can look up any recipe on your phone while you’re standing in line at the grocery store, but this recipe still has its charm. It’s everything you’d want in a chocolate cake: rich, moist, dark, and airy. It’s just like the cake mix but better. I’ve updated this classic and added peppermint frosting for the holidays.
Psst! Still figuring out what to give people this year? Here’s dozens of ideas for homemade gifts.
Chocolate Peppermint Cake
Cake adapted from the Food Network’s “How to Boil Water,” hosted by Sean Donnellan; frosting inspired by The 1997 Joy of Cooking
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil, preferably expeller pressed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
A couple drops of red food coloring (optional)
1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil, or to taste
A couple tablespoons milk, as needed
Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare one 9-inch cake pan or bundt pan by spreading it with butter, dusting it with flour, and tapping out the extra.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, beat the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla on medium speed with a hand mixer, until well mixed. Slowly add the boiling water and mix. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon, just until smooth.
Pour batter into pan. Bake 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
Make the frosting: In a large bowl, beat the butter on low speed until fluffy, then gradually add the powdered sugar and salt. As soon as it’s incorporated, increase the speed to medium and mix until smooth. Add the food coloring if desired, or set aside a portion to color, so you can pipe a candy stripe design. With a rubber spatula, mix in the peppermint oil (do not use the electric mixer, as it will cause the aroma to dissipate). If needed, thin out the frosting with one tablespoon of milk at a time.
Frost cake: Place the cake on a platter and using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly on top, 1/2″ thick. To create the candy stripe design, fill a ziptop bag with half a cup of red frosting, and cut a very small corner off the tip of the bag (when in doubt, but a smaller hole than you think you need; you can always make it bigger if you have to). Pipe red stripes across the cake, 3/4″ apart. Drag a toothpick through the stripes to create the swirled design.