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Chocolate Peppermint Cake and How to Make the World's Best Frosting


I'm not a big frosting person and neither is anyone in my family because we don't like the sugary graininess that most frostings have.   But this frosting is different. This frosting has been my favorite way to make frosting for a long time now and if you like a creamy type of frosting, you will like this version.  It's super smooth and not over-the-top sweet.  

This frosting is what is called a swiss meringue frosting and it is a technique that is worth learning.  It is not at all hard and a lot of swiss meringue frosting recipes complicate things a little more than they should be. This version is easy. Instead of just whipping together butter and sugar as in a usual buttercream frosting, the sugar is first warmed over the stove along with egg whites until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Then the egg whites are whipped into a meringue and only then is the butter whipped in, along with any flavorings.  Because the sugar is dissolved, there is no graininess in the frosting.  And the meringue makes the frosting super creamy and light

using pre-crushed peppermint bits from Williams Sonoma saves time

A lot of recipes for swiss meringue frostings require the use of a thermometer and heating the egg whites until a certain temperature.  You don't really have to do that - as long as you heat the egg whites until all the sugar is dissolved, you will be fine.  It only takes a few minutes and I've never had any trouble by not using a thermometer.  

The chocolate cake is a version that is one of my favorites because it's a no hassle recipe - it doesn't use butter or chocolate, so there's nothing to melt.  It uses oil and cocoa powder - just a little easier.  It's moist and delicious and it just might become your go-to chocolate cake recipe.

Chocolate Cake with Peppermint Frosting

for a printable recipe click here

*if you want to make just a vanilla frosting, just swap out vanilla extract for the peppermint


for the cake:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoons espresso powder (I omitted this)
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water 

for the frosting:

  • 1¼ cups sugar (I always use superfine Baker's Sugar)
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract (double this is you want a really strong peppermint flavor)
  • 1¼ cups unsalted butter (2¼ sticks), cut into slices and at room temperature

for the topping:

  • 1/3 cup crushed peppermint bits
  • chocolate shavings  (I just scrape a vegetable peeler over a semi-sweet chocolate bar)



Make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring.

Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well. 

Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.

Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 25- 30 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.

use a long, serrated knife to slice the layers in two

Make the frosting:

Bring a medium pot of water to simmer on the stove. In a medium sized heatproof bowl (I use my KitchenAid Stand Mixer Bowl), add the egg whites, sugar and salt and whisk together.  Place over the simmering water (don't let the bottom of the bowl come into contact with the water).  Keep the water at a gentle simmer and cook the mixture, whisking every once in a while, until the sugar completely dissolves, about 5 to 6 minutes.  The mixture should be very warm.

Remove the bowl and set it in your stand mixer and add the peppermint extract. With the wire whisk attachment, whisk the egg white mixture at medium high speed for about 8 to 9  minutes, until the mixture is glossy and stiff.  At this point, the mixture should be cooled down and the bowl should not feel hot. Lower the mixer to medium speed and start adding the butter, a few pieces at a time.  Beat until all the butter is added and the frosting is completely smooth. 


After the cake layers have cooled, take a long bread knife and horizontally slice each layer into two layers.

Dab a little frosting onto your cake plate, place the first layer of cake (I place all my layers crumb side down) and spread a layer of frosting on that.  Sprinkle some peppermint bits on the frosting. Repeat until the final layer. garnish with more peppermint bits on top and chocolate shavings. 

chocolate cake recipe from Add a Pinch


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (19)

What a gorgeous cake, Elaine (beautiful photos!!). I'm totally with you on the swiss meringue frosting... we love the creamy, lightness of it and it goes so well with almost any cake you put under it. So glad that Squarespace is up and running again... we wouldn't have wanted to miss this post!

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatrice Berry

What a BEAUTIFUL cake! Thank you for sharing! I love love love your recipes!

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl

This cake is beautiful and sounds delicious. Would it need to be refrigerated after frosting?

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTerry

Elaine, your recipes are outstanding! Thank you so much! I'm so happy to be on your mailing list. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

December 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterArlene

What I like the most is how you show pictures of your baking in progress....I find this so helpfull..
thank you and Godl Bless.


December 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlucia

This is a God-send! My wife has been pestering me to find a good frosting recipe, and what could be better than this! And a lovely cake to go with it! Thank you!! Merry Christmas!!!

December 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Man that cake makes me want to jump through this computer screen beautiful cake

December 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoofing

That is a delicious chocolate peppermint cake

December 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterReplacement

Love frosting like this -- especially because it's not too sweet. And that's a gorgeous layer cake!

December 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChocolate Shavings

I made this for my mother-in-law's birthday. Delicious!
Next time, I will probably line the pans with parchment paper (using your tip from the lemon cake recipe) so that my layers will be prettier. I used whites from large eggs for the frosting, but I think I will add make a recipe and a half or use extra large eggs next time... there was enough frosting for 3 nice layers... I spread the frosting pretty think on 2 of the layers to leave enough for a pretty top.
Your directions are excellent - both cake and frosting turned out wonderfully well. The combination was so good- everyone liked it, even our teenage son who thought a peppermint-chocolate cake was a strange idea. Better than thin mint cookies :)
Thanks for sharing another great recipe!

January 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda

Can't wait to try this! Thank you for sharing the recipe
One of the best chocolate cake of my life was the one I tried at Nino's, an italian restaurant:

March 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey

It looks and sounds great, and though I am a (self-taught) baker for many years I'm still looking for the perfect chocolate cake recepie, so I'll try this one as well.
I just have one question (always in trouble with measurements :S), that is, the 'cup'... Can you please tell me what size of cup it is? In my country, cup usually means 250ml, but in some countries it's only 135.
Thank you very much in advance! :)

April 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAdrienn

From The Italian Dish:

Adrienn: I know conversion charts can vary a lot - but when I weight one cup of flour, it is about 130 grams. I hope this helps.

April 23, 2015 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Chocolate with peppermint....???? Never tried or heard before.... Sound interesting... Thanks for sharing...

January 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJamini

I just made this cake, instead of peppermint used a little almond extract with vanilla in the icing- when summer comes I think I will add raspberries in the layers and on top. It was moist, and the cake held up so well to being cut and manipulated. Beautiful... I think it is my favorite chocolate cake now too!
I see this has been up for 3 years... thanks for not purging!

January 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I made the chocolate cake this week. I'm not a great baker,...but wow! It was awesome. I didnt use peppermint....i used vanilla in the frosting......the frosting was outrageous!!!!! Yum!!!!!
Thank you !!!!!

March 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Do you have an approximate yield of this cake? About how many servings (normal ones) that it makes? When I get ready to bake a cake its something I like to know so I know how many I need to bake for functions. thanks

February 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPamela

I thought the photo would be a harder cake, but on the contrary, it was very easy to do and it was very tasty.

August 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEddie Barroso

Yes, you are totally right! It is so easy to make the worlds best with the help of such a beuatiful and original cake. thanks a lot for sharing!

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