My Grandma eats like a bird but always cooks for a flock. There are a lot of us grandkids. She’s got all kinds of tricks up her sleeve, and I swear she could make soup out of stones. There’s one cake in particular that the whole family goes cuckoo for. Her 6 layer Chocolate Mint Cake sends the fam flocking across town, and some of us across state lines to swoop in and sneak a slice.
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When I asked if she could send me the recipe to recreate this family favorite, she sent over an iPhone image of her recipe card. (I know, go G-Ma!) It’s mostly just the ingredients for the cake. No instructions on technique or assembly. She’s been making this cake longer than I’ve been alive and the details hide in the muscle memory of her crafty hands. The only way to really learn how to make this cake properly is to bake it with her. But since I am living in California and can’t get up to Idaho, I am relying on my memory of watching her bake this cake over the years.
I remember she stacks it tall, with a tower of multiple whipped cream filled layers. I remember the mint being just right. Not so much that the cake takes on the taste of toothpaste, but just enough to sparkle with freshness. Finally, I remember it being one of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted. That’s strange because I don’t even like chocolate cake.
Her Chocolate Mint Cake looks like a dense chocolate cake, but it’s actually light and fluffy and not overpowering with chocolate gooey-ness. It couldn’t be simpler between the layers of this cake – sweetened whipped cream with a dash of vanilla and mint extract. I took a few liberties (where maybe I shouldn’t have) and switched a some things up. I am not the biggest chocolate fan in general, but when espresso is in the mix, I find myself dive bombing into chocolatey goodness. So, I added in some instant espresso powder to kick up the coffee notes in the chocolate.
My grandma uses food coloring in her whipped cream, but when I tried, I failed to match the classic minty fresh color she gets. I simplified things and kept it a clean white. I doubled down on the mint by steeping fresh mint leaves in the melted chocolate used in the cake as well as in the ganache that I used on top. She generally frosts the whole cake with a whipped up chocolate ganache frosting, but as you can see, my cake got a little too big for its britches, so I opted for a simple ganache on top.
My biggest oops of all was not using the 8″ cake pans her recipe calls for. Somehow, I don’t have that size. I used 6″ pans and ended up with the world’s tallest Mint Chocolate Cake! Practically speaking, this Mint Chocolate Cake was a little tough to deal with structurally, especially when slicing. But, what it lacked in practicality it made up for in the drama department! Once I realized how high this stack was going to be, there was no going back. I had to let it fly. I was nervous to send my Grandma a picture as I feared I may have butchered her recipe, but she said “Now, that’s a party cake!” She always knows just what to say to lift me up.
In the end, I swooned over this sky high beauty. I feel like I mostly kept the integrity of my Grandma’s original recipe for Mint Chocolate Cake. Sometimes you just have to let breeze take you where you need to go. Thanks for being the wind beneath my wings, Grandma. <3
6 sky high layers of minty fresh, chocolatey goodness that will send your heart and belly aflutter.
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate, chopped 70%
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp instant espresso powder
- 2 sprigs fresh mint
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 whole eggs at room temperature
- 1 teas vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cup cake flour
- 1 1/2 teas baking soda
- 1 teas salt
- 3/4 cup milk or cream
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar sifted
- 1 1/2 teas vanilla extract
- 1/2 teas mint extract
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped 70%
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 teas instant espresso powder
- 2 sprigs fresh mint
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8" round cake pans or if you want a mile high cake (like mine) use three 6" round cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
Combine chopped chocolate, granulated sugar, water, cocoa powder and instant espresso powder in a saucepan. Melt over medium heat, stirring constantly until everything is melted, thick and glossy. Set aside and add 2 sprigs of mint to steep while the mixture cools. Once cooled, remove the mint sprigs.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. About 5 minutes.
Add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing until just incorporated. Followed by the vanilla extract.
Add the milk or cream and flour mixture alternatively, in 2 parts, starting with the flour. After each addition, mix until just barely blended and stop and scrape the bowl. Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated.
Stir in the chocolate mixture until just combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the three prepared cake pans and bake in the middle of the oven until the centers spring back when lightly touched, 25-30 minutes. Test by inserting a toothpick in the center, when it comes out clean it's ready!
Allow to cool in cake pans for 20 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
Once cake layers have fully cooled, use a serrated knife to evenly split the layers.
Chill mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.
Pour heavy whipping cream, sugar and vanilla into the cold bowl and whisk on high speed until medium to stiff peaks start to form, about 1 minute. Add the mint extract right at the end of the whisking, being cautious to not over beat.
Place the bottom cake layer on a pretty cake stand. Top with 1/5th of the whipped cream, top with the next layer and repeat until you have a mile high stack!
Make room in your fridge and place the entire cake on it's stand inside to chill while you prepare the chocolate ganache for the topping.
Finely chop the chocolate and add to a mixing bowl, set aside.
Add the cream to a small saucepan and warm over medium-low heat for a few minutes. Until steadily simmering. whisk in the espresso powder.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for a few minutes while the chocolate melts. Stir together until creamy and smooth.
Stir in the fresh mint sprigs and allow to steep for a few minutes while the chocolate cools down a bit.
Remove the mint sprigs.
While the ganache is still slightly warm, carefully spoon it on top of the cake and use an offset spatula to evenly spread it over the top of the cake, almost to the edges.
Top with fresh mint sprigs and serve right away.
Call your Grandma to tell her how much you love and miss her.
*I used 6" round cake pans for this cake, which made for mile-high drama for sure, but I highly suggest using 8" round cake pans for structural integrity.