Tis the season for greenery.
Cold winds, snow, and the holiday season. There's no flowers growing in our gardens this time of year in Ohio, the sun sets at 5 o'clock and our daylight is fleeting. Our world lacks the color it had in the summer and fall, and with that we come to appreciate the greenery left in our yards and gardens. The trees I usually take for granted in the summer months finally receive their acknowledgement come December. The white pines remind us of their worldly contribution with use in garlands, Christmas trees, wreaths and festive accolades. I love adding a few branches to a vase, setting some sprigs on the dining table, or garnishing a cake.
When we're in the midst of flower season I rarely do any baking due to my time (and kitchen) being consumed in the work flowers bring to our life. My counter is often skewed with flower stems, leaves, and vases. The month of December always seems to fly by, and I can never seem to get enough baking done. I am also one of those super-messy bakers who by the end of the recipe has powdered sugar covering every orifice of the kitchen. Although a boxed-cake may not be everyones preference, I think for a lot of people it can be nostalgic. (It's also easier--and during the holidays we need that, right?!) Listed below is my recipe for a semi-homemade chocolate-peppermint cake. The buttercream is homemade and a recipe I can interchange any extract with to achieve the desired flavor. If you're serving a cake, tray of cookies or brownies this holiday season, and you want to impress your guests: use a garnish to amp it up! Seen below I've used some white pine branches from our trees. Bringing nature inside can add some beauty and festiveness to an otherwise simple display.
1 Box Chocolate Cake Mix + ingredients listed on box
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 candy canes
6 cups powdered sugar
1tsp peppermint extract
2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
Preheat oven recommended on boxed cake instructions. Prepare cake accordingly. I used two 9-inch cake pans for the cake below. Once the cake is baked, cool it completely. I place my cake in the freezer for about an hour before I frost it, but it's not necessary.
I start the frosting by creaming two sticks of butter in my mixer. I slowly incorporate the powdered sugar a cup at a time, adding a tablespoon of milk when needed for consistency. Once it's all incorporated the Peppermint extract can be added. I then frost the cake and make the ganache, which is combining the heavy cream and chocolate chips. I usually microwave the heavy cream for about 40 seconds and add the chocolate chips. Let the chocolate chips melt by themselves for 1-2 minutes in the warmed cream, stir together, and then pour on top of the cake! (I use a squeeze bottle).
Crush up the candy canes and place them on the top or sides of the cake. Lastly, go outside and gather some festive greenery to garnish your cake with! Sometimes a simple garnish can really amp up the presentation of what you're serving.