Peppermint Chocolate Layer Cake

Peppermint and chocolate seem a perfect pairing among so many options for holiday desserts. 

This a cake that will work for Christmas dinner or, with a little adaptation, for a young boy’s birthday party. The same recipe, with extra frosting and some candy canes, gives it a completely different look. 

I first thought about making this for Christmas — a chocolate cake with peppermint icing. Then, I remembered a special young man’s birthday was on December 19th. A good friend’s grandson, Jackson has Celiac disease. I know it must be so much harder for gluten-intolerant children — especially on special occasions.

So, after finishing the holiday dessert, I took it one step further and made it into a birthday cake, fashioned after a drum. I had seen a picture of this cake in one of my mother’s cookbooks when I was a little girl. Being a tomboy, I had hoped my mother would make one for me. That never happened, but finally I had the opportunity to make it for someone else.

As it turned out, peppermint ranked among Jackson’s favorite flavors. How fortuitous was that?


2 cups gluten-free flour *
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup water
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup coffee
4 extra large eggs

*Flour blend:
1 ¼ cups sorghum flour
1 ¼ cups white rice flour
1 cup potato starch (not flour)
1 cup sweet rice flour


In its simple, classic form, the cake works well for Christmas dinner dessert.

In its simple, classic form, the cake works well for Christmas dinner dessert.


Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with butter and then lightly dust with flour. Measure all of the ingredients. Bring the buttermilk and eggs to room temperature before starting. (Batters made with ingredients brought to room temperature blend more evenly.)

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on a low speed and using the paddle attachment, add the water, buttermilk, vegetable oil and coffee to the dry mixture. Add the eggs one at a time and, after all is blended, continue beating at a medium high speed for 2 or 3 more minutes. (I do this while I’m getting the cake pans ready. This adds more air bubbles for a higher rising cake.)

Once mixed, divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans. Place in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Test for doneness by sticking a toothpick in the center of the cake layers. If it comes out cleanly, they’re done. Let cool completely, at least two hours. Once completely cooled, cut the cake layers in half horizontally and then frost each layer of the cake. With each layer, sprinkle with the crushed candy cane. This gives it a little surprise and extra burst of peppermint.