Guys, we’ve been doing it wrong in America. By “it,” I mean Christmas. By “wrong,” I mean dinky lights, scraggly garland, and last-minute drugstore stocking stuffers. Christmas in England is next level. Christmas carols have been blaring on the streets for weeks now, and the city is dripping in twinkle lights. You can’t walk by a pub without seeing a gaggle of ten or so friends wearing ridiculous Christmas sweaters and clinking glasses. It’s as if the entire country decided that for at least one full month, we need to forget about all the tragedies happening in the world and just embrace merriment, full on.
We’re also in high holiday spirits at our house. A few weeks ago we had a Christmas open house for our new friends and neighbors. A few nights before the party, I spent the evening building a smoker out of our oven and then shoving 15 pounds of dry-rubbed pork shoulder inside. While we slept, the warm hug of hickory smoke and rendering pork fat wafted throughout our apartment. The hubby told me that sleeping through that delicious aroma was simultaneously the most wonderful and tortuous experience. I woke up smelling like the inside of a North Carolina barbecue joint. It felt really good — confusing, but good.
Luckily, I’ve caught a break during my feverish preparations for Christmas with the help of Miss Jones Baking Co.’s organic baking mixes, which I used to make this amazingly, Christmas-appropriate peppermint chocolate cake.
Miss Jones Baking Co. baking mixes are certified organic, non-GMO, plant-based, responsibly sourced, and contain no artificial colors or flavors, so when they reached out to ask me to participate in their Bake-it-Better Challenge, I jumped at the chance. I usually bake from scratch not just because I like to challenge myself, but because most commercial boxed mixes are loaded full of artificial “stuff” that I’m not a huge fan of.
Miss Jones Baking Co. sent me a couple of boxes of their classic chocolate cake and a tub of cream cheese frosting. After resisting the urge just to eat the frosting straight from the tub, I set about making this peppermint chocolate cake using some Nielsen-Massey peppermint extract and crushed candy canes. I recently discovered loose-bottomed cake pans at a baking class, and I’ve been hooked. Basically, a loose-bottomed pan makes it much easier to separate the cake from the pan after it’s baked, and you end up with a nice, smooth cake ready for frosting instead of serving the cake still in the pan with frosting just spread over the top of it. Not that I would have any experience with that, of course.
I loved how my peppermint chocolate cake turned out. Miss Jones Baking Co.’s mix produced a wonderfully moist, delicious chocolate cake, and the peppermint extract added a light freshness to the cake that just tasted exactly like Christmas makes me feel. For the frosting, I lightened Miss Jones Baking Co.’s cream cheese frosting with some freshly whipped cream before spreading it on my cake, then sprinkled crushed candy canes all over the cake. The crushed candy canes kind of put this cake over the top, but hey, I live in England now, and that is how they do it here.
And just in case you need to see just how unreal Christmas in England is, may I present to you some photos of my children at the Harrod’s Christmas Grotto (to meet Father Christmas, not Santa) last week:
Pursuant to FTC guidelines, I was contacted by Miss Jones Baking Co. and provided with free samples in connection with writing this post, but was not otherwise paid or compensated.
- 2 boxes of Miss Jones Baking Co. chocolate cake mix
- 6 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup melted butter
- 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
- 1 package of candy canes
- 1 tub Miss Jones Baking Co. cream cheese frosting
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loose bottomed 8-inch pan (double height) or 2 regular 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
- Mix together cake mix, eggs, milk and melted butter. Add peppermint extract. Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake for 28-30 minutes (if using 2 8-inch pans; if using only one loose bottomed pan, you will have to at least double the baking time; my cake took nearly 80 minutes to cook completely through). Test your cakes with a wooden skewer; if it comes out clean, it's done.
- Cool cake on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes or until the cake starts to pull away slightly from the edges.
- Run a sharp knife along the edge of the pan to loosen the sides, then invert the cake onto the wire rack again, allowing it to cool completely. Using a palette knife or cake knife, carefully cut off the rounded tops of the cakes to give you two flat layers (if you used 2 pans) or one really thick, even cake (if you used 1 pan).
- When the cake is completely cooled, pour the whipping cream into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the cream forms soft peaks. Gradually fold in the cream cheese frosting until it's well incorporated and smooth. Spread the frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Put the candy canes into a large gallon Ziploc bag and, using a meat tenderizer or other mallet, crush the candy canes into small pieces. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes over the top of the cake and press more crushed candy cane into the sides of the cake until the cake is completely covered. Refrigerate until ready to serve.