This peppermint cake with white chocolate buttercream is easy enough that anyone can make it and feel like an expert baker. Plus it’s really, really good!
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Question of the day: are you ready for Christmas recipes yet? I’m SO NOT! And I can practically hear you asking me why on earth I’m posting such a festive-looking cake today if I’m not ready for all things red and green.
The answer is simple: peppermint. In my life, it’s a year-round flavor—especially when paired with white chocolate. I mean, who can resist? Especially when it’s an EASY peppermint cake slathered in the creamiest white chocolate buttercream ever to hit your taste buds.
And guys, if you’re wanting to make this cake in March or something you totally don’t have to make the red cake layers. Go all white. Or all pink or green! You get the idea. Just be sure you make this cake at some point, unless you don’t love peppermint or something. It’s cool. We can bond over peanut butter instead. . .you do like peanut butter right???
Why you’ll love this peppermint cake:
- It starts with a cake mix so it’s SUPER EASY
- The cake mix also makes it (almost) fool proof—no special baking skills necessary!
- You don’t need any fancy kitchen equipment to make it
Peppermint cake layers, step by step
Start by combining white cake mix, flour, sugar, water, and some other standard cake ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Yes, we’re adding flour and sugar to the cake mix; not only do they add bulk to make nice tall cake layers, but they also make the cake taste more like it’s made from scratch.
You’ll notice that the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon peppermint extract. You can add less peppermint if you want; I just like my cake really minty. The recipe also says to use clear vanilla extract if you have it; clear vanilla isn’t necessary but it makes the cake a little whiter.
Beat those ingredients until smooth, then pour half of the batter into an 8-inch round cake pan. (You can eyeball this or use a kitchen scale, either way is fine.)
Sift a little cocoa powder over the remaining half of the batter. This is also optional; if you have a cocoa allergy then leave it out. The cocoa powder helps deepen the red color so you don’t have to add as much food coloring.
Once the cocoa powder is stirred into the batter, add red gel food coloring.
Gel food coloring is necessary as it’s more concentrated than liquid; you’d have to add a lot of the liquid stuff to get a deep red. I use flavorless red gel color from Wilton, which is readily available at Michaels or Walmart (or Amazon!).
Pour that into a second 8-inch round cake pan and bake your cake layers until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
Cool the layers completely before you frost your cake. You can make them up to a day ahead and store them at room temp wrapped in plastic wrap.
How to make white chocolate buttercream
Beat room temperature unsalted butter in a large mixing bowl until it’s smooth. Add powdered sugar, salt, whole milk, and vanilla extract (I used clear vanilla again). Beat that until it’s smooth.
Add melted and cooled white chocolate and beat until fully combined and that’s it!
Baker’s tip: Always melt white chocolate slowly; it scorches easily. Use the microwave at 50% power and heat the chocolate in 15-second intervals, stirring after each one. I’ve never had a problem with white chocolate scorching when I use this method!
How to assemble your peppermint cake
The first thing you have to do is split your cake layers in half. I can’t cut a straight line to save my life, so I use this loooong knife and these cake slicing guides to help me split my cake layers evenly. Here’s a pic:
If that’s not enough help to you, here’s a video to help. If your cake layers crumble when you try to slice them, just refrigerate them until they harden a little.
Place one of the split red cake layers on a cake stand or cardboard cake circle and top with frosting. Top that with a white cake layer and more frosting. Continue until you’ve used all your cake, then frost and decorate your cake as you like.
I used this closed star tip along with some peppermint hard candies and red sanding sugar but red jimmies or chopped peppermint bark would both be fun toppings too!
See? This is a manageable cake for even the most novice baker. I promise you can do it! If splitting the cake layers intimidates you then just don’t do it. A two-layer cake is just as delicious as a four-layer one!
And now I’m off to recipe test some actual Christmas desserts. This peppermint cake just doesn’t have me feeling jingle bell-y enough!
As noted above, I like to use red gel food coloring and clear vanilla extract in the cake
A cake turntable is really helpful so you can turn the cake rather than moving yourself around the cake as you’re frosting it.
Did you make this peppermint cake? Awesome! Post a pic on Instagram and tag @theitsybitsykitchen so I can see your creations!
Peppermint cake with white chocolate buttercream is an easy and festive dessert that tastes absolutely delicious!
- 4 ounces white chocolate finely chopped
- 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
- 5 to 5 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 to 5 tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract use clear if you have it
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- peppermint candies and sprinkles for decorating
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper, then spray the paper with more cooking spray. Set pans aside.
Combine the cake mix, flour, sugar, sour cream, water, vegetable oil, egg whites, peppermint extract, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes—batter should be very smooth.
- Pour half of the batter into one of the prepared pans. Sift the cocoa powder over the remaining cake batter and mix briefly to combine. Add red gel food coloring to achieve desired color and mix with a rubber spatula to combine.
- Pour into the remaining cake pan and bake cake layers 32 to 38 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
- Cool cake layers for 20 minutes in pans, then run a knife around the edge of the pans and carefully invert onto a wire rack to cool completely before assembling your cake.
- Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat at 50% power in 15-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
- Beat the butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds.
- Turn mixer to low and beat in 5 cups of the powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons of the milk, and the vanilla and salt until combined. Add the cooled white chocolate and mix on low until incorporated. Turn mixer to medium and mix until smooth. If frosting is too thick, add additional milk; if it’s too thin, add additional powdered sugar.
- Use a long serrated knife to trim your cake layers if they’ve domed. Use the same knife to split each layer in half to form 4 layers. (If the layers are too soft to split, chill them in the fridge until they harden a bit.)
- Set 1 red cake layer on a cake stand or cardboard cake circle. Spread about 3/4 cup frosting over the top. Top with a white cake layer and more frosting; repeat until you’ve used all the cake layers.
- Frost your cake with remaining frosting and decorate with sprinkles and peppermint candies. Serve.
- *I used Pillsbury
- The cocoa powder in the red cake layer is optional; it helps create a nice deep red color without using as much food coloring but if you’re baking for someone with chocolate allergies then leave it out.
- Be sure when you make the frosting that you melt the white chocolate SLOWLY so it doesn't scorch.
- Uneaten cake can be stored at room temp (covered) for up to 2 days or in the freezer, tightly wrapped, for up to 2 months.