I made these cake to share at work, to commiserate ourselves over one of our fold leaving to work in London. It was a sad event, though we did try to drown our sorrows in peppermint icing. When people asked me what flavour they were and I said ‘mint chocolate’, everyone responded with a variation of ’Oooh! I love mint chocolate!’. I also love mint chocolate, it’s my favourite ice cream flavour, and given that you would think I would have made mint chocolate cake before. Not so – this was my first mint chocolate creation, and I have no idea why I let it go so long. Let’s start with the best photo of the lot – the solo mint chocolate cupcake, with a mint chocolate biscuit on top:
I was beyond pleased with this project – it was the first time I successfully made gluten free biscuits, for a start. Previously I’d tried them only to end up with a structure so loosely held together that it crumbled to dust the instant you tried to take a bite, coating the inside of one’s mouth with what may as well have been ash. Sugary, floury ash. Sigh. As you can imagine, this put me off trying them again, but when I got the idea for these little biscuits I decided to take the bull by the horns and try again. I used this recipe for peppermint creams, which I’ve been eyeing up on Pinterest for some time, to make both the biscuits and peppermint fondant in the middle. I added one crucial ingredient to the biscuit dough – an egg. The humble egg; how it spelled the difference between success and failure for this blogger. I otherwise followed the recipe, swapping Dove’s Farm gluten free blend flours in for the self raising and plain flours, and oat milk for the normal milk.
Steph at Raspberri Cupcakes made these in pretty flower shapes; I had been intending to follow her lead and use my icing stamps to make flowers and hearts, but in the end I stuck with the classic round biscuit – yes, like a well known brand of biscuit that begins with O, but I insist that mine are better. I used the narrow end of the insert of a piping bag – you know, the bit that you screw the nozzle on to? – to get the shapes perfectly uniform. The uniformity is one of the most pleasing things about the biscuits, apart from them not shattering into dust when you try to eat them.
What a mess. The biscuit dough was very soft, so I had to work quickly, but I wanted it to be a little softer than a normal biscuit – gluten free baking dries out a lot more than normal baking, so if you start with something that holds a little too much liquid, you should get a good end result. I also let the dough rest in the fridge for longer than the 15 minutes in the recipe – it was in there for at least an hour. They baked for about five minutes, being so tiny – again, with gluten free baking being drier, it was even more important than usual not to over bake them.
They came out looking like this, rows and rows of identical, tiny biscuits:
While they cooled, I made the peppermint fondant. This was really easy, and you could use it as a decorative icing to cut into little shapes, if you wanted to. I used about half a teaspoon of peppermint essence and a little green food dye to get the colour and flavour I wanted. It doesn’t look very inspiring on its own though.
Now it was time to sandwich the biscuits together. I chose not to coat them in chocolate, though I would like to, because I saw the trouble Steph had getting it to set evenly, and also I was trying to do a batch of 36 cupcakes, with buttercream icing and biscuit toppers, in the few hours between work and bedtime.
I could hardly stop looking at these little wonders. Sometimes I make something that I think looks really proper, like you might have bought it in a shop, and it amazes and surprises me. And then I eat it.
While I was chilling the biscuit dough, I made an enormous batch of devil’s food cupcakes – a more enormous batch than I meant to, in fact, I got a bit confused over how much to increase the recipe by… I always use the devils food cake recipe from Cake in the Country now, you may have seen me mention it before. I don’t need another chocolate cake recipe any more. It’s particularly good for gluten free adaptation because there is so much liquid in it that it would take a long time in the oven for them to dry out. This time, I doubled the recipe, which gave 36 cupcakes, and I changed half of the vanilla essence for peppermint essence, which just gave a hint of peppermint to the finished cakes.
This is what I meant by a huge batch. Note the immense mess everywhere. I was multi tasking. Sadly, one of my tasks was not cleaning up.
My poor kitchen wasn’t really designed for this kind of thing.
Once the cakes were out of the oven (they had to be done in two batches), I started on the mint buttercream. This was easy, but sadly ‘easy’ and ‘instant’ are not the same thing… I softened a block of butter and then added double the weight of butter in icing sugar, plus a hint of green food dye and a teaspoon of peppermint essence. You could experiment with how much mint and how much colour you’d like to add, of course. I let my food mixer do the work while I made a start on the dishes and cleaning the sugar off every surface in the house, for what felt like the millionth time. Occasionally I’d go back and scrape down the sides of the bowl and check on the progress of the buttercream. When it was smooth and well combined, I made a start on the icing by rudely dropping a spoonful on each cake. Don’t they look affronted?
I did it this way so that I could make sure I had enough icing to go round – if I’d iced them properly, one at a time, I could have run out towards the end and had to go back and start over again. I also chose to spoon it on to the cakes rather than swirling – swirling uses up at least twice as much icing, there just wasn’t enough for that.
I smoothed the icing out by hand, because it stuck too much to the back of the spoon, and then pressed a wee biscuit into the top of each one. That was a quick sentence to write, and a slow process to undertake! But it was well worth it, because in the end I had this:
This time they’re jostling to get to the front, so they can be in the photo. It got dark while I was baking. It very often gets dark while I’m baking, and my photos are not improved by the situation.
These were a big success all round – they look almost exactly as I’d pictured them, though I would have preferred to have an extravagant swirl of icing, but it wasn’t practical on the day. Everyone who had one was very complimentary of them; the flavours were balanced, the chocolate sponge is so moist and the minty icing is fresh and not too heavy. Another time I might try making a mint syrup from real mint instead of relying on the synthetic essence, but I have to say it tastes great, not synthetic or plasticky at all.
My favourite part is definitely the biscuits, though. I have extra biscuit dough and fondant in the freezer, ready for the next time!