This Red Velvet Trifle with Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting is a pretty, festive Christmas dessert! It features cubes of gorgeous red velvet cake and lots of cream cheese frosting with candy cane bits.
I’m just going to tell you right now—if you’re not a peppermint fan, you should probably skip my blog for the next few weeks. When I was sitting down to plan out posts, I realized I have a ridiculous amount of candy cane desserts coming up. Like, an obsessive, unhealthy amount. Paint me red and white and hang me on a tree, because we’re gonna be all candy canes all the time around here. Sorry not sorry!
First up: this red velvet twist on a holiday trifle! Trifles are the BEST because they come together quickly, look super fancy, and feed a whole army. (Or, in this case, just a hungry group of my husband’s coworkers.)
Red Velvet is a natural choice because the red color of the cake is already super Christmassy, and the light cocoa flavor is neutral enough to go with everything, and won’t insult those weirdos who insist that chocolate and mint should not be paired together. (Are YOU one of those weirdos? Explain yourself in the comments!)
So to fulfill my All Peppermint, All The Time mantra, I crushed up several big handfuls of candy canes, then stirred the shards into a hyooooge batch of cream cheese frosting. I also added a bit of peppermint extract (because more is more!!) and when I was assembling it, I put bigger chunks of candy canes around the outside of the bowl, to make it all pretty-like.
The final minty touch was scattering candy cane pieces and some bigger mints along the top of the trifle. It’s a little much, but isn’t that exactly what holiday baking is about?!
Trifles are actually best when they’ve had at least a few hours to meld together, so this is the perfect make-ahead desserts for a holiday party or dinner! Just stick a spoon right in the middle and let everyone scoop up a big ole serving of happiness.
- 11¼ oz (2½ cups) all-purpose flour
- 10½ oz (1½ cups) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 8 fl oz (1 cup) vegetable oil
- 12 fl oz (1½ cups) buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp red gel food coloring
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4.5 oz (about 25 miniature candy canes) crushed candy canes, to yield ½ cup crushed pieces
- 12 oz (3 sticks) butter, at room temperature
- 24 oz (3 blocks) full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3½ oz (1/2 cup) marshmallow cream or fluff
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 tsp peppermint extract (to taste)
- ½ tsp salt
- 36 oz (9 cups) powdered sugar
- 3 TBSP cream (or milk)
- Additional candy cane pieces, or striped candies
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a half sheet (18x12-inch) rimmed baking sheet with foil, extending up and over the sides of the sheet. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.
- In the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the vegetable oil, buttermilk, eggs, red gel food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Mix on medium-low speed until well-combined.
- Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the pan with a spatula, then mix on medium speed until the cake batter is smooth and all the lumps of flour have disappeared.
- Pour the cake batter into the sheet pan and spread it into an even layer. (It will be a thin layer of cake.) Bake the cake at 350 F for 15 minutes, until it pulls away from the sides and springs back when lightly pressed with your fingertips. Cool completely before using. The cake can be baked several days in advance. If making in advance, wrap the cooled cake in cling wrap and freeze until ready to use.
- Unwrap the mini candy canes, and place them in a large zip-top plastic bag. Use a rolling pin or kitchen mallet to crush them into fine crumbs.
- Combine the butter, cream cheese, and marshmallow cream in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream them together until they’re light and fluffy, without any chunks of butter or cream cheese. Add the vanilla, 1 tsp peppermint extract, and salt, and mix it in.
- Add the powdered sugar and cream, and mix on low speed until the sugar is moistened. Turn the speed to medium-high and whip for 2-3 minutes, until the frosting is fluffy and light. Add more cream or sugar as desired, to get your optimal texture, then stir in the crushed candy canes. Taste it, and add additional mint extract, if desired.
- Cut the cooled cake into small 1-inch cubes. Place a layer of cake cubes in the bottom of a 3-quart trifle bowl. Top with a generous layer of cream cheese frosting, spreading it out evenly over the cake. If desired, you can put some larger shards of candy canes around the sides of the bowl to show through the glass and give it some visual appeal. Continue to layer the cake and frosting—I got 4 cake layers and 3 frosting layers in my trifle bowl. When you reach the top, transfer the remaining frosting to a piping bag and pipe stars or rosettes on top. Finish by scattering more candy cane pieces or large peppermints on top of the trifle.
- For the best taste and texture, allow the trifle to sit and the cake to soften in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours (overnight is okay). Let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving, to take some of the chill off.