Grasshopper Pie Layer Cake

Grasshopper pie manages to be one of those American classics that very few people have actually had growing up. It is a pie made with chocolate cookie crumbs that surrounds a mint filling, usually made with marshmallows and whipped cream. In short, it’s a chocolate and mint pie. If you have read through my blog, you will know that I have done many a chocolatemint dessert in the past. What makes this one unique, might you ask? The fact it’s a whole-ass layer cake. And that it took me about 2 days(thanks to me working a full time job and trying to exercise daily) to do. Now if you want a recipe that will challenge you, this one will do that. Just the sheer number of components in the cake is enough of a reason to feel unmotivated to do this recipe. But for those brave, possibly dumb, souls who want to attempt this, I applaud you. Just because if you love mint chocolate as much as I do(fun fact, it was the ice cream flavor of my childhood), then you will pour in the hours of baking, frosting, yawning, and occasional crying that would go into this recipe.

For the components, we have a dark chocolate cake soaked with a mint-infused milk, a mint-white chocolate custard, a mint-infused Italian meringue buttercream, a mint-chocolate ganache, dark chocolate cookies, and fried mint. I have options for using both spearmint essential oil or creme di menthe for your flavoring options, since one is for those who cannot drink and one is those who can. The oil can be purchased at Wholefoods. You can also use peppermint extract as well. For the coloring, I used green spirulina powder for a natural color, but you can use green food coloring as well – I made sure to list options for both in the recipe as well. If you want to make this recipe but not all the components, I would say that the most omittable components would be the fried mint and the custard. The fried mint is just a garnish on top, and it’s not the most necessary part of the cake, just a nice finishing component to add in that green color. Fresh mint leaves would work just fine as a substitute. For the custard, you can omit it and just increase the buttercream recipe by another half, as I did not realize until slicing into the cake whole similar in appearance the custard was to the buttercream – I legitimately could not tell the different, or where one started and the other one ended. I hope you enjoy baking this recipe, or parts of it, as much as I enjoyed toiling over it, because while it took a lot of time and effort to make it, I will admit that the cake itself is freaking delicious, and worth every second I poured into making it.

For the chocolate cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
a pinch of salt
3 tbsp cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cups canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 drops spearmint essential oil*(can omit)

Mix to form your batter. Pour into a lined half-sheet tray and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Cool completely and cut into 2 6-inch rounds and create a third round from the remaining scraps.

For the mint-white chocolate custard:
10 fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup milk
1 cup white chocolate chips
a pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp cornstarch + 1/4 cup cold water
1/2 tsp green spirulina powder or 1 dot green food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract

Start by steeping the mint leaves into the milk on low heat for 20 minutes. Strain out. Add to the still-warm milk the white chocolate and salt first, and then stir until combined. In another bowl, mix the egg yolks with cornstarch. Pour the white chocolate mixture into the egg yolks first, then mix. Pour everything into the pot and stir on low heat until thickened considerably, about 3-4 minutes of whisking on low heat. Pour through a sieve and add in the green spirulina/food coloring and vanilla. Cover the custard with cling film, and refrigerate until the mixture is cold to the touch.

For the chocolate cookies:
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp black cacao powder
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt

Mix together to form your dough. Chill down the dough first for 10 minutes. Then roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/8th inch thickness. Transfer onto a lined baking sheet and cut out 2-inch rounds – you want at least 10 to 12. With the remaining dough, crumble up the dough. Bake the rounds at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Bake the remaining dough at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes. Crumble up the baked off remaining dough into smaller pieces – you will use that in the layers for assembly.

For the mint Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar, in two parts
1/4 cup creme di menthe*
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
*spearmint essential oil/peppermint extract(if not using creme di menthe)
2 sticks unsalted butter

Whip egg whites with half of the sugar to stiff peaks. In a pot, heat up the creme di menthe with the remaining sugar and salt until the sugar is fully dissolved and the alcohol is cooked off(flambe as necessary). Pour the hot syrup into the egg whites and whip until combined. Whip into the egg whites your vanilla and butter to finish. Split the buttercream so that you have 1/4 of it for your layers and the rest for assembly.

*Alternatively, if you do not have creme di menthe, just substitute that with water in the steps. Finish the buttercream with either 1/2 tsp peppermint extract or 4 drops of spearmint essential oil. For the coloring, either use 1 dot of green food coloring or 1 tsp of green spirulina powder.

For the hot chocolate cake soak:
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp cocoa powder
a pinch of salt

Heat everything together while whisking until combined. Allow the soak to cool down before using.

For initial assembly:
Start with a 6-inch cake round or a plate larger than 6-inches, and a 6-inch ring mold. Place down the scrap layer of cake first, then pour in 1/3 of your cake soak. Remove the ring mold at this point. Pipe a border around the layer of cake with the reserved 1/4 of the frosting. Pour in 1/2 of the white chocolate and mint pastry cream, then sprinkle in 1/2 of the crushed cookies. Repeat these with the second layer. For the top layer, just add on the soak. Spread 1/4 of the remaining buttercream around the cake first to act as a crumb coat. Freeze the cake for at least another hour before attempting the next part.

At this stage, transfer the cake and the 6-inch cake round and place on a turntable, using dots of buttercream to hold the cake in place. Spread on all but 3 tbsp of the remaining buttercream, using an offset spatula or a bench scraper to guarantee smooth edges. Freeze the cake again until you have completed the other garnishes.

For the dark chocolate ganache:
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp peppermint extract/1 drop spearmint essential oil/1 tbsp creme di menthe
a pinch of salt

Heat everything over a double boiler until melted together and combined. Keep at lukewarm for garnishing, or reheat to 90 degrees F.

For the fried mint leaves:
Fresh mint leaves
Canola oil

Heat up 1 inch of canola oil in a small pan to 330 degrees F. Flash fry the mint leaves in the oil for about 5-10 seconds, and drain them on a paper towel to remove any excess oil. Store in an airtight container until it is time to garnish.

For final assembly:
Start by pouring the ganache on top of the still-frozen cake, aiming it on the center so that it can evenly spread and drizzle down the sides. Allow the ganache to set first. Then re-whip the remaining buttercream and either use small teaspoons to quenelle it or pipe dollops on top of the ganache. Garnish with the chocolate cookies and fried mint leaves to finish.

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