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Sharing my most festive holiday cake yet, the North Pole Cake. Three layers of buttery chocolate cake, layered with sweet chocolate ganache, and frosted generously with a browned butter vanilla frosting. Finish the cake off with a frosting dipped candy cane “north pole” and you’ll have the cutest holiday cake, that’s beyond delicious too.

{This post is sponsored by Land O’Lakes}

front on photo of North Pole Cake

I couldn’t let December pass by without sharing a festive holiday cake that’s both cute and delicious. As you can tell by now, I really like to do it up with the Christmas recipes. I have so much fun playing around with whimsical desserts.

Enter the layer cake, one of my favorite recipes to date.

I had two goals for this cake.

First, make it good. Chocolatey on the inside, but with a nutty vanilla frosting on the outside.

Second, make the cake feel as though you’ve entered the North Pole. Meaning, create a winter wonderland cake that’s just as fun to make as it is to eat.

North Pole Cake before frosting

For the base of the cake I actually tried a few different recipes before landing on a more simple chocolate cake. I really wanted my cake to be moist, chocolate filled, and have hints of sweet Land O Lakes® Butter. There’s nothing worse than a dry cake, so I love using Land O Lakes® Butter to keep my cakes extra light, moist, and flavorful.

I baked my cake into three (6-inch) layer cakes. If you don’t own a 6-inch cake pan, you can also bake the cake in two (8-inch) cake layers. This works just as well, but you’ll have a shorter and wider cake, versus tall and skinny.

overhead photo of North Pole Cake

For the filling, I debated on whether to simply frost the entire cake with frosting or to add a chocolate filling. Since it’s December, and this is a Christmas cake, I went with the chocolate filling! When in doubt, always add more chocolate…

I made a lusciously smooth chocolate ganache with semi-sweet chocolate and a touch of cream to spread between the cake layers. When you look at the cake, you’d never guess there’s so much chocolate inside, but when you cut the first slice, you’re pleasantly surprised to find multiple layers of chocolate deliciousness. I love this little surprise hidden inside…so fun!

angled North Pole Cake with slice cut

And then there’s the frosting.

Oh, this frosting, it’s become my new go-to. Browned butter, a touch of mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, and a splash of vanilla.

Simple ingredients, but put them together and they make something incredibly delicious. This frosting is smooth, creamy, a little nutty from the browned butter, and perfectly sweet. Honestly, it doesn’t get any better.

It’s important for me to make recipes that not only look good, but taste just as delicious, if not better. And trust me, there’s so much to love about this cake. It is a chocolate lover’s dream cake. But it’s also very much a cake for anyone who loves vanilla.

front on photo of North Pole Cake with slice cut

To make the “North Pole” I just used a thick candy cane. I broke the rounded tip off, and then dipped it through a little of the frosting to make the top of the pole. I added some pearl sugar for a snowy effect, and pushed it directly into the top of the cake.

Nothing fancy, but so special and cute.

If you’d like to take the decorations a step further, you can make sugar cookie cut outs. I made reindeer sugar cookies. I sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar, and used a little melted white chocolate for their eyes and tail. It was important to me to keep the scene simple though, so that the cake would be the star.

If you’re looking for a fun Christmassy weekend project, or need a show stopping cake for your next holiday party, this is definitely that cake! I’ll be making it for my family’s Christmas Eve and I’m already so excited.

North Pole Cake slice with fork on cake

North Pole Cake | halfbakedharvest.com #chocolatecake #christmas #holiday #dessert

If you make this North Pole Cake please be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to also tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

Watch the How To Video:

North Pole Cake

Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories Per Serving: 404 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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Ingredients

Ganache

Buttercream

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) sticks Land O Lakes® Salted Butter, at room temperature
  • 2 ounces mascarpone or cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • large candy cane and pearl sugar, for decorating

Instructions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 3 (6-inch) round cake pans or 2 (8 inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter.
    2. In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
    3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand-held mixer) beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add the buttermilk, coffee flavored liquor (if using) and vanilla and beat until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients with the mixer on low until just combined. Beat in the hot water. 
    4. Pour the batter among the cake pans and bake 30-35 minutes, until the tops are just set, and no longer wiggly in the center. Remove and let cool five minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the pan and turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack. Cover and let the cakes cool completely before assembling.
    5. To make the ganache. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the heavy cream, butter, and chocolate. Microwave on power lever high for 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Let the ganache cool 5-10 minutes.
    6. To make the buttercream. Add 1 stick butter to a skillet set over medium heat. Allow the butter to brown lightly until it smells toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Stir often. Remove from the heat and transfer the butter to the mixing bowl, let cool until it's room temp.
    7. Add the remaining stick of butter, mascarpone, and powdered sugar. Beat the butter and powdered sugar together until the butter is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.
    8. To assemble. Place 1st cake layer on a serving plate. Spread 1/2 of the ganache over the cake. Add the 2nd cake layer and spread with the remaining ganache. Add the 3rd layer. Frost the outside of the cake with a thin layer of buttercream. Chill 30 minutes and then frost the cake generously with the remaining buttercream. 
    7. Break the rounded tip off of the candy cane. Dip 1 end of the candy in buttercream to act as the tip of the "pole". Sprinkle the buttercream with pearl sugar. Insert the candy cane off-center on the top of the cake. Sprinkle with pearl sugar for "snow". Decorate as desired. Serve, or store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

front on photo of North Pole Cake

{This post is sponsored by Land O’Lakes. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep Half Baked Harvest cooking!}

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Comments

    1. Hey Wendy,
      I have not used convection bake with this recipe, I would recommend to adjust accordingly. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! Happy Holidays! xTieghan

  1. Merry Christmas!
    I’ll be making this beautiful cake for Christmas this year! It sounds delicious!
    Just wondering if you added a coffee flavored liqueur to your cake, and if so what do you like to use?
    I’ll also be making your Salted Maple Apple Tarte Tatin! This will be my 4th time in three months…..I’m in love with it!
    Thanks for all of the descriptive tips!

    1. Hey Wendy,
      Kahlua would work well here! I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! Happy Holidays! xTieghan

    1. Hey Deb,
      Sorry I have not tested this recipe in a spring form pan, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! Happy Holidays! xTieghan

  2. Hi Tieghan, I am excited to try this recipe! I only half one 8 inch round pand, would it be ok to use one and then cut the cake in half instead of baking the layers separately? Thanks!

    1. Hey Rachel,
      Yes, this would work! I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! Happy Holidays! xTieghan

    1. Hey Remi,
      Sure! I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions. Happy Thanksgiving! xTieghan

  3. Hi Tieghan –
    This is Barbara from Instagram aka Catty Noir. My daughters 16th birthday is coming up and she wants a chocolate cake with white frosting. This recipe sounds perfect! I will post photos when we have the big event with a small number of friends (safely due to COVID)! Also going to make your pizza roll recipe for the girls later that nigh! 🙂

    1. Hi Barbara! That is so sweet of you to make this and pizza rolls for her! If you have any questions, I am happy to help! Happy Birthday to her!! xTieghan

  4. 5 stars
    I LOVE this recipe. The icing is to die for. I took some creative licence and put raspberries in the middle layer. Then turned the cake into a Mickey Mouse themed cake for my brothers birthday. It was so fun, and so tasty thanks to the pieces in this recipe.

  5. I made just the buttercream tonight for a different cake. Rave reviews! My mom said it was the best cake (as in ICING!!!) she’s ever had. Thanks so much for perfecting these flavors! The browned butter was the key!

  6. 5 stars
    Made this as cupcakes for a friend’s Christmas party, then again a couple weeks later in cake form for my family’s Christmas Eve gathering. Didn’t change or alter anything, would absolutely make again! The ganache in particular was a festive touch, and I got a ton of compliments for the buttercream frosting (I don’t think I can make it any other way now—the browned butter added such a great depth to it).

    Heads up that the ganache is runny even after I let it cool for a bit, especially when I put it in between the cake layers. I just chilled the cake for a bit after I added ganache (like the recipe says) and all was well, but I was really worried for a few minutes. Don’t panic, it will set and you will be able to frost your yummy cake.

    Thank you for this delicious recipe and for introducing me to a new way to make frosting! Merry Christmas!

    1. I am so glad you loved this recipe Danielle! Thank you so much for trying it!! I hope you had a wonderful holiday! xTieghan

  7. 5 stars
    I’ve looked all over for a nice cake for Christmas. This looks so good! My question is, if I bake 2 8″ rounds,can I still put the Ganache on the top layer and frost as directed with the buttercream frosting? Thank you for your help, I’m sure this cake will be perfect. Merry Christmas to you

    1. Hi!! Yes, I think that should still work wonderfully! Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe! Thank you and Merry Christmas! xTieghan

  8. Hello Tieghan,

    I had an alternate idea, it would be great if you could clarify if I can pull it off. If I increase the serving size to 20 (from original 12), can i bake the mixture between three 9″ cake pans? I am worried if I am making more mixture than I can bake in three of the 9″ cake pans. Can’t wait to make this for my holiday party!

    Thanks!

    1. HI! So that is increasing the recipe by a lot and I do worry a little about the measurements and cooking times varying. If you feel comfortable testing it out then I would say give it a try. If you divi up the measurements correctly, it should work just fine. You could just double the recipe and make a 4 layer cake as well, baking each layer the same amount of time. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe! Thank you and happy holidays! xTieghan

  9. Hello Tieghan,

    Can I use two 9″ cake pans instead of 8″ ones? I would imagine it would yield thinner layers. Is there anyway I can compensating for heigh by making more than 1x of the recipe?

    Thanks!

    1. HI Shewetha! Yes, you can use 2 (9-inch) cake pans. The layers really should not be much thinner, so I think you should leave the recipe as is for best results.

  10. 5 stars
    Hi Tiegen! I made this cake for Christmas and everyone thought it was phenomenal!!! I loved the frosting and will use this recipe for future cakes and cupcakes. What a unique idea to brown the butter creating a wonderful nutty taste along with the marscapone cheese. Loved it!!

  11. 3 stars
    Hi,
    I made this for Christmas. It was absolutely gorgeous! The icing was off the charts and I’ll probably use it for future projects.. The cake had good flavor but was really dry. The best way to describe it would be similar to a Drake’s Devil Dog. I didn’t change a thing about the recipe. I hope you have a happy new year and I’m looking forward to seeing your ideas for 2019!

  12. Tieghan!!!!! So although we don’t do Christmas in my family, we do eat CAKE. So I made 1 1/2 of this recipe to make a 3 layer 8-inch cake (I think?) Anyway, I was REALLY focused on making sure my math for multiplying the recipe was correct. In the midst of that, along with allowing my 3 year old to do as much of the “making” as possible, I FORGOT THE HOT WATER. Needless to say, my cakes came out a little bit dry. But, the flavor was still there and the ganache and frosting were insane. Everyone loved them. I’ll come back and give a true rating after I’ve actually baked this with all the ingredients. Lol. Thanks!

    1. Thank you for trying this Kristen! I hope it turns out better for you next time, but I am glad everyone still enjoyed it!

  13. Hi! I’m making this tonight to serve on Christmas Eve! Once frosted, does it need to be refrigerated or can it be left out (in a cake dome) at room temp?

    I’m so excited to make this!

    1. Hi! I recommend keeping the cake in fridge and then removing and hour or so before serving to come to room temp. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you loved this recipe and had a great Christmas! Thanks so much and happy Holidays!! xTieghan ?

  14. 5 stars
    I made this as cupcakes, cause that’s my favorite way to consume cake, and just did the genache as a filling. I was surprised how much I loved the random chunks of peppermint bark. Such a surprising flavor combination. Quite tasty, good call!

  15. Hi Tieghan!
    Can’t wait to make this recipe for Christmas dinner this year!
    I would need an 8 inch cake to feed everyone but love the height of a 3 layer cake. Should I make the recipe as it calls but then half it? So one and a half the recipe? I feel like doubling the recipe would be way too much batter.
    Thanks and Happy Holidays!! xo

    1. HI! Yes, I would make 1 1/2 of the recipe. I think that will make 3 (8-inch) cake layers perfectly. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe. Thanks so much and happy Holidays!! xTieghan ?

    1. Sure that will be just fine. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe. Thanks so much!! xTieghan ?

  16. The recipe calls for cocoa powder, but in the directions, it doesn’t say when to add it. I assume with the other dry ingredients?

    1. Recipe is all fixed. sorry about that! Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe. Thanks so much!! xTieghan ?

  17. I made this the other day and it was amazing! I don’t know why I’ve never made browned butter frosting before, it’s divine! Everyone loved the cake (even though I think I overbaked it by just a few minutes). Always enjoy making your recipes!

  18. 5 stars
    Some people swear by oil-based chocolate cakes, but the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made – or eaten – uses butter! Lovely cake, looking forward to making it!

  19. 5 stars
    What an adorable cake Teighan!
    I like the idea of using three 6″ cake pans, it gives it such a look.
    I find myself using my 6″ cake pans more and more, a cuter look for my friends…..and me! LOL!
    Very nice touch with the reindeer cookies, brownie points!!
    I’m so into all the chocolate in this cake….DEELISH!!
    Land O’Lakes butter is always in my frig, I’ve been using it for years and years.
    They do carry a variety of their butters, check out the dairy section next time you’re at your grocers.
    Thank you for another ‘sweet’ dessert Teighan! ?
    ?Merry Christmas!?

  20. I just wanted to double check (because I thought it was unusual) that you are using SALTED butter and not unsalted in this recipe? Also, even with the salted butter, you’re adding some more salt to the cake?

    Thanks!!

    1. Hey Kerry! Yes, I like to use salted butter and yes you should add a touch more salt to highlight the flavors! Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe. Thanks so much!! xTieghan ?

  21. In the blog you mention there’s mascarpone cheese in the frosting but it’s not written in the recipe? I loveee mascarpone in frosting so had to ask if it should be there or not!

    1. Hi Sara! You need 2 ounces mascarpone cheese. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe. Thanks so much!! xTieghan ?

    1. At least 1 hour, but sometimes longer is needed. I recommend leaving the butter out overnight. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe. Thanks so much!! xTieghan ?

  22. So beautiful, Tiegan!
    Thank you for sharing your talent. Thank you for such consistent posts over the years! I have followed you for years and look forward to each post of yours–always beautiful, artistic, delicious, and fun. 🙂

  23. Looks like a great cake but you mention mascarpone in the frosting but it is not included in the recipe?

    1. HI! It is 2 ounces mascarpone. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe. Thanks so much!! xTieghan ?

  24. In the comments above you mentioned you like to touch of mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, and a splash of vanilla but I don’t see the madcapone Cheese listed in ingredients or in the directions. Then you for clarifying.

    1. HI! It is 2 ounces mascarpone. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe. Thanks so much!! xTieghan ?

  25. Beautiful! Also wondering how much mascarpone to put in the white frosting? I’d love to grab all the ingredients today and bake this weekend for company we have coming to town!

    1. HI! It is 2 ounces mascarpone. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe. Thanks so much!! xTieghan ?

    1. HI! It is 2 ounces mascarpone. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe. Thanks so much!! xTieghan ?

  26. How much mascarpone cheese do you add to the frosting? In the description you mentioned adding “a hint” but the amount is not included in the ingredients. Looks decadently delicious! I can’t wait to make it! Thanks!

    1. Hi Ann! It is 2 ounces. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe. Thanks so much!! xTieghan ?

  27. 5 stars
    Hi there,

    This is Raushan from India and I am a baker also run an online cake shop. On this Christmas, I am gonna try your recipe in my kitchen. Thanks for sharing your ideas with us.

    Merry Christmas in advance.