Sweet Traditions

As a mom to young children, Kathleen Galloway Collins is looking to pass her childhood traditions on to her own family. She’s starting in the kitchen with her favorite: her family’s peppermint layer cake.

Kathleen Collins and her mother Lee Ann Galloway decorating a peppermint cake
Kathleen learns how to bake the peppermint layer cake from her mother, Lee Ann. Photos by Elizabeth Gelineau

We all have our favorite holiday traditions, the ones that make us exclaim, “Now it’s Christmas!” It may be a treasured sweater worn even in the coastal Christmas climate, an annual holiday party attended by family and friends or an ornament hung more for nostalgia’s sake than style. For Kathleen Galloway Collins, it’s the first bite of peppermint layer cake from a recipe her mom has made every December that signals the start of the season. More than that, it brings back childhood memories.

Christmases for Kathleen and her siblings growing up seemed close to idyllic. The Galloways attended Christmas Eve Mass and, on the way to dinner afterward, drove through Oakleigh to see the Christmas lights. “When we got home, we’d rush to change into matching pajamas and crowd onto the couch by the Christmas tree to hear my dad read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,’” she says. “Then we’d always take books or toys to bed because we would need entertainment – it was so hard to fall asleep due to the anticipation!” On Christmas morning, the children ran into the living room, with their dad filming the moment, to see what Santa had brought. Every year, Santa left an orange at the bottom of their stockings and their gifts unwrapped, ready for play. “I always thought these two things were normal until I got married and was told otherwise,” she says.

Piece of Cake

In the midst of it all, the peppermint layer cake has been a staple. Kathleen’s mom, Lee Ann Galloway, originally found the recipe in an issue of Southern Living and added in a few tweaks to make it her own. “It is the perfect dessert for such a special time of year — beautiful to look at and delicious to eat,” says Kathleen. “It tastes like Christmas.” 

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Mother of 3-year-old Frederick and 9-month-old Thomas, Kathleen is eager for her children to grow up enjoying the same traditions she did as a child, including the festive favorite. She admits that she doesn’t do a lot of cooking or baking during her normal day-to-day. Times spent in the kitchen are usually relegated to special occasions. The peppermint cake is one of those times, and worth the effort. Her mom taught her how to make the traditional recipe.

In addition to a lesson in baking the peppermint layer cake, Lee Ann also passed down helpful tips for hosting the holidays with ease. “My mom hosts our extended family on Christmas Eve,” says Kathleen. “She has always stressed the importance of making as much of the food as possible ahead of time.” 

Kathleen now makes a breakfast casserole on Christmas Eve, popping it in the oven the next morning for a no-fuss start to the day, maximizing family time and relaxation in the morning. This allows the busy mom a chance to enjoy time around the tree with the rest of the family. “It is such a treat to be able to sip hot coffee on the couch watching the joy of Christmas morning. It may be the only morning of the year that the kids are fully entertained, and I enjoy my entire coffee without reheating it!”
she laughs.

Stokley Garden Express helped deck the halls of this historic Midtown home. 15-inch King Planter in Pearl Green, $99, Ilex Steeds Pyramid Holly, $23. Clockwise from top left Frederick Collins sneaks a peek out the front door in hopes of catching a glimpse of Santa. Kathleen and Lee Ann decorate the family’s peppermint layer cake. Frederick unpacks the goodies Santa left, including several oranges, a tradition Kathleen continued from her childhood. Trey’s collection of nutcrackers decorates the house each year, much to Frederick’s delight. Kathleen and Thomas spend time together in the kitchen.

Old Traditions and New

In addition to baking the peppermint layer cake, Kathleen and her husband Trey have continued the tradition of reading “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and placing the orange at the bottom of the stockings. “Trey and I have an orange tree in our front yard, so it’s easy for Santa to grab on his way in,” she says. They have also incorporated traditions from Trey’s side of the family to the delight of their kids. “He has a fabulous collection of nutcrackers that we set out each year all over the house. Our 3-year-old loves them and has adopted quite the bedtime stalling technique of saying goodnight to each nutcracker.”

“As a child,” Kathleen reflects, “my favorite Christmas moment was running into the living room and seeing the toys Santa left after weeks of anticipation. As a mom, it is the exact opposite. Now, I savor sitting on the couch watching the boys run and crawl into the room and seeing the excitement on their faces.”

Lee Ann’s Peppermint Layer Cake

“It is the perfect dessert for such a special time of year — beautiful to look at and delicious to eat,” says Kathleen. “It tastes like Christmas.”

Beautifully decorated peppermint layer cake
Peppermint Layer Cake

SERVES 10-12

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1½ cups sour cream
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2/3 cup crushed hard peppermint candies

3 cups cake flour
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs

2/3 cup sugar
1 cup white chocolate morsels
2 cups whipping cream
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Garnishes: Lee Ann decorates her cake with round peppermint candies, white chocolate curls and silver pearl sugar sprinkles. For this issue, MB went over the top and also added candy canes and Christmas ornaments.

1. To prepare the peppermint cheesecake layers, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Line bottom and sides of two 8-inch round cake pans with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides. Lightly grease foil. 
3. Beat cream cheese, sugar and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer, 1-2 minutes or until smooth and creamy. 
4. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add flour, sour cream and vanilla and peppermint extracts, beating until blended. Fold in candies.
5. Pour batter into prepared pans. Place cake pans in a large pan; add water to pan to a depth of 1 inch.
6. Bake for 25 minutes or until set. Remove from oven wire racks.
7. Cool completely in pans, about an hour
8. Without removing cheesecakes from pan, cover with foil and freeze 4-6 hours or until frozen solid. 
9. Lift frozen cheesecakes from pans using foil sides as handles. Gently remove foil from cheesecakes. Wrap in plastic wrap and return to the freezer until ready to assemble the cake.
10. To prepare sour cream cake layers, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans. 
11. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
12. In another bowl, add sour cream and vanilla. Blend well with a fork, set aside. 
13. In the mixer bowl, beat the softened butter until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and beat on medium speed for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. 
14. Add the flour mixture and sour cream mixture. Mix until combined and smooth (do not mix above medium speed or it will over mix). 
15. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. 
16. Let the cakes cool for 5-10 minutes then turn out. Let cakes cool one additional hour before assembling the cake.
17. To prepare the white chocolate mousse frosting, cook sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly and often, for 3-4 minutes or until sugar has dissolved. 
18. Add morsels and cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes or until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes), whisking occasionally.
19. Beat cream and vanilla at high speed with electric mixer 1-2 minutes or until soft peaks form. Gradually fold white chocolate mixture into whipped cream mixture, folding until mixture reaches a spreading consistency.
20. To assemble the cake, place one cake on a cake stand or plate. Top with one frozen cheesecake layer. Top with a second cake layer and remaining cheesecake layer. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread top and sides of cake with frosting. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish as desired.

Chocolate Peppermint Bundt Cakes

Wrap these mini bundt cakes in cellophane tied with a big red bow for a festive teacher gift.


Chocolate Peppermint Bundt Cakes on a pink background
Chocolate Peppermint Bundt Cakes

1 box chocolate cake mix (devils food cake or German chocolate cake mixes work well)
3.9-ounce box instant chocolate pudding
1 cup sour cream
4 large eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup oil (vegetable or canola oil)
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract 
1½ cups mini chocolate chips

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups powdered sugar
3 candy canes, crushed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a mini Bundt pan and set aside. 
2. Combine all ingredients through peppermint extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until well mixed. Fold in chocolate chips. 
3. Pour batter into Bundt cake pan so it’s about 3/4 of the way full and bake for
21 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 
4. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Then invert the pan onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
5. Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese and
butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until creamy. 
6. Add in the vanilla and then gradually stir in the powdered sugar.
7. Transfer frosting to a large Ziploc bag, folding down the opening to keep it clean while adding the frosting. Remove the air from the bag and seal. Trim the corner off the plastic bag, making a 1/2” opening, and squeeze bag to pipe frosting onto cake. 
8. Sprinkle the top with crushed candy canes and serve.

Cook’s note: You can make the cakes, unfrosted, a day head of serving. Store wrapped in plastic wrap in refrigerator. Remove from fridge and frost before serving. 

Peppermint Fudge

Small treat boxes from the craft store are Perfect for boxing up a few pieces of fudge to give to neighbors and friends.

Peppermint fudge on a red background
Peppermint Fudge


1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1½ cups white chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, divided
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract 
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy (about 5 candy canes)

1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, combine the semi-sweet chocolate chips and 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk over medium heat, stirring well until the mixture is completely melted and smooth. Pour the chocolate fudge into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Refrigerate to cool.
3. Clean and dry the saucepan, then add the white chocolate chips and remaining 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk over medium heat, stirring well until the mixture is completely melted and smooth. Add the peppermint extract and half of the crushed candies
to the mixture and stir to combine. 
4. Remove the chocolate fudge from the refrigerator and pour the white chocolate peppermint fudge on top and smooth it out. Sprinkle the remaining crushed candies on top. Return to the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours, or until the fudge is set. 
5. Use the parchment to help lift the fudge out of the pan. Slice into 16 pieces and serve.

Cook’s note: Run your knife under hot water to help slice smoothly and easily. Fudge may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Leftover fudge may be frozen for up to 3 months, thawing overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

Peppermint Ice Cream Bars

Sure to please kids, teens and the young at heart, these ice cream bars are the ultimate holiday treat for christmas on the coast.

Peppermint Ice Cream Bars
Peppermint Ice Cream Bars


1 package (14 ounces) chocolate wafer cookies, crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 containers (1½ quarts each) peppermint ice cream, slightly softened
1 carton (12 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
Hot fudge ice cream topping, warmed
Crushed peppermint candy

1. In the bottom of an ungreased 13” x 9” dish, combine cookie crumbs and butter. Press to form an even layer. Spread ice cream over the crust and top with whipped topping. Cover and freeze until solid. May be frozen for up to 2 months.
2. Remove from freezer drizzle with hot fudge topping and sprinkle with peppermint candy. Slice into squares and serve immediately.

Sure to please kids, teens and the young at heart, these ice cream bars are the ultimate holiday treat for christmas on the coast!

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