Candy canes add a minty crunch to these Double Chocolate Peppermint Brownies. With layers of cake-like brownie and peppermint buttercream topped with rich chocolate fudge and a sprinkle of crushed candy canes, you'll want to add this festive treat to your holiday dessert table!
[December, 2021: I've reworked the recipe and updated this post with all new pictures. Enjoy!]
Why this recipe works
- A one bowl chocolate cake-like brownie provides the base for the bars
- You can adjust the amount of mint flavor in the peppermint buttercream to suit your liking
- The rich chocolate fudge topping and candy cane sprinkles make this minty dessert go from good to yummm...
I have been collecting recipes for almost 40 years.
Usually I'll see something that looks fun or interesting and say to myself, "I'd like to make this sometime." I then promptly forget about it as I move on to the next interesting find. That's probably why I have so many duplicates in my files (and on my Pinterest boards).
Because everything is online now, I rarely go back to my paper recipes. When I do look for an old recipe, it's fun to see what I find. Case in point, I ran across this old beauty for Hershey's Double Chocolate Mint Dessert. I've made it many times over the years.
Now we're dressing it up for the holidays by using homemade chocolate syrup and adding a little crushed candy canes for additional minty goodness and crunch. Friends, I give you my Double Chocolate Peppermint Brownies.
[Side note: I say "we" because my younger daughter is home for a few weeks and we love baking together. She's the one who designed her sister's wedding cake and her brother-in-law's groom's TARDIS cake. ]
What you need
The basic ingredients are straightforward enough: flour, sugar, eggs, butter, chocolate, and powdered sugar. The candy canes are for adding a crunchy burst of minty flavor.
Speaking of mint, it's important to keep in mind that peppermint extract can quickly ruin a dessert if you use too much. Start the buttercream with ¼ teaspoon of the extract, then taste to see if you'd like more. Also, remember that chilling will dampen the flavor a bit.
You can use either homemade or store bought chocolate syrup for the cake. Making homemade chocolate syrup is very quick and easy, and only uses 5 ingredients. It tastes just like what you can buy at the store without all the preservatives. Sorry, Hershey's!
How to make layered chocolate peppermint brownies
Similar to Nanaimo Bars, this chocolate peppermint brownie recipe is made in three distinct layers. The actual hands-on work time is minimal. However, you'll want to give yourself enough time for everything to chill before moving on to the next layer.
Step 1: Make the brownie layer
Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the flour, eggs, and chocolate syrup and beat just until no lumps remain (photo 1).
Notice the binder clips on the parchment paper? That helps to keep it from drooping into the batter as it bakes.
Cool the brownie completely in the pan by bringing it to room temperature for 30 minutes, then chill in the refrigerator for another 15 minutes.
Step 2: Make the peppermint buttercream layer
Here you get to take out your aggressions on some poor, unsuspecting candy canes. Place the unwrapped candy canes into a ziplock bag and pound with a meat mallet until you have some pieces and some dust (photo 3).
The amount will depend on your mental state, of course!
The peppermint layer is made like buttercream frosting. Beat the powdered sugar, butter, water, and peppermint extract together until smooth. If you want, stir in a few drops of red food coloring, then fold in 1 to 2 teaspoons of the crushed candy canes (photo 4).
Spread the peppermint buttercream on the chilled brownie layer and sprinkle on some additional crushed candy canes. Chill until the peppermint buttercream layer is firm (photo 5).
Step 3: Make the chocolate fudge topping
The chocolate fudge topping is just dark chocolate melted with butter. The butter allows the chocolate to set more firmly than a simple chocolate ganache (photo 6).
Spread the chocolate fudge on top of the chilled buttercream layer, then sprinkle on the remaining crushed candy. Chill to let the chocolate fudge layer set (photo 7).
Step 4: Cut into squares
Remove the brownie slab from the baking pan using the parchment paper as a sling, and cut it into sixteen 2- x 2-inch squares (photo 8).
Questions asked and answered
Here are some questions you might have...
Peppermint extract has menthol, which intensifies its flavor. Mint extract contains a mixture of peppermint and spearmint flavors. I prefer peppermint extract to avoid the "toothpaste taste" that spearmint can sometimes add.
Not to worry! The batter for the brownie layer will be thin because the chocolate syrup contains water, something not found even in a cakey brownie recipe. The chocolate syrup gives this brownie layer deep chocolate flavor and a lighter, cake-like texture.
Yes! You can double the ingredient amounts and bake the brownie layer in a 9- x 13-inch baking pan for 25 to 30 minutes. Cut the brownies into 24 squares.
Pro tip: how to cut brownies cleanly
In order to get clean cuts when you're cutting a slab into squares or bars, dip your knife into hot water and wipe it dry between each cut. This will keep the knife from tearing the baked good from any leftover crumbs on the knife.
Chocolate and peppermint are meant to be together
We all know that chocolate and mint are a winning combination (witness Mint Chocolate Chunk Cookies). These Double Chocolate Peppermint Brownies are no exception.
The crushed candy canes add a merry touch to the layers of rich chocolate brownie, cool peppermint buttercream, and fudgy chocolate topping. Dreamy!
I'm glad I still have all my old recipe files. Who knows what I'll come across next?
I hope Double Chocolate Peppermint Brownies make an appearance at your holiday celebrations. They're so easy to make, fun, and festive, and they'll stand out on your dessert table.
Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Solstice, Happy Hogmanay, and/or Happy whatever-you-celebrate!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Love mint? These recipes feature the bright flavor of fresh mint. And if you sign up to receive my weekly featured recipe email, I'll send you the recipe for Mint Chocolate Chunk Scones. Just click the subscribe button below. Enjoy!
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Double Chocolate Peppermint Brownies
- parchment paper
- serrated knife
- hand mixer
For the brownie
For the peppermint buttercream
- 8 small candy canes, crushed
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1½ teaspoons water
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon peppermint extract, or to taste, see Recipe Notes
- 3 drops red food coloring, optional
For the chocolate fudge topping
- 3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips (½ cup)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Make the brownie base: Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Spray an 8- x 8-inch baking pan with baking spray, line with parchment paper, then spray the paper.
- In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the flour, eggs, and chocolate syrup and mix just until no lumps remain (the batter will be thin).
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched (the top may still appear wet).
- Cool the brownie completely in the pan by bringing it to room temperature for 30 minutes, then chill in the refrigerator for another 15 minutes.
- Make the peppermint buttercream layer: While the brownie layer is chilling, place the unwrapped candy canes into a ziplock bag and pound with a meat mallet until crushed.
- Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl. Add the butter, water, and peppermint extract and beat until smooth.
- If desired, stir in the red food coloring. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of crushed candy canes to the buttercream and mix until well combined.
- When the brownie layer is thoroughly chilled, spread the buttercream evenly on top with a small offset spatula. Sprinkle on additional crushed candy canes. Chill the cake until the buttercream layer is firm, about 30 minutes.
- Make the chocolate fudge topping: In a small microwave-proof bowl, melt the chopped chocolate with the butter on HIGH for about 60 to 90 seconds or until the chocolate is mostly melted. Stir until the mixture is smooth.
- When the buttercream layer is firm, pour on the chocolate mixture and spread it evenly using a small offset spatula. Sprinkle on the remaining crushed candy canes. Chill the dessert until the chocolate fudge is set, about 30 minutes.
- Remove the brownie slab from the baking pan using the parchment paper as a sling and cut it into sixteen 2- x 2-inch squares. In order to get clean cuts, dip a serrated knife into hot water and wipe dry between each cut.
- Store the squares in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Serve them chilled for the best texture, and enjoy the minty goodness!
- For longer storage, wrap the chilled squares in two layers of plastic wrap, then a layer of foil (or put in a ziplock bag) and keep in the freezer. Allow them to defrost on the counter for 30 minutes before serving.