Maybe you’re the sort of person who needs to take her peppermint bark straight, like you would coffee (black) or whiskey (neat). Just you, “Jingle Bells” on the hi-fi, and the iconic red-and-white tin, alone at the kitchen table. (OK, maybe with a mug of cocoa.)
And who would blame you? There’s a reason this is one of our perennial top sellers. Maybe it’s the custom-blended Guittard chocolate or the triple-distilled oil of peppermint, but bark fans are legion (and passionate!)
That’s why we happily asked top bakers Kate Wood, Erin McDowell, and Britney Brown-Chamberlain to participate in our second annual Peppermint Bark-Off. Test kitchen director Belle English and Joey Skladany of Basic Bitchen judged, Brian Hart Hoffman of Bake from Scratch Magazine hosted, and more than 1,400 Zoom audience members voted after watching the bakers hard at work.
Our bark melts beautifully, looks gorgeous, and is as good with dark chocolate as it is with milk. Below are the three incredible recipes, including Erin McDowell’s winner, plus photographs to get you drooling. (All the proceeds from ticket sales benefited St. Jude Children’s Hospital!)
Kate Wood, of Wood and Spoon, is a dietician and mother of three living in Alabama. This lover of “everything in moderation” concocted a decadent breakfast bread that’s almost the love child of cinnamon bread and chocolate babka—plus peppermint bark! Thanks to a dough that rises overnight, this bread is a tender, buttery delight. Click HERE for a link to her recipe and Peppermint Bark Bread blog post.
Britney Brown-Chamberlain’s Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cake
A home baker and blogger whose favorite ingredient is butter, Britney took inspiration from the abominable snowman, of all things, for her cake! This cake is more pepperminty than chocolatey, so it’s ideal for the mint lover in your life. Giant shards of Peppermint Bark rise like candy cane-flecked icebergs in a snowy buttercream sea. Two layers of dense, chocolate–olive oil cake are pretty much hallowed ground when it comes to the perfect foundation.
For the cake:
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 1/2 tsp. peppermint flavoring
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1½ tsp. salt
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tin (1 lb.) Peppermint Bark
For the buttercream frosting:
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 Tbs. heavy cream
- Pinch of salt
- 2 12-packs (about 6 oz each) candy canes
Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, sour cream, eggs, melted butter, peppermint flavoring, vanilla extract and olive oil. Beat on medium speed until thoroughly combined. Reduce the speed to low, slowly add the flour mixture and mix until combined, about 30 seconds, stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the racks and let cool completely.
To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add the vanilla extract, salt and heavy cream and continue to beat until combined.
Place the candy canes in a lock-top plastic bag and seal closed. Using a rolling pin, crush the candy canes until finely crushed.
To assemble the cake, place 1 cake layer, top side up, on a cake stand or serving plate. Using an icing spatula, generously spread the cake layer with about a third of the frosting, then sprinkle with about a third of the crushed candy canes. Place the second layer, top side down, on top of the first layer. Frost the top and then the sides with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle the remaining candy canes over the top and gently press onto the sides of the cake. Break up a few pieces of peppermint bark and use them to decorate the top of the cake. Slice the cake into thick wedges and serve. Serves 10.
Erin McDowell’s Peppermint Bark Biscuit Doughnuts
Erin McDowell, author of The Book on Pie, has a cult following, it’s fair to say. Who else gets a thousand thrilled reviews for a yellow sheet cake with chocolate frosting? She does. We love her work, and boy, did she deliver her A-Game to the bark-off. These biscuit-doughnut hybrids have the texture of a cronut. They are glazed in white chocolate. Their bellies are stuffed with chocolate-bark pudding. And they’re dusted with fine bits of Peppermint Bark mixed with Peppermint Snow. (Fresh out of Peppermint Snow? Crushed peppermint candies will work just fine!) Just look at this recipe; we’ll be amazed if you don’t dash to the oven. Congrats, Erin!
For the biscuit dough:
- 5 cups (600 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbs. baking powder
- 1 tsp. fine sea salt
- 1½ cups (170 g.) cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 2 cups (460 g.) cold buttermilk
- For the chocolate peppermint bark filling:
- 2 cups (460 g) whole milk
- ⅓ cup (66 g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (28 g) cocoa powder, preferably black cocoa
- 2 Tbs. cornstarch
- 2 large egg yolks
- Pinch fine sea salt
- 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
- ⅔ cup finely chopped Peppermint Bark
- Oil, as needed for frying
For the white chocolate glaze:
- 6 oz (170 g) finely chopped white chocolate
- ⅓ cup (78 g) heavy cream
- 1½ cups finely chopped Peppermint Bark (and crushed peppermint candies or Peppermint Snow, if desired, or a mix)
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse to small pea-size pieces. Add the buttermilk and pulse until the mixture forms an even dough. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to overnight.
Meanwhile, make the filling: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a simmer. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and cornstarch. When the milk comes to a simmer, whisk one quarter of the milk into the bowl. Add the egg yolks and salt to the bowl and whisk well to combine. Pour the cocoa-milk mixture into the saucepan, whisking to combine. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken, then replace the whisk with a silicone spatula. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring with the spatula, until the mixture comes to a boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the butter until combined.
Pour the filling mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Stir in the peppermint bark. Press plastic wrap directly onto the filling and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours.
To make the doughnuts, pour at least 3 inches of oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Attach a frying thermometer to the pot. Place the pot over medium-low heat and heat the oil to 325˚F.
Remove the plastic wrap from the biscuit dough and place the dough on a generously floured work surface. Using floured hands, pat the dough into an even layer about ½ inch thick. Using a large (about 4¼ inch-wide) star cutter, cut the dough into stars. Gather up the dough scraps, knead briefly to combine, and pat again into an even layer to cut out the remaining stars. You should have enough for about 12 doughnuts.
Place a rack over a parchment-lined baking sheet. Working in batches of 3 to 4 at a time, fry the doughnuts until they are evenly golden brown on both sides, 4-6 minutes per side. Using a spider or slotted spoon, remove the doughnuts from the oil and transfer to the rack to drain and cool.
When all the doughnuts are fried, make the glaze: Place the white chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until well combined and smooth. Set aside. Place the peppermint bark (and crushed peppermints, if using) on a large plate in an even layer.
Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke a hole in the side of each biscuit doughnut. Transfer the chilled filling to a pastry bag with a ½ inch opening cut from the tip. Fill each doughnut by piping filling into the hole in each doughnut.
Dunk the smoothest side of the doughnut into the glaze, then dunk into the chopped peppermint bark (and crushed peppermint candies, if using). Let the doughnuts stand for about 15 minutes to allow the glaze to set. Makes 12 doughnuts.