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Okay, so not cookies. But the fourth in our line-up for The Twelve Days of Cookies is a family staple during the Christmas season, so I couldn’t resist sneaking it in. Besides, these candy cane brownies wouldn’t be out of place at a cookie-exchange party, in a tin gifted to friends, or gracing your holiday dessert spread.
I don’t really like eating candy canes myself. I mean, maybe one per year. After that, their charm kind of wears off. And yet, you basically have to deck out your Christmas tree with candy canes…So, what to do with the excess? Crush them up, and sprinkle them over a deep cocoa brownie topped with a fluff of pink peppermint buttercream!
Pro-tips: these freeze very well. I may like to eat them straight from the freezer. (Yeah, I have very little regard for my teeth.) These also keep in the fridge well for up to a week, maybe more if they even last that long.
Also, if you are storing or traveling with any sheet cake or perhaps some brownies topped with peppermint buttercream, can I just recommend these baking pans with lids? A true workhorse in my kitchen.
candy cane brownies
[For the brownie]
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or chopped dark chocolate)
1 cup white sugar
2/3 cup dutch-process cocoa (see note)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs, straight from the fridge
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
[For the candy cane frosting]
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
pinch of salt
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
2-3 drops red food coloring (optional)
4 oz candy cane (about 9), unwrapped and crushed*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9” baking pan with aluminum foil and grease.
Make brownies. In a heat-proof mixing bowl set over a small pot of simmering water, melt butter, chocolate and sugar and continue stirring until mixture is warm to the touch. Remove bowl from heat. (You can do this in the microwave, stopping to stir in 30 second bursts.)
Add cocoa, baking powder, salt and vanilla to the butter mixtures and stir well to combine. Add in eggs and whisk until smooth. Add flour and stir until just combined and there are no streaks remaining. Pour batter into prepared pan, spread out evenly, and bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. (Do NOT overbake, please! They will look quite fudgy.) Remove from oven and let cool completely.
Meanwhile, make frosting. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add butter, powdered sugar, peppermint extract, pinch of salt, food coloring (if using), and 1 tablespoon of cream. Stir on low until it comes together, stop and scrape down sides, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. If frosting seems too thick, add in another tablespoon of heavy cream and beat for another minute.
When the brownies are completely cooled, frost with peppermint buttercream. Top with crushed candy canes. Place in fridge to chill, which will make cutting them far easier.* Eat straight from fridge, or allow to come to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!
dutch-process cocoa give these brownies a deep dark cocoa flavor and color; Hershey’s Dark Cocoa is a good supermarket substitute if you can’t find dutch-process. These will still be good with regular cocoa, just not as good.
Please please please please unwrap your candy canes BEFORE you crush them! Trust me, it will not turn out as simple as you imagine if you opt not to remove the wrappers first. You can crush your candy canes by tossing them in a food processor and pulsing a few times. Or you can put them in a ziplock bag and pound them gleefully with a rolling pin—my preferred method.
When you’re ready to serve, simply lift up the whole slab of frosted brownies via the aluminum foil sling, and place on a cutting board. That makes it far easier to get even clean slices!