The heady aroma of peppermint lingers in the air, because this time of year you can't swing a jingle bell without hitting something peppermint-flavored. The staple aroma of the holidays is also infiltrating cupcakes, doughnuts, ice cream, and toffee throughout Chicago. Follow your nose to these peppermint destinations.
Cupcakes are the perfect vessel for peppermint flavor. The pint-sized cakes capped with buttercream frosting make for the ideal, compact container for full-fledged peppermint essence. Chocolate peppermint cupcakes at Sprinkles (50 E. Walton St.) feature a dark chocolate cake with bittersweet chocolate-peppermint frosting and crushed peppermint candies as a garnish. More really is more at more (1 E. Delaware Pl.); more chocolate that is. The boutique cupcake bakery doubles up on chocolate, frosting a chocolate cake with white chocolate and a shard of chocolate-mint bark. At Crumbs (303 W. Madison St.), their jumbo-sized peppermint cupcakes feature chocolate cake infused with a peppermint-chocolate filling and topped with peppermint buttercream, marshmallows, chocolate chips, chocolate drizzle, peppermint candy, and a candy cane stick. Phew, I got full just reading that.
Toffee and Bark
Sometimes you just want to crunch into some peppermint that isn't a candy cane. And sometimes the solution is peppermint toffee. Or peppermint bark. Get the former at Terry's Toffee (1117 W. Grand Ave.), where the esteemed toffee wizards make their Peppermint Pistachio CrunchTM, a crisp amalgam of chopped pistachio nuts and peppermint, enrobed in dark chocolate. Get the latter at Amy's Candy Bar (4704 N. Damen Ave.). Here, the order of the day is sugary Americana nostalgia, with shelf upon shelf chock full of candies and snacks galore. For the holidays, Amy's is doling out sugary, chocolatey shards of peppermint bark.
The only way to improve upon peppermint deliciousness is by frosting it over deep-fried dough. At Firecakes Donuts (68 W. Hubbard St.), that formula includes a Valrhona chocolate cake doughnut topped with white chocolate and dark chocolate-peppermint ganache. And at Do-Rite Donuts (50 W. Randolph St.), a similarly rich chocolate cake doughnut finds itself shellacked with buttery white frosting and a hefty dusting of crushed peppermint candy (pictured above).
Ice Cream & Gelato
Just because the temperature outside is downright arctic does not mean your appetite for ice cream should dissipate. Save room for the peppermint soft-serve ice cream at The Purple Pig (500 N. Michigan Ave.), flecked with crackly niblets of peppermint candies. And then mosey on over to Bar Toma (110 E. Pearson St.) for some silky-smooth peppermint gelato, steeped and brimming with robust peppermint flavor. Also, the aforementioned Terry's Toffee does a mean ice cream made with their Peppermint Pistachio CrunchTM.
Photos: Do-Rite Donuts, more, Terry's Toffee, Bar Toma