Peppermint cupcakes

These peppermint confections are only available around the holidays, so get them while you still can!

STEPHANIE BEDFORD

Let's all agree that peppermint is among the most delicious of flavors. While tasty on its own, peppermint pairs so felicitously with chocolate — especially dark chocolate — that it's puzzling that it's pigeonholed as a seasonal flavor. Blame the candy cane, responsible for relegating peppermint treats to the month of December and branding it as a red-and-white item even though real peppermint is a leafy green plant.

Because of the holiday/peppermint connection, you need to gorge yourself on pepperminty treats while you can, before they disappear for another year. (One of our favorites, the beloved Candy Cane Joe-Joe — a seasonal version of Trader Joe's store-brand Oreo analog sandwich cookie — already sold out before Christmas.) Luckily, Madison bakeries are rife with opportunities to get your candy-cane on in a variety of formats, all of them superior to the cellophane-wrapped mints that come with your restaurant check.

The Daisy Café and Cupcakery has its "Leave a Peppermint Stick for Old St. Nick," ($3.25) a chocolate cake filled with a blob of peppermint white-chocolate ganache, topped with a swirl of minty frosting and stabbed with a wee candy cane. The bakery will be making these through New Year's.

The new Cupcakes-A-Go-Go on the west side offers a similar cupcake but is filled with conventional chocolate filling ($3). Theirs is frosted with both chocolate and peppermint and topped with a rampart of peppermint-bark shards. They also make a cake pop ($1.50) of sinfully moist chocolate cake coated with a crust of chocolate and crushed candy cane. The treats should be available through the winter.

Classing up the joint as always, Middleton's Bloom Bake shop showcases its alt-baked-goods chops with a vegan and gluten-free chocolate cupcake ($3) frosted with a scrumptious pepperminty buttercream you won't believe isn't made with real butter, a perfect treat for those who usually can't indulge. The frosting is, as always, applied with Bloom's customary restraint, favoring optimal cake-to-frosting distribution over showy verticality, and edged with a ring of crunchy mint candy.

For a shot of cool mint in your cocoa (or for just eating straight), Bloom offers peppermint marshmallows ($2 for 3), sticky little gems covered in crushed mint candy. If you've never had a marshmallow that wasn't jet-puffed, these marshmallows are a revelation — creamy in texture and smooth as silk. Bloom's minty treats are offered during the winter months, though flavors change daily so it's good to call ahead.

If you favor the cool combination of candy cane and chocolate, now is the time to stuff yourself like a Christmas stocking, before the desserts disappear.

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