Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies

It’s December, which can only mean one thing in the food world: COOKIES! Aw yeah, it’s that time of year again. I don’t know what’s more exciting; the cookies or the holidays? Either way, the holidays are upon us.

I decked my halls the day after Thanksgiving for two reasons. I was dying to get into the holiday spirit, and because I feel like my tree(s) are never up long enough. For me, my Christmas spirit lies solely in my Christmas tree. I’m in charge of decorating it by myself every year and it brings me such joy to see it lit up in the corner of my living room.  It’s weird but it doesn’t feel like Christmas without my baby tree all decked out in ornaments and bright lights.

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Anyway, let’s talk cookies. Here on Lucy the Baker, I have a number of cookies up already but this holiday season, I want to up the ante. I’m planning on doubling my cookie production this year, which will hopefully mean more posts. I’m excited, nervous, and hungry!

For starters, here are some red velvet cheesecake brownies. Now, before you even say it, brownies ARE considered a cookie. It’s technically a bar cookie, as opposed to a regular cookie. I don’t know who decided this but I agree with them. Brownies aren’t really a cake, so they must be a cookie. These brownies are special, though. Not only do they have a ridiculous cheesecake layer, but they’re red velvet. That automatically raises the bar, and then some.

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I don’t know if you noticed but I lack red velvet recipes. Sure, I have the lone one up but there’s a reason as to why that is. Like that recipe I posted last year, almost all my red velvet attempts have gone wrong. I don’t know what it is but, I always end up with a messed up red velvet something. My first ever (undocumented) attempt was some red velvet cupcakes, which came out flat and stuck to the pan. The whoopie pies were my second and although the cookie itself came out good, I almost forgot the sugar and messed up the filling to the point of no return. I had better luck this time but I wouldn’t call them a perfect success; typical things like broken and stuck brownies happened.

Either way, these are fabulous. Not only are they red velvet, with its smooth texture and hint of chocolate, but there’s a cheesecake layer. Believe me when I say it is ridiculous. I was amazed. Cheesecake and red velvet go together like chips and dip, to be honest. My favorite part of this entire recipe was the swirling part. It looked absolutely beautiful. The cheesecake batter swirled with red velvet brownie batter, came together in perfect and visually stunning harmony. I don’t know but there’s something about that tangy cream cheese against the lightly chocolatey taste in red velvet. It’s like, magical or something.

So, let’s start the holiday season, and the #CookieCraziness with these brownies!

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Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies – barely adapted from The Novice Chef

Makes 36 brownies

Red Velvet Layer:

  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons milk, divided
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon red food coloring (I used Wilton’s No Taste Red)
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar

Cheesecake Layer:

  • 2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F, and lightly grease a half sheet pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, 2 tablespoons of milk, vanilla, food coloring, and white vinegar. Pour the wet into the dry and mix until combined. The batter will be very thick!
  4. Remove 3/4 cup of the thick batter and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk. Set aside.
  5. Spread the remaining batter into the prepared sheet pan. Make sure to spread it as evenly as possible, and all the way into the corners of the pan.
  6. Time to make the cheesecake layer: in a large bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and sugar, beating until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Continue to beat until completely incorporated and lump free.
  7. Pour the cheesecake batter over the brownie batter, spreading it out to the corners. Drop spoonfuls of the thinned out brownie batter onto the cheesecake layer. Using a butter knife or small spatula, drag the tip through the cheesecake and red velvet batters to create swirls.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until center is set. Brownies shouldn’t jiggle. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Jessica, at The Novice Chef blog, made these for Valentine’s day and used a heart cookie cutter. Instead, feel free to get festive and use holiday cutters (like a tree or a snowman) instead of cutting into squares. 
  • My brownies took a bit longer than 30 minutes. The center was still jiggly, which scared me but they came out alright. 
  • I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder (because YUM), which may have contributed to the burgundy color in these brownies. 
  • I strongly suggest gel food coloring, as the liquid stuff can dilute your batters if you use too much. 
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Brownies

Brownies are one of my favorite chocolate desserts. We go way back, but they have been forgotten recently as my sister and I have been on a blondie kick for the past couple of years. Yes, it has been years since I made a batch of brownies! Crazy, but true. When my sister and I were teenagers, we’d make brownies regularly. So much so, we knew the recipe by heart. There was always a box of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate in my pantry, ready for when the craving would strike. Contrary to what I might’ve stated in the carrot cake post, brownies were really one of the first things I learned to bake on my own. The carrot cake was just a resurrection of my inner baker years later.

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Back in the day, we had a family PC. It was supposedly for the family but really, it was just for me and my sister as we were the only ones who even knew how to use a computer. We still have one but laptops rule the house now. The PC came with a small binder of CD-ROMs that included a variety of programs; one of which was a virtual cookbook. Mind you, this was before I realized that the internet had food related websites, so I stuck to this CD-ROM dearly. It was called MasterCook 5, and it was no doubt my favorite CD to use on the computer. I’d sit there and flip through the various recipes, looking for ones with pictures and video demos. The very first dessert I made by myself was from that CD, but that’s another story for another post ;).

Anyway, the brownies were an instant fave between my sister and I. We were the only ones who ate anything chocolate in our house (still are, actually), so whenever we made these, it was just for the both of us. We’d eat them piping hot out of the oven with spoons, or room temperature and cut into squares. It was our everything.

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Over the years, we stopped baking brownies and at one point, I stopped baking period. These days, that isn’t the case but I had yet to bring back my sister and mine’s first love. When I mentioned brownies to my sister, she instantly agreed and had about as much excitement as she did back in those days. As soon as the chocolate started melting over the double boiler, I got smacked with nostalgia. It took me right back and just overwhelmed me with excitement, too.

Now, these aren’t the exact brownies my sister and I used to make but they are pretty darn close. Deb came to my rescue, again, with her brilliant recipe. This one bowl wonder uses semisweet chocolate, giving these brownies a mellow chocolate taste.  They are low on flour and sugar, which produces a dense and slightly squishy brownie. I swear, I was transported to my teenage years after taking the first bite. They were chewy, fudgey and moderately sweet. It was definitely chocolatey but not overwhelmingly so. The top was crackly and slightly crunchy; adding that little bit of texture to an otherwise soft but dense brownie. These babies were a delicious hit with everyone we shared them with; raving that they were “the best” brownie they’d ever had.  Even the non-chocolate lovers thought they were amazing! I am so happy I decided to revive my love for brownies, and for the trip down memory lane. I’m sure these will become a regular occurrence, like they used to be.

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Brownies – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes one 8×8″ pan; cut into 16 2″ squares

  • 3 ounces (85 grams) semisweet chunks
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment, extending it up two sides, or foil. Butter the parchment or foil or spray it with a nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted.
  3. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula and scrape batter into prepared pan, spread until even.
  4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out batter-free. Let cool and cut into squares. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used a bit of cognac in place of the vanilla because I had run out. It was undetectable!
  • Stickler for accuracy? Use a ruler to make sure each square is even. 
  • Make sure that water does not get into the chocolate when melting over a double boiler; any water will seize the chocolate! Since you’re melting the butter and chocolate together, there’s a chance it may not happen but still, be careful!