One of my absolute favorite sweet treats is Red Velvet Cupcakes. There's something about that crumbly little cup of cake with its hint of cocoa, deep red hue and perfectly sweet/tangy cream cheese frosting that melts me. I honestly don't even know what it really is supposed to taste like...its not truly chocolatey, its not truly vanilla-y....its somewhere right in the middle...somewhere I really like hanging out. Thanks to the cupcake shop explosion over the last few years, there is practically a red velvet opportunity every few blocks. Really, walk out your door, go a few blocks, and I'm telling you, you'll find one in any nearby bakery...but please skip over any big grocery store chain, take my word they are not red, not velvet and not really cupcakes. So far my favorite non homemade red velvet anything, comes from Sprinkles Cupcakes, which started in Los Angeles and has since spread wildly around the country. Its good, really good, but it does tip heavy on the sweet scale, like tooth achingly sweet, so I control the craving to a 'birthday only' indulgence. But I gotta have my red velvet the other 11 months of the year, and what better time to have something red than Valentine's Day??
And here's where its gets good. My husband loves all things gooey and chocolatey, and none of that milk chocolate business either, the darker the better. When asked what kind of dessert he would like for his birthday (or any day for that matter) his natural response would be "Brownies!" or "Really good chocolate chip cookies". So when I asked him if I could make something special for his coworkers for the Valentine Holiday, I should not have been shocked when he said "Red Velvet Brownies," I should have seen that coming from a mile away. But I didn't, oh no. Instead, I was utterly shocked that I hadn't thought of it first....slightly bitter actually. I am the HomeMaker after all! But I got over that and instantly got excited and started searching for the perfect recipe. After rummaging through posts and webpages of "cakey" red velvet brownie recipes (many of which used boxed cake mix...ummmm, no!) I stumbled upon a lovely little blog, How Sweet It Is, and the recipe I had been looking for. Red Velvet Brownies with White Chocolate Buttercream.....wait, no thats not what I wanted. Okay, so it kinda is, but I had to get my cream cheese in there somehow, so I adapted it slightly to fit my obsession a little closer. Needless to say, the brownies have not yet made it to the office...I guess I'll just have to bake more.
Finally, here it is:
Red Velvet Brownies With Cream Cheese Icing
adapted from Jessica at How Sweet It Is
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons red food coloring
2/3 cups chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350.
Butter and flour an 8 x 8 cake pan.
In a small bowl, combine cocoa powder, red food coloring, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to create a paste.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then add remaining teaspoon of vanilla. With the mixer on medium speed, add in cocoa powder mixture. Beat until batter is completely red. (If at this time your batter is NOT red, you can add a little more food coloring if desired. Color will depend on brand.) Add flour and salt, mixing until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Spread in the 8 x 8 pan. The original recipe says to bake for 25-30 minutes, however, my batter just doesn't set up that fast so you may have to increase the time by at least 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Icing
1/2 an 8oz. package cream cheese, at room temperature
about 4 T of unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 Cups powdered Sugar, sifted
dash of Vanilla extract
pinch of salt
This recipe is super adaptable and easy. If you want less frosting, use a little bit less of everything. If you want more, double it. I like my frosting drizzly, so play around with consistency. You can add a drop or two more of vanilla to loosen it up and make it easier to top the brownies.
In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese and butter together with a fork or electric hand mixer. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, as it tends to dust up. Once it starts incorporating, add the salt and vanilla. Place the finished frosting in a piping bag, ziploc bag with a corner cut off or just spoon it out of the bowl and onto your brownies.