Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cake of the Week: Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Sometimes things are just so wonderful that I need to get up for a jump-around-arms-flailing completely ridiculous Mollie-happy-dance. What induces these spasms of joy? It can be anything - from a good run, to a workplace win, to a baking adventure gone extremely right.

And these Red Velvet Brownies are an example of extreme rightness in the kitchen (other notable happy-dance-inducing experiences were the Butterscotch Filling, and my Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting…I happy-danced all around my apartment for those ones!)

These brownies are so good I made them twice in 24 hours! The first time was to bring to a bar-b-q, the second was for my roommates. They get a similar reaction every time.

First, Wow.

Next, after getting over the initial shock of a mouthful of rich and sweet Cream Cheese Frosting-covered bright red amazingness, people ask with a slightly sheepish and confused look, What exactly is red velvet anyways? Because everyone likes it, everyone knows it’s trendy, it's made into cakes and cakeballs, but very few people actually know what red velvet is.

Red velvet is a normal vanilla yellow cake, with a little bit of chocolate, and a lot of food coloring. It’s a traditionally southern dessert that has recently gone viral via the cupcake craze, and is usually accompanied by Cream Cheese Frosting. Red Velvet Brownies are like regular brownies, but less chocolate and more food coloring. I suppose you don’t need to frost these…but really, why wouldn’t you?

My recipe comes from How Sweet It Is, but I tweaked it a tiny bit to make it less sugary and even more moist. This recipe is definitely a keeper – you just need one bowl and there are no tricky techniques – this is as close to homemade brownies for dummies as you can get!

Red Velvet Brownies (adapted from How Sweet It Is)
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons liquid red food coloring (OR: I have gel food coloring which is much more concentrated, so I did about 1/16 teaspoon, i.e. a knife-point full of gel, plus 3 tablespoons water.)
2/3 cups chocolate chips (optional, I did ½ cup mini chocolate chips)
Preheat oven to 350.
Butter and flour an 8 x 8 cake pan.
In a small bowl, combine cocoa powder, red food coloring (or gel/water), 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. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
½ block cream cheese (i.e. 4 ounces)
¼ cup butter (i.e. ½ stick)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk (as needed)
Start with your ingredients at room temperature.
Beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar, adding milk as needed to reach a spreadable consistency.