Red Velvet Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Red is rapidly becoming my new favorite color.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me exactly.  Maybe it’s because Valentine’s Day was last week.  Maybe I can’t resist the decadent aroma of red lusciousness baking in the oven.  Or maybe it’s the simple fact that I almost always have the standard ingredients on hand.

Coincidence?  I think not.

My thought process went as such: I had an extra 8-ounce package of low-fat cream cheese in my fridge and nothing to do the other day after work (besides spend some quality time on my abs at the gym) until 9 o’clock.   That left me a substantial amount of time to make something special for the blog and the boyfriend.

In my search for cream cheese recipes, I clicked through fellow food blogs for ideas.  Cakes with cream cheese glazes, nah.  Banana bread with a cream cheese filling?  Intriguing, but no.  Red velvet swirl brownies? Ding, ding, ding.. We have a winner!

I modified the recipe – big shock, right? I’ve never been a big fan of “real” butter to begin with so, as usual, I used my Brummel and Brown margarine spread.  It’s made from natural yogurt (hey, don’t knock it till you try it.) and has significantly better nutritional stats than butter.  I also used a sugar-Splenda mix to cut back on the amount of real sugar in the recipe.  Oh, and of course, I substituted low-fat cream cheese for regular. 

The results: Well, there aren’t any left if that’s what your asking.  I took the entire batch, minus 4, to my boyfriend’s house that night and they were gone within a day.  And for good reason…

Red Velvet Cheesecake Swirl Brownies
Adapted from Baked Perfection

1/2 cup Brummel & Brown, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Splenda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch salt
3/4 tablespoon red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Cream Cheese Layer:
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray an 8 by 8-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray, and set aside.

To make the brownies:  Pour melted “butter” to a large bowl and add the sugar, Splenda, vanilla, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar (in that order), mixing between additions.

Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and stir it into the cocoa mixture. Fold in the flour with a spatula until lightly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, saving 1/4 cup of the batter for the top.

Cream cheese topping:  Beat the cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a medium bowl with an electric hand mixer.  Gently spread the cream cheese layer on top of the brownie batter in the pan.  Dollop the remaining brownie batter over the cream cheese layer. Using tip of a knife, drag the tip through the cream cheese mixture to create a swirl pattern. (PS – don’t you love my brand new gold William Sonoma brownie pan?  Christmas gift from my auntie!)

Bake the brownies for 30 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and try not to cut or touch them until they cool completely (the hardest part of baking in my opinion…)

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