Out Of The Box Brownies: Magical brownie recipes that start with a box

Mother’s Day – Strawberry Cheesecake Swirl Brownie

May 09, 2012 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Cream Cheese, Creative, Fruit, Fun For Kids, Nut-Free, Super-Simple


Oh, Mother’s Day delight of delights, it’s a strawberry cheesecake miracle that swirled right out of the tender center of a brownie! This beauty is also easy to make, with just 5 ingredients (6 if you count “water”). Any mom would love how pretty this is; any dad and kid will appreciate how easy this is!



  • 1 box Pillsbury Cheesecake Swirl brownie mix (includes 1 chocolate packet, 1 cheesecake packet)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 4-6 Tablespoons water
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese (I used Philadelphia brand)
  • 1/2 cup strawberry preserves (I used Smucker’s brand)



From the box mix, pull out the chocolate packet and pour it into a medium bowl. Add melted butter or margarine (I microwaved mine for about 30 seconds). Add 1 egg. Add 2 Tablespoons of water. Mix until smooth. If batter seems too thick to swirl, you can add a little bit more water.


Put cream cheese in a medium bowl and use a hand mixer to beat it until creamy. Add the cheesecake packet, 1 egg, and 2 Tablespoons of water. Mix until smooth. If cheesecake batter seems too thick to swirl, you can add a little bit more water.


Pour chocolate batter into a greased pan. I suggest using a pan bigger than 9 x 9. I used an 8 x 11 pan and that worked great. One teaspoon at a time, add cheesecake batter on top of the chocolate. I did kind of a checkerboard pattern.


Microwave 1/2 cup of strawberry preserves for about 20 seconds; then stir. You just want it to be easier to spoon than right out of the jar. Spoon the preserves in between the cheesecake dollops.


Take a knife and slowly, gently swirl the 3 flavors together. Don’t ”mix” them! You want each bite to be different. When cutting and serving, I thought the prettiest pieces were the ones with a big glop of strawberry showing, but I’m sure you’ll all have your own opinions.


So pretty, right out of the oven. Let them cool, then cut and serve.


Isn’t it gorgeous? Any mom, gramma, aunt, or mom-like person would LOVE to get these strawberry cheesecake brownies on Mother’s Day.


EggNog Swirl Brownie

December 14, 2011 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Holiday, Nut-Free, Super-Simple


A little chocolatey. A little…uh… noggy. All wonderful. For a change of pace this year, put something in the cookie exchange that gets people talking: “Oh, that’s a cute idea!” You won’t believe how EASY it is. Just a few boxes and a few minutes of romping in the kitchen, then into the oven and done. Look at her; isn’t she holi-dazzling?

"You got me an EggNog Swirl Brownie? It's beautiful! Thank you!"


  • 1 box Pillsbury Cheesecake Swirl brownie mix


  • Chocolate (dark) pouch from Pillsbury box
  • 1/3 c oil
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 egg


  • Cheesecake (light) pouch from Pillsbury box
  • 2 boxes custard pudding mix (I used the 3.9 oz cook-n-serve box, but instant is fine too)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp nutmeg (note: AllergicChild.com confirms that nutmeg is not a nut; it’s a spice)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon, if desired
  • 2-4 Tbsp milk (or use egg nog if you have it on hand)

Just a few ingredients, just a few minutes in the kitchen. You'll love this recipe!


So easy. Just wait until you see how fast you get back to wrapping gifts!

YouTube Preview Image

In one bowl, add the chocolate Pillsbury pouch, egg, oil, and water. Mix until smooth. Set bowl aside.

In another bowl, mix the white Pillsbury pouch with the 2 pudding boxes. Then add egg, nutmeg, cinnamon, and 2 Tbsp of milk or egg nog. Mix until smooth. Mix in another tablespoon or two of milk or nog, and mix until the eggnog batter is similar in consistency to the chocolate batter.

Pour the chocolate batter into a greased pan. I used an 11 x 7 inch pan (77 sq in) and ended up wishing for a slightly taller brownie — so, I suggest an 8 x 8 inch pan (64 sq in). One spoonful at a time, push the eggnog batter down into the chocolate batter, then artfully swirl the batters together with a knife.

Swirl the two batters together so that each brownie will have a pretty top and some of both flavors. Don't get too enthusiastic or you'll end up with "solid grey" instead of "gold and brown."

Bake according to box, but add a few minutes to the baking time since the pudding mix adds to the amount of batter. When a toothpick in the center comes out almost clean, remove from oven. Cool and serve.

Swirly, pretty, chewy, Christmassy. Your guests will love this treat!

OPTIONAL BUT AWESOME: Make a glitzy little glaze to pour over top. Mix together 1 cup confectioners sugar, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, a pinch of cinnamon, and slowly add small amounts of either bourbon or rum or brandy until it makes a drizzly glaze. Enjoy!!!!

I think this would be awesome with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch topping. Just sayin’.




Peppermint Bark Brownies

December 05, 2011 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Holiday, Mint, Nut-Free


I adore this lil’ charmer . . . It’s just s’dang Christmassy!  (Substitution note for St. Patrick’s Day fans: You can also make it with green-and-white spearmint discs.)  So, so cute. Even in a small bite-sized piece, it’ll still pack a sweet little minty punch for your celebrations with family and friends.

It's the most wonderful time of the year! (You know you want to say it..... "Ding, dong, ding, dong!")

Gather 'round the kitchen counter, and I'll tell you a Christmas tale about a brownie that was on the "nice" list.

1 box brownie mix
Oil, eggs, and water as called for on the box

About 6-7 ounces of red or green mint candies (12-14 full-size candy canes), crushed

1 c semisweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 tsp canola or vegetable oil
1/4 tsp peppermint extract

1-1/2 c white chocolate chips
2 tsp canola or vegetable oil
1/4 tsp peppermint extract

Mix the box mix as directed on the box. I like to use the “additional egg” recipe, available on most boxes. Bake as directed and allow them to cool completely.

While brownies are cooling, use a plastic zippered bag and a rolling pin to crush the candy canes. I saved a lot of wear-n-tear on my bag by beating it against the counter a few times before using the rolling pin.

Dealing with some holiday stress? Then THIS is your recipe!

Wield your rolling pin with confidence, power, and giddy cathartic joy. Those candies don’t stand a chance. If you have some pent-up holiday stress and are overly enthusiastic in your crushing, your poor plastic bag may get a few holes; in this event, just use a second bag. And consider therapy.

Use a sieve to sift the bigger pieces from the poufy, peppermint-y powder. But don’t throw away the powder, as it plays a very important role in our Christmas pageantry.

Shake it, sh-shake it, shake it, sh-shake it. Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

As you’re crushing, this rule of thumb will help you decide when to keep crushing and when to stop: Try to generate about 1/3 cup of powder and 2/3 cup of small pieces (small = somewhere between the size of a splinter and your pinkie nail.) Later in the recipe, the powder goes INTO the chocolate and the pieces will become your decorative topping.

Pro: Your kitchen will smell so good at this stage. Con: Your hands will be very sticky at this stage.

Before starting these next steps, wait until your brownies are completely cooled.

Put the semisweet chocolate into a microwave-safe container and add 1 and 1/2 tsp oil.

Don't omit the oil. It helps your chocolate stay pliable enough to cut, and keeps it from crumbling into pieces when your guests eat it.

Microwave the chocolate pieces on 50% power for about 1 minute. Stir.

Microwave on half-power -- and a little bit at a time, stirring in between -- to keep from scorching your chocolate.

Microwave on 50% for another 30 seconds. Stir.

If, after 90 seconds, your chocolate is not completely smooth, pop it in for another 20-30 seconds at half-power.

Repeat until there are no more lumps. Add 1/4 tsp of peppermint extract and mix. (Keep in mind, there is a BIG difference between peppermint extract and peppermint oil. The oil is MUCH stronger.)

Ooooh. Minty!

Working quickly, add PART of the peppermint powder, about one-third to one-half of it. Save the unused powder for later.

Don't pour ALL of your powder into the semisweet chocolate. Save some powder for your pretty top layer of white chocolate.

Mix the powder into the chocolate. Keep moving quickly, as you want to keep your chocolate warm, pourable, and spreadable for the next couple of minutes.

It's smooth and crunchy at the same time. Mmm, mmm.

Pour the semisweet chocolate onto the crust of your brownies.

Work quickly, while your chocolate is still warm and spreadable.

Spread the semisweet chocolate onto the crust of your brownies. Be careful not to scrape the surface of the brownies.

Move quickly but gently as you evenly spread your chocolate-and-powder mixture.

Put entire pan into the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes until the chocolate layer has completely lost its shine. It should look dull/dry. If it’s still wet, you’ll have trouble spreading your second layer of white chocolate because you may ”pull up” the dark chocolate into the white layer. Be patient, and it will be a prettier result.

Now, do exactly the same with your white chocolate as you did with your semisweet chocolate (2 tsp oil, melt-mix-melt-mix, peppermint extract, peppermint powder). As reminders, see the pretty pictures below:

Make sure layer 1 is completely dry before spreading layer 2.

Be mindful of 2 things as you spread the white chocolate: 1) if you’re too rough, you risk “pulling up” the first layer, putting blotchy dark patches into your white layer; 2) if you’re too slow, your white layer will begin to dry and your decorative candy pieces won’t stick to the top. So, be quick and gentle.

For the last fun part, sprinkle the decorative candy pieces onto the top layer. Then use a spatula to press them into the warm, soft white chocolate layer.

Most people don't know there is a 9th reindeer named Sprinkle, who is best friends with Blitzen and Dasher.

IMPORTANT: Use a spatula to make sure your sprinkled decorative candies will stay put as your guests get incisor-deep into this treat. We don't want sticky candies falling onto your guests' festively dressed laps.

But wait! Here is perhaps the most important tip of all.

Are you listening?

This is important. I learned it the hard way.

Cut your brownies NOW. Don’t wait until tonight or tomorrow. Once those 2 top layers of chocolate are completely dried and set, it can get quite crumbly up there. This is your one chance to get pretty, straight cuts that don’t fall to pieces. So, after you get your spatula work done and all those candies are set into the white chocolate, grab a nice SHARP knife and get cutting. Cut now; serve tonight or tomorrow or later this week. You’ll be glad you did.

Such a pretty little darling, isn't she?

I hope you enjoy this brownie. Coworkers at my day job sure liked them! (A big “love ya” goes out to my Peppermint Bark Brownie beta-testers: Deanna, Ron, Bryan, Dylan, Jeremy, Alan, Trish, John, Tim, Grace, Desiree, Shane, Jason, Carrie, and Jen.)

Xs and Os for you and your loved ones at Christmas time! Have fun as you SHARE THE BROWNIE LOVE this year.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownie

October 24, 2011 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Blonde Brownie, Cream Cheese, Decadent, Fruit, Holiday, Nut-Free


I posted this image on my Facebook page and got several dozen elated responses in just a few hours. I guess most of my friends were not scared of this Halloween treat.

As if the pumpkin and cheesecake swirls aren't enough to make you shiver in your shoes, the sweet and spicy glaze will cause you to cringe with delight.


Pumpkin Batter Ingredients

  • 3/4 box spice cake mix (about 3 cups)
  • 1 29-ounce can solid-pack pumpkin (I used about 20-22 ounces of it)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2 cup water

Cheesecake Batter Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 package cream cheese, softened
  • (optional) 3 – 4 Tbsp ricotta cheese
  • (optional) 1 – 2 Tbsp sour cream
  • 1/2 box white cake mix (about 2 cups)
  • 1 box cheesecake-flavor powdered pudding mix (I used Jello sugar-free instant)

Spice Glaze Ingredients (optional)

  • 1.5 – 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • small amount of milk to attain a glaze consistency (about 1/8 – 1/4 cup)
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, cloves, and allspice (ok to leave out one, if you prefer)


How-To Video:


Mix together pumpkin batter ingredients until smooth. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Don’t use a 9×9 pan; that will be too small and will result in a brownie that is too thick to bake evenly.

Divide the cheesecake ingredients into “wet” (egg, oil, water, cream cheese, ricotta cheese, and sour cream) and “dry” (cake mix and pudding mix). Mix together the wet ingredients first, stirring for about a minute, until it looks like a creamy blob of perfection. (You know you want a taste, but keep yer mitts outta there!) Then add the dry ingredients, blending until smooth.

Now the swirly fun begins. Drop spoonfuls of the cheesecake batter onto the pumpkin batter that is already in the baking pan. Then use a knife to swirl the batters together.

Bake at 350 F for about 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out almost clean.

If you’re a sweet-tooth, mix together the glaze ingredients until smooth and drizzle it on top of the brownie crust.  Not only is this a great idea for a Halloween treat, but also a wonderful change of pace for Thanksgiving or Christmas! Have fun with this recipe, my brownie minions!