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

Caramello Brownies

October 02, 2013 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Candy Bar, Caramel, Fun For Kids, Nut-Free, Salty-Sweet, Super-Simple


This recipe is dangerously simple. Three ingredients. Hardly any effort. No dirty mixing bowls. And you end up stuffing your face with an amazing, tender, crispy, chewy, rich, and memorable dessert. I promise that you’ll want to make this one again and again and again.


  • 2 packages of Nestlé cookie dough (Ultimate Dark Chocolate Delight, in the refrigerated aisle, you know: the “break-n-bake” kind)
  • Optional: A pinch of flaked salt (like the kind used to line a margarita glass)
  • 5 Caramello candy bars


Coat muffin pan liberally with butter-flavored cooking spray.


Break both packages of cookie dough along the pre-set marks. That will make 24 separate pieces of chocolate cookie dough.


We want big, thick brownie snacks, bigger than just one cookie. So I want you to smoosh together 1 and 1/3 cookies.


Grab that monster-sized bit of dough and put it into a greased muffin tin. (You’ll end up with 18 total.) I liked the effect of having the pretty chocolate chips showing on top. See photo.


Take a pinch of flaked salt and sprinkle a tiny bit on top of each brownie (optional). Bake at 350 F for about 18-20 minutes. They will be a little puffy, but not like a muffin. You can tell with a toothpick if they’re close to done. The toothpick should come out nearly clean. Either of these two toothpicks would suggest your brownie is done.


Remove the brownies from the oven. For each brownie, the puffiness will go down as it starts to cool. Mine were about 1 inch tall. Allow them to cool for a few minutes. (Set a timer so you don’t forget!) After 4-5 minutes of cooling, it’s time add your Caramello squares. If you add the Caramellos too soon, the delicate squares will melt and look saggy. After the short cooling time, break the Caramello bar into squares, and insert a square partway down below the still-soft crust of each brownie.



Leave your ooey, gooey, chocolate-y Caramello Brownies in the muffin pan for at least another 15 minutes until they cool and set up a bit. Carefully remove your Caramello Brownies from the pan and then hope they last long enough for your guests to arrive. 

Mardi Gras King Cake II (Coconut Brownie)

February 04, 2013 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Chilled, Creative, Decadent, Fun For Kids, Holiday, Party


The traditional New-Orleans-style King Cake is more like a cinnamon bread, but this coconut-and-chocolate ring has even more decadence, color, and flavor, so it will be perfect for your Mardi Gras party!


The inspiration for adding coconut comes from a Mardi Gras carnival krewe that has a popular “throwing-of-the-coconut” tradition, which drives Mardi Gras parade-goers wild! Over the years there were some coconut-related injuries at Mardi Gras, eventually leading to lawsuits and a reluctant discontinuation of the happy tradition for a year or two — until 1988, when the Louisiana governor signed into law the Coconut Bill, removing any liability from throwing a coconut during the Mardi Gras parade. Look, friends, I just blog about this stuff; I don’t make it up. So, HEADS UP! Here’s your recipe, comin’ at ya!



  • 1 box brownie mix (don’t use a mix with chocolate chips; they will stick to the bundt pan)
  • Eggs, oil, and water as directed on box (use the “extra egg recipe, usually a footnote)
  • Bundt cake pan prepared with cooking spray and 3-4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 box coconut pudding (instant or cook)
  • Milk as called for on pudding box (usually 2 cups)
  • 3 T margarine
  • 1 ounce melted unsweetened chocolate
  • 1.5 to 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • A few dribbles of milk
  • 3/4 tsp coconut extract
  • Sugar sprinkles in green, gold, and purple
  • Plastic “Baby Jesus” trinket, for adding after baking (remember, Mardi Gras leads to the Catholic tradition of Lenten season—so Jesus is a part of this celebration)


In a large bowl, mix together eggs, oil,and water. Add brownie mix and stir until all is combined. Prepare bundt pan first by spraying with cooking spray.


Finish preparing your pan by adding flour on top of the spray and shaking to coat all surfaces. Bang the pan against your counter to shake loose the excess flour and shake it out so you have a nice, thin, uniform layer of flour.



Pour batter into prepared pan.


Bake at 350 for about 25-35 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick, looking for a nearly clean pull from the center. Let cool for 10 minutes, then turn out of pan and let it cool completely on a rack. Don’t let it cool entirely in the pan, as it will be harder to turn out of the pan.

Make coconut pudding as directed on the pudding box. I like the convenience of a no-cook mix.


Load your prepared coconut pudding into a pastry bag with a long tip or into an electric cookie press (just like the one a Brownie Ambassador might have on hand). You are about to inject the pudding into the brownie. <Certainly worthy of a trumpet flourish.>


Place the pretty, fluted part of the brownie face down, so you will be injecting the pudding from what will EVENTUALLY be the bottom of the brownie. This will let you leave the scars of entry on the bottom, completely invisible from your guests. Using the long tip, poke into the brownie every inch or so and move the tip around to make a cavity into which the pudding can flow. As you can see below, I made a TON of pokes into my brownie, using three rows of injections. Don’t be worried if you have some coconut pudding left over; you can remedy this by eating the pudding in your spare time. ;-)20130202-135031.jpg


Before you turn the brownie over to frost it, insert the plastic Baby Jesus trinket randomly into the treat. Here is the trinket, going in head first! I found my packet of 6 plastic babies at a national-chain hobby store that has sewing and baking supplies.

Turn your brownie ring over so the pretty fluted side is now up. You’re now ready to frost it. Smoosh margarine against the sides of a small bowl until it is soft and pliable.


Pour in the sugar and melted bittersweet chocolate. (I use “premelted” packets of bittersweet chocolate, as you can see below.)



When you try to mix it, it’ll be too thick to do anything with it. So add a few dribbles of milk until you can at least stir it into a smooth, thick, chocolatey frosting.


Add about 3/4 teaspoon of coconut extract, adding more or less to suit your taste. When you smell this heavenly homemade frosting, you’ll know what a treat is in store for you!


Spread this thick, coconutty icing on top of your King Ring, allowing it to slowly ooze down the sides. Quickly, while icing is still wet, sprinkle with the three colors of sugar sprinkles in a pattern that will please your Mardi Crew.



When you serve your King Cake, remind your guests to be careful until the inedible plastic baby trinket is found. The person who discovers the Baby Jesus in their piece is the King (or Queen) of your Mardi Gras festivities. May I suggest that you make a paper crown, just for your event?! Fun! Here’s my friend Katy, wearing the QK (“Queen Katie”) crown I made for her. Isn’t she gorgeous?

There is joy for the person you crown, but also responsibility; tradition deems that this year’s royalty must bring a King Cake to next year’s party! I hope you have fun making and serving this coconut-and-chocolate version of a Mardi Gras King Cake!

Sour Cream Kapow Brownie (Gluten-Free)

June 28, 2012 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Salty-Sweet


On this Independence Day, declare your independence from gluten by enjoying the explosion of rich, fudgy flavor in the Sour Cream Kapow Brownie, which just HAPPENS to be gluten-free. I dreamed up this recipe when I had a sudden recollection of my favorite doughnut from my college days: Sour Cream and Chocolate Doughnut. This tasty treat will be welcome at any July 4 picnic, and my beta-testing friends told me they’d never have guessed this was a no-gluten recipe.


  • 1 box gluten-free brownie mix (I used Betty Crocker Gluten-Free)
  • Egg(s), oil, butter, and/or water as called for on the box directions
  • One 8-ounce tub of gluten-free sour cream (I used Daisy light)
  • 1 cup of gluten-free chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips)
  • 1/8 tsp salt or 1/2 tsp sugar, optional



Mix the gluten-free box mix according to the box instructions. I used the Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownie mix, which calls for 2 eggs and 1/4 cup of melted  butter.


Add the entire 8-ounce tub of sour cream. Make sure the sour cream is gluten-free, because not all sour creams are gluten-free. The batter will look rich, dark, thick, and absolutely heavenly. Though it will be hard, try to resist sticking your finger in there, because not all fingers are gluten-free.


When batter is completely mixed, pour it into a greased pan. I used an 11 x 7 pan and it was the perfect size to get the thickness I like. Sprinkle with your gluten-free chocolate chips.


Yum! This is close to perfection. It’s totally optional, but you may want to do as I did and evenly sprinkle a few pinches of salt or sugar (gluten-free, of course) on top of the batter before baking. (If you like salty-and-sweet together, I suggest a light sprinkling of salt. But that’s just me.)


That’s it; your batter’s done. Bake it at 350 F for about 25-35 minutes, depending on your pan size. Cool. Dive in. Make moaning noises. Forget that you’re eating a gluten-free treat. The Sour Cream Kapow Brownie, totally gluten-free, is your recipe for chocolate dessert bliss.

Father’s Day Brownie: Whisky-Pecan-Cream Brownie

June 11, 2012 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Alcohol, Creative, Decadent, Nutty


The smoky, sweet, rich cream sauce will make your kitchen smell heavenly, and the resulting Whisky-Pecan-Cream Brownie ensures that your friends will never forget to invite you to Wednesday night poker. Don’t be concerned if whisky isn’t your thing; you can control just how much “zing” your brownie has!




  • 1 box brownie mix (I used Betty Crocker Original Supreme)
  • Eggs, oil, and water as directed on the box


  • 1.5 cups (12 ounces) heavy whipping cream (it’s OK to use half cream, half milk)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 ounces Whisky (or Whiskey…the spelling depends on what country it’s from)
  • 2-3 Tbsp corn starch
  • 2 more ounces of Whisky
  • 2 Tbsp butter or margarine
  • 1.5 cups pecans, coarsely chopped and toasted


Chop pecans into coarse pieces. (In the photos, you’ll see that I chopped mine a bit too small.) Toast the pecan pieces on a cookie sheet at 350 F for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Mix brownie batter as directed on the box, pour into a greased pan, and set aside.

Pour the cream into a medium sauce pan, add the sugar, and stir well.


Add a pinch of salt. Or two. Yum.


Make a “slurry” by thoroughly mixing the cornstarch into two ounces of the Whisky. (Later in the recipe, you will use 2 more ounces of Whisky.)


Pour your Whisky-cornstarch slurry into the cream and stir well.


On medium heat, bring the mixture until it begins to boil, stirring constantly. When it boils, reduce the heat so it doesn’t scald the cream. Cook at medium-low for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Your Whisky-cream sauce will thicken up, and it will smell heavenly. Remove from heat, and add the remaining 2 ounces of Whisky to the cooked mixture.


Add the butter and stir until it has melted into the sauce.


Add the toasted pecans.


Stir in the pecans. Oh, my. Delightful. (Do not drink all of this sauce straight out of the pan; you will regret it later when you will be forced to eat plain brownies.)


You have two options at this point.

1) You may pour the Whisky-pecan-cream sauce over the unbaked brownie batter in a stunning “top layer,” and then bake it.


Or, 2) You may put spoonfuls of the Whisky-pecan-cream sauce on top of the unbaked brownie batter, swirl them with a knife to make delightful veins of Whisky-pecan goodness, and then bake.



Whether you choose 1 or 2 above, use a 350 F oven. You will be one happy camper in about 30-40 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick, looking for a fairly clean pull from a prick in the middle of the pan. Remove from oven. Keep in mind, some of your Whisky will evaporate during baking. So, might I petition that you use a Whisky-laced pastry brush to add just a tad more of that golden flavor to the top crust? Just a suggestion.


It’s pretty. It’s manly. It’s pretty manly. It’s the Whisky-Pecan-Cream Brownie, sure to make any dad happy during Father’s Day dessert.