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

Last-Minute-Miracle Christmas Brownie (aka Raspberry Brownie)

December 20, 2012 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Creative, Decadent, Fruit, Fun For Kids, Holiday, Nut-Free, Super-Simple


If you’re stuck in a last-minute Christmas baking rush, and need a quick but awesome holiday dessert with just a couple of ingredients, try this simple recipe for a beautiful raspberry brownie! (I’m doing this recipe sort of in a tale-of-two-brownies style. One is dark chocolate; one is milk chocolate. You’re welcome.)  You’ll find these raspberry brownies to be both easy and eye-rollingly delicious!


  • 1 box brownie mix (either dark chocolate or milk chocolate)
  • Eggs, oil, and water as called for on the box (use the “extra egg” recipe)
  • Raspberry filling (either 20-oz of raspberry pie filling or 16 oz of raspberry jam)
  • Optional: white chocolate chips, chopped into smaller pieces
  • Optional: drizzle (2 T butter, 1/2 c confectioners sugar, splash of milk, jam) or sprinkles

Photo below shows ingredients I used to make BOTH a dark chocolate version and a milk chocolate version!



Prepare the brownie mix with eggs, oil, and water — as instructed on the box, but using the “extra egg” recipe (often listed as a footnote). Pour HALF of the batter into a greased pan — set aside the other half. I used a 9×13-inch pan and it worked out fine, but an 8×11-inch pan would give you a taller, more stately brownie.

Pour your raspberry filling in a thin, even layer over top of the batter. If using raspberry jam, it helps to heat the jar in the microwave for about 30-40 seconds and then stir; if you skip that step, the jam tends to be too thick to pour.

Photos below show the dark chocolate with jam first — followed by the milk chocolate with the pie filling.


If you’re adding chopped white chocolate to your recipe, now is the time. Evenly sprinkle it right over your raspberry layer.


Now, pour the remaining chocolate batter on top. If you use the right technique, this can go quite quickly. Get a nice, wide stream falling out of the lip of the bowl — then drag that stream into a wide ribbon that covers the raspberry in a back-and-forth motion. See below for my awesome technique on both the dark and milk chocolate versions.


If you prefer sprinkles to icing, you can add those now. Be generous! I used red, but red and white would be extra-super Christmassy!


Bake at 350 F for about 30-45 minutes, depending on the size and depth of your pan. Check with a toothpick, looking for a fairly clean pull from a center placement. Cool brownies completely.

Baking is done. Now, if you have the time… and if you prefer icing to sprinkles, make yourself a nice, thin icing. Start with 2 T of butter in a small bowl. Using the back of a spoon, smoosh the butter against the sides of the bowl so it is smooth and pliable. Add about 1/2 to 3/4 confectioners sugar and mix until thick. Add a small amount of milk — maybe a teaspoon or two. Mix. Add either more milk or more sugar until it’s the right consistency for drizzling. Using a spoon, drizzle HALF of the icing onto cooled brownies in a big, looping, swooping pattern. Next, take the leftover half of the icing and mix in one teaspoon of raspberry jam. It will be pretty and a purplish-pink color. Drizzle THAT on top of the white icing. So, so pretty.


Ain’t she purty? And done so quickly! The raspberry brownie is surely a Last-Minute-Miracle Christmas Brownie, one that you’ll be proud to serve at any holiday event!

Shirley Temple Blondie (and the “Dirty Shirley”)

December 16, 2012 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Blonde Brownie, Cream Cheese, Fruit, Fun For Kids, Holiday, Nut-Free


When I think of Christmas, I remember going to family parties and being allowed to drink a Shirley Temple, which is a 7-Up with maraschino cherry syrup and a cherry. So I turned it into a dessert. So festive, so special, so sweet and celebratory! This baked treat would also be kind of adorable for a girly-girl’s birthday, no matter what her age. It took two times to get this recipe just right. I didn’t think I’d love the end result as much as I did, but I do. The kicker is that I added some mini chocolate chips to half of the pan, creating the Dirty Shirley! Hahaha!


  • 1 box sugar cookie mix (about 15-17 ounces, I used Betty Crocker)
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese (I used Philadelphia brand)
  • 1/2 cup marshmallow ice cream topping (I used Smucker’s brand)
  • 1 jar maraschino cherries (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 tsp cherry extract (optional, but it sure adds more cherry “kick”)
  • Pink and/or white sprinkles (you’ll be so glad you added these)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, optional (I used Nestle brand)



First things first. You must absolutely prepare yourself for something that is this (see below) mesmerizing in its shiny, cheery, cherry goodness. Oh my.


Now that you’ve prepared yourself, let’s get started. Melt the butter in the microwave for about 30-40 seconds and pour it into a large bowl. Add the eggs and mix. Then add sugar cookie mix and stir well.


Add cream cheese and blend it in completely.


Set aside about 1 to 1.5 cups of the batter into a medium bowl. Spread the remaining batter into a greased pan. I used a  7×11-inch pan, which resulted in a super-thick blondie. You could easily use a 9×13-inch pan, which would make a shorter blondie.


Drain the cherries, while preserving the cherry syrup; add 1/2 cup of the cherry syrup to the batter. Add 1/2 cup of the marshmallow topping. Add 1 tsp of cherry extract or cherry flavoring.


Mix together into a dreamy, sticky, sweet, pink batter. Add large spoonfuls of cherry batter into the plain batter.


Set aside. On a cutting board, divide the cherries into 2 piles: one pile that you’ll chop and one pile of whole cherries, which will decorate the top crust. Since you’ll want one whole cherry per blondie, look at the size of your pan and plan accordingly. I did 6 rows of 3 cherries, but a larger pan might fit more. It depends on how large you want each treat to be and how many people you have to serve. Finely chop your cherries.


Scatter the chopped cherries onto the pink batter. So pretty!


Use a knife to dig down into the plain batter and turn it over. Do it so that some plain batter comes to the top and some pink batter goes to the bottom. Don’t be too enthusiastic and mix the layers together too much — you want them to be twirled together into big, chunky swirls.


If you would like to have some “Dirty Shirley” blondies, not just Shirley Temples, sprinkle some mini chips onto the surface. I turned half of my pan into Dirty Shirleys, uisng a scant 1/4 cup. If you want to dirty up the whole pan, about 1/2 cup should do the trick.


Add your whole maraschino cherries on top so that each blondie, when cut, will have one cherry in the center. Since baking will turn the top crust golden brown, I suggest adding some pink sprinkles to preserve the pretty, pretty pinkiness of this blondie. Shirley Temple herself would shirley approve. Bwa-ha-ha-ha!


I used both pink AND white sprinkles…mostly because I am a brownie baking ambassador, and I just happened to have both colors on hand. Bake at 350 F for about 30-45 minutes, depending on the depth of the batter. Test with a toothpick. Remove from oven and let cool. The result was simply stunning, don’t you think?




For Christmas, or for just about any special occasion, try this cheery, cherry, sweet, and memorable dessert: the Shirley Temple Blondie (or the Dirty Shirley)!

Chewy Ginger-Lemon Blondies

December 10, 2012 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Blonde Brownie, Chilled, Cream Cheese, Decadent, Fruit, Holiday, Nut-Free, Off the Beaten Path


Christmas baking is so much fun, but why make ginger-bread (again) when you can make something that’s… ginger-better? This chewy, lightly lemony treat will be a way for you to “zag” at the Christmas cookie exchange, when everyone else is “zigging” with the typical peppermint or chocolate treats. Introducing… the Chewy Ginger-Lemon Blondie! 20121210-230317.jpg


  • 1 box lemon cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme)
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, divided
  • 3 eggs, divided
  • 1 cup candied ginger, finely chopped (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 box cream cheese (8 ounces)
  • 3.5 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (optional)



Microwave 1/2 cup of the butter for about 30-40 seconds, just until melted. Into a large mixing bowl, add lemon cake mix, 1 egg, and melted butter.


Mix on low to medium speed for about a minute, until it is thoroughly mixed. It will form a very thick dough, not a “pourable” batter. Next, measure out about a cup of candied ginger, pour it onto a cutting board, and get your best chopping knife. (Candied ginger often comes in bite-sized pieces, which is much too large for this recipe.) Cut the candied ginger into small pieces, about the size of a pinkie fingernail or smaller.


Put the minced ginger into the lemon dough and set the mixer on low for about 30 seconds, just until blended. Put the dough into a greased 13×9-inch pan and, using your hands, spread it into an even layer.


Back to the mixer! In a new bowl, whip the cream cheese on medium to high for 1-2 minutes until it is fluffy and creamy. Add the remaining 2 eggs. Microwave the remaining 1/2 cup of butter for 30-40 seconds in the microwave until melted, and then add that to the bowl.


Mix on medium until smooth, about a minute. Add the sifted confectioners sugar and mix completely into a rich, gooey batter. If you want a more lemony result, add 1 tsp of lemon zest to the batter. Pour batter over the bottom layer and spread evenly.


Bake at 350 F for 35-45 minutes. When it’s done, it should be getting toasty brown on the edges. It will still be fairly soft in the center, but not liquidy. I used a center-placed toothpick to check for doneness, making sure the pick didn’t come out “wet.” (You can eat it while it’s still warm or after it reaches room temperature. If you’re not going to eat it right away, store it covered in the refrigerator. It’s delicious right out of the refrigerator — or heated in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.)

When serving, you’ll see that the lemon cake has taken on a golden tan color, that your sweet topping batter has turned tender and rich, and that the pieces of ginger have retained their magical, zingy bite–the Chewy Ginger-Lemon Blondie is a Christmas miracle, for sure!


Red Velvet Brownies – with homemade frosting

April 06, 2012 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Chilled, Cream Cheese, Decadent, Holiday, Nut-Free, Off the Beaten Path


Red Velvet Cake is a favorite in my household, almost as much as brownies. Red Velvet Cake is the dessert my mother always made for special occasions — especially birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Independence Day, or Christmas. And it’s the dessert that, when served, made any occasion special. It’s rich, dense, sweet, buttery, and very, very pretty! So its namesake brownie had to be equally special. Here’s my simplified, “box mix” approach to this lovely recipe.

Drink it in with your eyeballs, my friends. The Red Velvet Brownie is a visual stunner!


  • 1 and 1/2 cups milk (any percent is fine)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 box red velvet cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 and 1/2 cups butter (do *NOT* use margarine, as it will not fluff up properly)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla


Put milk and flour into a microwave-safe dish and mix completely. (I like to use a fork, but that’s just me.)

Do this:

  • Microwave for 60 seconds on 20% power; remove from oven and stir.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat.

(Use 20% power, not 100%. You want to avoid scalding your milk.)

At this point, you’ll have cooked your mixture for a total of 4 minutes and you’re ALMOST done. Your goal is a smooth, thick consistency, like a gravy you might pour over biscuits. It should take a total of about 6 to 10 minutes of cooking time — but you don’t want to cook it any longer than you have to.

So now, do this, but ONLY until it gets thick:

  • Microwave for 30 seconds on 20% power.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat.

Here's a rule of thumb to see if your goo is properly thick. Scoop up some goo with your fork; if it clings to the fork for a second before running through the tines, you're done cooking!

Do not overcook. After about 6 minutes total, you should be done. Stir well until smooth. Cover and set aside, so it can cool completely before step 2 of frosting, later.

Adding plastic wrap on top of your cooked flour/milk mixture will keep it from making a tough skin as it cools.


In a large bowl, add cream cheese and egg. With electric mixer, beat until smooth, about 1 minute.

Add cake mix, water, and oil. Mix on slow speed until blended, then on medium for 2 minutes.

Oh, pretty. Pretty, pretty, pretty. (Sigh.)

Pour into a greased 9×13 pan.

Keep yer dang fingers outta the batter!

Bake at 350 F for about 20-25 minutes or until a center-placed toothpick comes out crumbly but nearly clean.

One of the keys to success is to avoid overbaking. Use a toothpick test for the last few minutes of baking and remove as soon as it's done.


Before this next step, check the temperature of your “cooked flour/milk” mixture. If it is **completely cooled to room temperature**, you may proceed. (Also, if you chose to cool your flour/milk in the refrigerator, let it return to room temperature before moving forward.)

Allow your butter to soften outside of the refrigerator for about 5 or 10 minutes. With an electric mixer on medium-high, beat sugar, butter, and vanilla together in a large bowl until it turns snowy white, about 3 minutes. Next, add the flour mixture.

Add your cooked and cooled flour/milk mixture.

Start the mixer slowly. Don’t be afraid that your frosting will look entirely HIDEOUS at this stage. Consider it a baby swan that will soon grow into an elegant, angelic creature.

I've always felt that this "ugly duckling" stage looks a little like half-cooked scrambled eggs. Eww.

Mix on highest speed until you notice a beautiful, magical change in texture–causing it to look and act like real whipped cream–about 2-3 minutes.

Oh. Yes. Fluffy, sparkly, and TOTALLY HOMEMADE! This just might ruin you for tub frosting for the rest of your life. Sorry 'bout that.

Only after your brownies are completely cooled should you add the frosting. Pile it on. Make big fluffy swirls. Remember, this will spread a lot differently than pre-made “tub” frosting. That’s. Cuz. It’s. Homemade.

This recipe will give you the luxury of a big ol’ thick layer. Oh my goo’ness–I’m getting lightheaded as I type this.

With this frosting, you must refrigerate this dessert. A small price to pay for the absolute decadence of it all. Serve your Red Velvet Brownies while wearing red lipstick and a mischievous smile.

Much easier than making a 2-layer cake: It's the Red Velvet Brownie!