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

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!


Playdate Brownie (aka “Cookies and Cream”)

July 08, 2012 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Candy Bar, Cream Cheese, Decadent, Fun For Kids, Nut-Free


I love me some cookies and cream, and I love me some brownies; this recipe brings them together for a playdate… and, thankfully, everyone gets along just swimmingly! This is a brownie recipe that kids and parents can absolutely agree on, whilst making happy faces and having a good time. Just as a playdate should be.


1 box brownie mix (I used Betty Crocker Ultimate Fudge)

Eggs, oil, and water as called for on the box directions

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

1 jar (about 12 ounces) marshmallow flavored ice-cream topping

6 bars of Hershey’s brand “Cookies And Cream” candy bars (white chocolate with cookie pieces)



Make brownie batter according to directions on the box. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, use a mixer to blend the cream cheese with the marshmallow topping.

Whip it for about a minute on medium-high speed.


Pour half of the brownie batter into a greased pan; set aside the other half of the batter for later. Place 5 of the 6 Cookies And Cream candy bars on top of the batter, from edge to edge. (From what I hear, Paula Deen pioneered this technique, using Symphony candy bars.) Save 1 candy bar to use for a garnish after baking.


Spread the marshmallow/cream cheese filling on top of the candy bars. Yum.


Pour the remaining half of the chocolate brownie batter on top.



From the side, it’ll look like this. Are you yet using your imagination to guess how amazing this is going to taste? This is a killer brownie, for sure!


Bake for about 35-45 minutes at 350 F, depending on the size of your pan. Mine took about 42-43 minutes. As soon as you pull your fully baked brownies from the oven, use your one remaining candy bar to garnish the top. Break off small pieces and push the candy bar fragments down into the still-warm crust.


You will be astonished at how pretty this is when you cut and serve it. Right now, I’m finding it hard to imagine anything better than an afternoon with a good friend, a cold glass of milk, and a Playdate Brownie with cookies-and-cream goodness built right in!


Valentine’s Day Cherry Cordial Brownie

February 07, 2012 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Cream Cheese, Creative, Decadent, Fruit, Holiday, Nut-Free


It’s just like a cherry cordial — one that’s big enough to need a plate. BAM! Cupid just shot a thousand tiny arrows into your taste buds. Deal with that.



  • 1 box brownie mix (Ghirardelli Ultimate Fudge, with the fudge icing packet included)
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 or 2 eggs (1 for a shorter, fudgier brownie; 2 for a taller, fluffier brownie)
  • 1/3 cup water


  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 1 12-ounce jar marshmallow topping (the kind you drizzle over ice cream)
  • 2-3 teaspoons almond extract, to taste
  • 1/3 cup juice from a maraschino cherry jar
  • 15-25 maraschino cherries, depending on pan size


Open box mix and set aside the fudge icing packet, which you’ll use after the baking. Be careful when buying your brownie mix for this recipe. Don’t confuse a “put-the-fudge-packet-INTO-the-batter” mix with a “put-the-fudge-packet-ON-TOP-OF-the-baked-brownie” mix. (The into-the-batter packets are usually not very sweet and won’t work as a frosting.)

Pour powdered brownie mix into a large bowl.

Melt butter or margarine in microwave (about 25-30 seconds) and add it to the brownie mix, along with the eggs and water. Mix thoroughly. Spread 80% of the chocolate batter into a greased pan, setting aside 20% for later.

In a medium bowl, place cream cheese and marshmallow topping. Mix with hand beater on medium speed just until completely mixed.


By hand, mix in the cherries, almond extract, and maraschino juice. It will be the prettiest shade of pink!

Using a tablespoon, scoop up one cherry and a spoonful of the cherry filling. Place this cherry-pink filling down into the chocolate batter. Don’t just put a dollop on top of the batter; try to get it down in there.


Plan ahead on how you will space the cherries into your pan. Each brownie should have one cherry in its center. I used an 11×7 pan and I used 24 cherries in 6 rows of 4 cherries.


Use the remaining 20% of chocolate brownie batter to drizzle over top of the pink batter. This will make for a more attractive crust. (When I first made this recipe, I just let the pink batter stay exposed. Once baked, it was pretty odd-looking until I covered it with the frosting that came in the box mix. So, I recently added this extra step as a decorative pre-emptive strike.) 

Bake until a toothpick placed into the chocolate part comes out nearly clean, about 25-40 minutes, depending on the size of your pan.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Soften the fudge icing packet by placing it under hot tap water for 30 seconds. Knead packet in your hands to mix packet’s contents. Cut away a tiny corner of the packet so it will deliver a thin ribbon of icing.


Drizzle icing over your cooled brownies in a pattern that will be pleasing to you and your valentine. You don’t have to go for a “fully frosted” effect here; feel free to leave some areas exposed.


Mmm, mmm. “Love” just isn’t a big enough concept for this. Serve with two forks.

Key Lime Margarita Brownie (alcohol-free)

January 09, 2012 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Blonde Brownie, Cream Cheese, Creative, Fruit, Nut-Free


January schmanuary. I’m feeling tropical. Won’t you join me underneath this palm tree?

Cue the steel-drum band. The Key Lime Margarita Brownie deserves some good theme music.

Ahhh. These blonde brownie treats have a luscious key lime kick.

They’re not too sweet, a little gooey, and all impressive when you serve them to your gape-jawed guests.

And you can say, “Oh this? It’s just a little dessert I made in my spare time.”



  • 1 box (15-17 ounces) sugar cookie mix
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar (use only 1/3 cup if using a “Splenda” brand)
  •  1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • One 8-ounce package cream cheese (let soften outside of ‘frig for 5-10 mins)

Key Lime Filling

  • 15- to 20-ounce jar of lime curd or key lime pie filling (I used a 23-oz jar and had 1/2 c leftover)

Pre-baking Garnish Options (choose one of these three or make up your own)

  • Option 1 – Vanilla sugar (1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp vanilla)
  • Option 2 - Graham crust (1/4 c crushed graham crackers and 2 T sugar)
  • Option 3 – Salt (1/2 tsp flaked margarita salt)

Some of these ingredients are optional. All of them are yummy.


Put the sugar cookie mix into a bowl and stir in the brown sugar.

Mix together the dry ingredients.

Melt 1 stick of butter in microwave for about 30 seconds. Add melted butter and 2 eggs to the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Butter makes everything better!

Using 2 eggs means you'll get a taller, fluffier brownie.

Blend in 1 package of softened cream cheese.

Mixing is easier if you slice the softened cream cheese as you add it to your batter.

Oh, yummy. Try to keep your finger-lickin' digits out of the bowl, please.

Spread your blonde batter into a greased 9×13 pan. An 8×8 pan is not big enough for this recipe! Now get your lime curd or key lime filling.

Deelish. May I suggest that you go for a key lime filling that is NOT green? In nature, the key lime is actually rather yellow. NOTE: If your store doesn't have key lime filling pre-made in a jar, you can probably find a dry mix to make it yourself in the pudding aisle...just do that in advance.

Now comes the fun part: Putting the key lime goo into the blonde brownie batter. One spoonful at a time, spoon the key lime filling into the batter, being sure to push the goo below the batter surface. Make sure every brownie will have several bites of lime flavor.

Push the goo down into the batter... you don't want it to just sit on the surface.

Use a knife to gently swirl together the blonde batter and the key lime goo.

Oh. My. This is where it starts getting a little exciting. Try not to drool in the pan.

Before baking, garnish with something wonderful of your choosing:

Garnish Option 1 – Vanilla sugar (1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp vanilla)

The only thing that makes a sugar garnish better is to add vanilla to it. It gets richer and sweeter. And the sugar crystals gang up together to make little "sugar-clump colonies" that bake up crisply and dance on your tongue.

"Sugar" is to "brownie" as "smile" is to "people." I'm pretty sure that's an actual college-entrance-exam question.

Sprinkle the vanilla sugar on top of your blonde batter. So pretty!

Garnish Option 2 - Graham crust (1/4 c crushed graham crackers, 2 T sugar, 1 tsp vanilla)

Crush graham crackers using a plastic zippy bag and a rolling pin. Add sugar and vanilla. Shake the bag to mix it all together. Sprinkle over your batter.

Get out your aggression. Oh, yeah.

Hey, sugar.

Why dirty a dish, when you can just pour the vanilla right in there and shake the bag?

This is a lovely garnish option, especially if you're looking for a taste that is closer to a key lime pie. Yum!

Garnish Option 3 – Salt (1/2 tsp flaked margarita salt)

Pinch a few flakes of margarita salt and sprinkle them sparingly onto your batter. This'll give your blonde brownie a little margarita flair.

Sprinkle your garnish of choice onto the top of the batter. Then bake at 350 F for 35-45 mins (depends on your pan size and depth of batter), until a center-placed toothpick comes out moist but nearly clean.

Let cool for about 30 minutes so they set up before cutting. Now get out your hammock, tie it between two pieces of furniture, and enjoy your tropical treat! Ahhh.