Decadent and delicious red velvet brownies have all the makings for a perfect Valentine's Day dessert. This homemade brownie recipe comes together easily, with cocoa powder and the signature red velvet color. Top these with a thick cheesecake swirl and honestly I don't think I need to say anything else for you to try these.
I know, I know. It feels like we just got done with holiday indulging. But Valentine's Day is upon us, and it is time for a decadent dessert. Don't question it, just go with it. And a red velvet brownie recipe that is easy, from scratch, laced with a cheesecake swirl is just what you need to get back on the dessert bandwagon.
After all a brownie is really just a little snack, you're not eating the whole pan. And with so many glorious brownie recipe ideas out there (like these tahini brownies or dulce de leche brownies), you can allow yourself one indulgent bar.
Why you'll love this recipe
Decadent, easy, fudgy, cheesecake swirl. Do I need to say more? Probably not, but just in case you're not sold. Think a brownie take on a classic red velvet cake. Fudgy and slightly chocolatey like a true brownie recipe, but not overly chocolatey and with a deep red color just like the cake.
Skip the cream cheese frosting and opt, instead, for a thick and luscious cheesecake swirl on top. It will set perfectly and look gorgeous against the red brownie.
What is red velvet flavor?
Honestly if I had to describe it, I would say it is like a super mild chocolate cake. Red velvet cake recipes vary greatly on the amount of cocoa powder in them, though my recipe has more than most.
The addition of white vinegar adds a slight tang to the cake, which is what I think makes it absolutely irresistible. As does the cream cheese frosting.
We achieve the same effect in this red velvet brownies recipe by using cocoa powder, but not as much as in a traditional chocolate brownie, and the cheesecake swirl for that tang and reminder of the cream cheese frosting.
Minimal ingredients for this recipe and many of which you likely have on hand if you bake already. Here's what you need:
- Butter. Hands down butter gives you the texture and crackly top you want in a brownie.
- Cocoa powder. Like I said not a ton. But this is a brownie recipe NOT a blondie recipe so it needs some chocolate flavor. I used dutch process cocoa powder, you don't have to, I simply prefer the chocolate flavor it gives the brownies and the deep coor it gives.
- Red food coloring. I know red food coloring can be a polarizing thing. I have read penty about it. I am not a research analyst or a medical professional, I am a recipe developer and a baker, so I am not going to say what is good or not good to use. Just that this is what I used when making these brownies. Red food coloring is something I use maybe twice a year and one little piece probably isn't going to permanently damage you. But I will say, if you use a red food coloring alternative, I cannot say for certain how these will turn out.
- Flour. These are fudgy brownies, so not a lot of flour needed.
If you do the cheesecake swirl, and I highly recommend you do, here is the literal three ingredients you'll need:
- Cream cheese
Basic brownie instructions here. Melt the butter, add the cocoa powder, sugar, salt and vanilla, and stir in with a spoon. Then stir in the egg and the red coloring. Lastly goes in the flour for a quick stir just to combine.
You will make the cheesecake in a separate bowl by beating all three ingredients quickly together.
To assemble, start with the brownie batter first in the pan, and then spoon the cheesecake batter on top in big heaps. Take a toothpick or knife and swirl the cheesecake slightly into the brownie, giving it a ribbon of cheesecake swirl.
Ingredient swaps and variations
While I think these are the ultimate fudgy red velvet brownies, you can certainly make some additions other than the cheesecake swirl to these:
- Add chocolate chips. Nobody ever said no to more chocolate in brownies.
- Add a fun Valentine's candy. Throw in a few red and white m&m's to make this a fun and more kid friendly brownie.
- Use a different food coloring. I have made these at St. Patrick's Day using green food coloring and a shamrock cookie cutter and they were a huge hit.
Tips for success
- Use the 8x8 pan, not larger. This is a nice thick fudgy brownie, and if you want to make in a 13x9 I recommend to double recipe and increase your bake time by 15 minutes.
- Don't overstir the brownie batter. Overmixing will incorporate air into it and can give you a cakey brownie that doesn't have that fudgy and chewy texture.
- Use butter. This is the best way I know to ensure the brownie gets a nice crackly crust.
My best tip for making these ultimate red velvet brownies is to not overbake them. It can be tempting to keep them in the oven for longer, as the traditional 'testing with a toothpick' method won't result in a totally clean toothpick. Brownies are all about the fudgy and chewy texture, so be mindful when baking them, not to overbake and lose that.
Other Valentine's Day dessert recipes
Looking to really up your Valentine's Day dessert game? Check these out:
- 8x8 inch baking pan
For the brownie
- 8 oz butter two sticks
- 2 ½ cups sugar
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon salt sea salt or kosher
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoon red food coloring
- ⅔ cup flour
For the cheesecake swirl
- 8 oz cream cheese
- ¼ cup sugar
- Preheat the oven to 325. Line an 8x8 square baking pan with foil and butter or spray with cooking spray.
To make the brownies
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula - most importantly DO NOT USE A WHISK - to blend after each egg addition. Then stir in the food coloring. Add flour and continue stirring with a wooden spooning or spatula just until blended.
To make the cheesecake swirl
- In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, sugar and egg and beat with a hand mixer or a whisk until full combined.
- Spread the brownie batter over the bottom of the 8x8 baking pan. Then by heaping spoonfuls, dot the top of the brownie batter with the cheesecake mixture, leaving some brownie batter visible between each spoonful.
- Swirl the brownie and cheesecake batters gently together with a toothpick or a knife. You want to see some brownie and some cheesecake defined, not all totally mixed together.
- Bake at 325 for about 40 minutes. They should be set on the top and inserting a toothpick in the center comes out with some moist crumbs stick to it, you don’t want any fully liquid batter on the tooth pick.
- Cool completely before lifting out of the pan with the foil. Cut with a heart shaped cookie cutter or into squares.
Store the brownies in the fridge in a sealed container. I am a fan of eating these cold from the fridge, it gives them a denser fudgy texture and plus cheesecake to me should be eaten chilled. But you can leave out of the fridge for 30 minutes or so before serving.