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crowd pleasers

Recipe: cream cheese brownies

[A huge thank you to Fine Cooking for highlighting use real butter in their newsletter as one of their favorite food blogs. I find myself in truly stellar company. It’s no secret to my readers that Fine Cooking is my favorite cooking magazine and a source of inspiration for urb.]

The excitement never ends over here at urb headquarters, but first… some proof that I am keeping off the streets this summer:

we are back to sunny weather here – great for a ride

or a romp in the high country

the snow is melting fast

kaweah wanted to go for a swim in the icy water

and she did!

See all of that blue sky in the pictures? That’s right. Blue Colorado sky, bright green aspens, dark green pine forests, white snow, and in a few weeks – multitudes of brilliant and colorful wildflowers. This is the place to be and if you sign up for the Food and Light photography workshop, you’ll be here to enjoy Colorado, a fantastic group of fellow food photographers, and all of the great things our sponsors have lined up for us. Speaking of sponsors, I am *really* excited to have the following companies (many of them local) supporting our workshop: Pro Photo Rental, Atlas Purveyors, Culinary School of the Rockies, Izze, Savory Spice Shop Boulder, Chocolove, Stonyfield Farm, New West KnifeWorks, Earthy Delights, and Nations Photo Lab.

And before we dive into the recipe, I’m psyched to be a judge for the Threadcakes Contest which is now live through Monday, August 16, 2010.

What’s Threadcakes? I’m glad you asked! It’s a competition where entrants bake and decorate a cake based on a Threadless t-shirt design. Some of the designs are absolutely stunning – as are the cakes! Here are the rules and you can follow Threadcakes on Twitter @threadcakes. You should go to the Threadcakes website to see last year’s winners. I was totally impressed and I know some of my readers and blogging pals have the talent to bring the smackdown this year. Check it out!

Last week when the weather was decidedly cooler and rainier than it is now, I baked four batches of these brownies for friends, neighbors, visitors, and Jeremy. Ever forget about a recipe for a while and then rediscover it? I actually got this recipe from Jeremy. Okay, I got this recipe from Jeremy’s mom. Jeremy told me these are his grandmother’s cream cheese brownies and he *loves* them. I never knew his maternal grandmother as she had passed away before Jeremy and I met, but I hear many loving and hilarious stories about this wonderful woman.

cream cheese and butter

making the cream cheese batter

Everyone who tries a cream cheese brownie is hooked and I have data spanning almost 20 years and about 30,000 people (give or take a few). I think it has to do with the almond extract which is a winner in my book every time. The recipe I have in my very old and abused spiral notebook of recipes says to use Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate – that I must use Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate.

melted chocolate and butter

beating sugar into the eggs

For the first several years, I DID use Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate and one day noticed that the recipe on the back of the chocolate box was the same as Grandma’s recipe. I broke this news to Jeremy and he laughed. This in no way diminishes his Grandma’s prowess as a baker and I think this sort of discovery is not uncommon for many of us. Knowing that the recipe was provided by Baker’s, I suspected the directive to only use their brand was self-serving in that corporate way. [Edit: And as an interesting side note, German was the last name of the fellow who invented this type of chocolate – it is NOT German…]

pouring the chocolate mixture into the batter

divvying up the chocolate base

I don’t keep Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate in my cupboards and a quick search revealed that it contains a tad more sugar than regular chocolate. What is REGULAR chocolate anyway? A slight reduction in sugar isn’t such a bad thing, so I used some 60% bittersweet chocolate I had on hand. Would you believe it – they were great AND a discontinuity in the space-time continuum did not appear in my oven for failing to use Baker’s chocolate.

pour cream cheese batter on top

add a dollop of the chocolate batter and swirl it around

Okay, but the best part of this whole recipe was that I baked the brownies in my cute little square pans. You know how people love the edges on brownies and even go so far as to purchase these crazy brownie pans to maximize brownie-edge real estate? I can achieve EVEN MORE brownie-edge goodness with my mini square pan. You do the math – I am right. But if you prefer the traditional 9×9-inch square pan, you can do that too and the brownies are just as terrific. Either way nothing says, “I think you’re swell!” quite like a cream cheese brownie from your kitchen.

i think you’re swell

Cream Cheese Brownies
[print recipe]
slightly modified from the back of the Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate box

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped (they say you must use Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate – totally false)
5 tbsps butter, room temperature
3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp unsifted flour
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder (@8500, a pinch will do)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (optional)
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×9-inch baking pan (I sometimes double the recipe and use a 9×13-inch pan) or grease a dozen 2×2-inch square pans (one sheet has a dozen squares). Melt the chocolate and 3 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Stir constantly to avoid burning the chocolate. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, cream the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter with the cream cheese. Gradually add in 1/4 cup of sugar, beating until fluffy. Blend in one egg, a tablespoon of flour, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat two eggs until they are light colored and slowly beat in the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar until the mixture thickens. Add the baking powder, salt, and 1/2 cup of flour. Blend in the chocolate mixture, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, nuts, and almond extract. Spread half of the chocolate batter in your pan (if using the little square pans, divvy half of the batter among the squares). Then top with the cream cheese mixture. Spoon the remaining chocolate over the top and run a knife or toothpick through the batter to marble it. Bake for 35-40 minutes for a 9×9-inch pan or until a toothpick comes out clean. For the 2×2-inch squares, bake for 20 minutes. For a double batch in a 9×13-inch pan, I start checking around 40 minutes and keep testing with a toothpick until the center is done – but it does tend to dry out the edges. One batch makes 16 brownies or 12 cute little square brownies.

32 nibbles at “crowd pleasers”

  1. Memoria says:

    These brownies look beautiful and yummy!! I love the photos of the Colorado landscape as well.

  2. Judy says:

    Oh, not a good thing to look at at 11 pm. It’s bedtime, not baking time.;)

    Did you have any effects from the flooding a week or so ago?

  3. Wei-Wei says:

    :O I think the square pan makes them so uniform and cute! Your photos are gorgeous, and the sky is AMAZING. I love blue sky… unfortunately here in Shanghai the bluest is always a little washed out blue-grey. :(

    Cream cheese brownies… is there a difference between them and cheesecake brownies??


  4. Nan says:

    These brownies look like the perfect Fourth of July party (two of them) contribution! Don’t have the sweet little squares and I’m an oddity, I suppose. I like the middle best… :0) Maybe a double recipe in a whopping big pan will do the trick.
    Thanks Jen — beautiful pix as always!

  5. Gord says:

    Wow I’m definitely excited to try these out for the office! Should be quite a crowd pleaser!

  6. Kristin says:

    We’ll be in CO in late July. Will there be any flowers left? I’ll eat your brownie centers any day & save my edges for you!

  7. Rosa says:

    Those brownies look divine! I know nobody who doesn’t like that lovely treat!



  8. Vivienne says:

    Ohhhh *drools* – my idea of an afternoon snack to go with milk…hmmm chocolate and cream cheese…divine combination ;)

  9. Valérie says:

    Funny, I’ve only recently heard of those crazy labyrinthine brownie pans (I actually discovered them while watching a food-themed game show, which featured a “Guess What This Kitchen Gadget Is For?” segment – nobody got it right). But I’m one of the “weirdoes” (apparently) who prefer the almost-gooey center of the brownie… But those little brownie squares look so appealing! I have yet to make cheesecake brownie, but given my love of each component individually, I do believe I’ll get hooked when I do give it a try!

  10. Lucie from Bilingual Butter says:

    Just discovered your blog and I love your recipes! I could have these brownies every day–and the little squares are so cute!

  11. Kari says:

    Well I am an edges gal, but DH is a gooey middle guy so a regular pan works just fine for us. I really love those little squares though, portion control isn’t always a bad thing. Aside from your adjustment to the baking powder did you make any other changes for the elevation? Having lived most of my life at about sea level I am finding even our current 4500 feet is making a difference and throw a ‘new to me convection oven’ in to the mix and baking even old favorite recipes has become a new challenge.

  12. Sara says:

    That pan is so cute! And the recipe sounds divine, cream cheese tastes good on *everything*!

  13. My Kitchen in the Rockies says:

    Great idea to bake them in the little squares. I have to speak up for the German chocolate. To us it would make a taste difference since we are German and very picky with our chocolate!
    Thanks for sharing the recipe and the great pictures.

  14. Allison says:

    Using your mini square pan instead of baking in a traditional 9×9 pan also eliminates those ugly, craggy brownie edges that I always seem to get when I try cutting them into squares. I’ll have to add that pan to my wish list. :)

  15. Renee says:

    Wow – these look awesome! I will have to try a gluten free version. And I love the square pan – I have never seen one before.

  16. Georgia Pellegrini says:

    There’s nothing like fresh brownies straight outta the oven…and with cream cheese on top? I might just have to make these right now…

  17. barbara says:

    I have never seen those pans before. Kinda like a square muffin tin. I also have never had cream cheese brownies. They look delicious.

  18. Celeste @ Berrytravels says:

    That pan! Where did you get that pan! I’m in love already.

    I must try this recipe, it sounds like it will be an instant hit amongst my friends!

  19. Mrs Ergül says:

    How cool to bake these in the mini square pans!! You fed 30,000 folks cream cheese brownies over 20 years! You are good Jen!!

    I love the how Colorado looks all year round from your lens!!! All the best to the workshop!

  20. Katie says:

    WOW, they look absolutely delicious! I love cream cheese and mixing it with chocolate is just about the best thing you can do with it! I love the idea of the square pan – you do get those beautiful brownie edges, plus it means you don’t have to hand-cut them, so they look so much better. Delish!

  21. Marisa says:

    I need to get me one of those brownie pans – love the little uniform squares that it produces. Is that a tad OCD?

  22. renee says:

    were did you get the brownie pan? What is this pan called?

  23. LizzieBee says:

    Add me to the multitudes who loooove cream cheese brownies! My first pan of baked cheesecake was a raspberry cheesecake brownie, with a layer of brownie on the bottom, then a poured full layer of cheesecake, dollops of brownie on top and raspberries dotted all over. So Good. I love the little mini-brownie-pan idea! :)

  24. DessertForTwo says:

    Heard about you through Fine Cooking and I’m so glad I did! I love your site! Fine Cooking is one of the best (if not THE best) food magazines in my opinion, so kudos to you for catching their eye :)

  25. Jamie says:

    So funny that you made this, because I made chocolate cake with cream cheese swirl on the VERY same day!

  26. musetica says:

    So glad to have found your blog :) I have to confess I made those brownies the same day you posted the recipe and then, then next day….I made them again. Because we ate them all!!! they are so, so good! And I love a good brownie, and anything chocolaty! The first time I didn’t even use chocolate, I used cocoa powder and butter and still, they were delicious. Thank you!

  27. Cream Cheese Brownies! | This Is What I'm Eating says:

    […] Cheese Brownies, using the recipe from Use Real Butter. I didn’t have the cute multi-square baking pan, but a cupcake pan worked in a pinch. […]

  28. Cream cheese brownies, or, using my mixer for the first time… « Having My Cake And Sharing It 2 says:

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  29. Ruth Ann says:

    I want some now!

  30. jenyu says:

    For those who wanted to know, I got the mini square pans at Target.

    Judy – no effects from the flooding here.

    Wei-Wei – I’m guessing not! ;)

    Kristin – there should be tons of flowers in late July. TONS.

    Kari – not really any other adjustments. I do make sure my butter, eggs, and cream cheese are all room temperature. But that’s not specific to altitude, it’s just a general rule I’ve read for any elevation when making brownies.

    My Kitchen in the Rockies – it’s not German chocolate, it’s German’s chocolate (the guy who invented it was named German) :)

  31. Honeybump says:

    my mom made these for me every time I visited. they will always remind me of my childhood and my mom. I do so love the brownie edges. I have the same mini-pans–no surprise there, right? Congrats on Fine Cooking :)

  32. Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes) says:

    Ahh yummy!! I am also hooked, but I’ve never made them yet!! High time I do!

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