Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and although we’re not a go-all-out-and-celebrate kind of family, I do like to make a special treat for dessert. I know there are plenty of folks who shun Valentine’s Day as a useless, manufactured holiday, but I’m not one of them. I just can’t object to the idea of celebrating love. And a bit of pink and red and chocolate to break up the winter doldrums? I’m all in.
When my 17-year old whiz-in-the-kitchen son Caton came up with this winning recipe several weeks ago, I knew it was too good not to share. And it’s easy, starting with a brownie mix (you could probably substitute your own homemade brownie recipe if you’d like, just be sure to add in the extra flour). And the cherry buttercream on top? It’s sublime. It gives the frosting a nice, bright flavor with out being overpowering. So yummy!
These brownie cups are fancy enough for a special occasion but simple enough for every day – the hardest part is getting the frosting on the brownies. I like to pipe it on with a disposable piping bag and metal tip, but you could use a Ziploc bag with the tip snipped off in a pinch. You won’t get the rippled effect on the icing, but you can still make nice swirls if you want a fancy presentation.
Besides, you can cover up a less-than-stellar icing job with sprinkles. Because sprinkles make everything better!
Cherry Cream Brownie Cups
Makes 12 brownie cups
For the brownies
1 16oz brownie mix
6 Tablespoons of oil (I’ve used coconut and canola oil successfully)
¼ cup flour
2 Tablespoons water
¼ cup chocolate chips (optional, but when are chocolate chips a bad thing?!?)
For the frosting
½ cup (one stick) butter, softened
1 lb (or 3 ¾ cups) powdered sugar
4 Tablespoons maraschino cherry juice (take it from your jar of cherries)
½ teaspoon of almond extract (optional but it really heightens the cherry flavor)
1-2 Tablespoons cream half-and-half, or milk (use the richest you have)
Cherries or sprinkles (or both!) for decoration
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and place oven rack in middle position.
Line muffin pan with paper cupcake liners and then grease the liners well with cooking spray (don’t skip this step or your brownies will stick to the papers!).
Combine all of the brownie ingredients in a bowl and stir until just mixed – don’t overmix.
Divide brownie mix evenly between 12 muffin cups and bake for 30-35 minutes, until tops are dry and cracked. Let brownie cups cool completely, at least one hour.
Once brownies are completely cool, make the frosting.
Using a mixer, cream butter until soft and smooth.
Beat in powdered sugar, one cup at a time. The frosting will be stiff!
Beat in almond extract and maraschino cherry juice, one tablespoon at a time. Once all the cherry juice has been mixed in, add half and half, one tablespoon at a time, until it’s a smooth spreading consistency.
Frost and decorate brownie cups as desired.