For my coworker Jessica’s third anniversary at work, I knew I wanted to make something special. Enter the red velvet cupcake brownie that I’ve made several iterations of over the years. The last time I made the cupcake, the cake pulled right off the brownie. Actually, the brownie stuck to the cupcake liner! I used the absolute wrong type of brownie for this version (a dense, fudgy lovely thing that’s perfect as a standalone brownie). I knew that in order to have success this time I would need a more cake-like brownie. So I googled cake-like brownie and found a recipe that looked good at Cookie and Kate.
While I was mixing up the brownie batter it occurred to me that the batter was nearly the same as the last brownie batter I had used. The only real differences were some of the amounts of ingredients and the fact that I had used brown sugar instead of white. So here’s what happens when you mix browned butter with brown sugar: your dessert caramelizes. That’s why my brownies stuck to my liners. Unfortunately the cupcake didn’t stick to the brownie!
Brown the butter: Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook the butter until it’s a pale golden brown and the particles suspended in it are reddish brown. The butter will bubble and fizz and seem to rise. This is normal. This process takes about 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from heat and stir in the sugar. Then add the cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder. Stir until the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Let the mixture cool a bit before adding the eggs. You don’t want the eggs to cook in the warm batter.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula after each one. When the mixture is well blended, add the vanilla extract and the flour. Stir until you no longer see streaks of flour. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line muffins tins with paper liners, spray with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and the sugar and cream on medium speed, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
In a small bowl, whisk the food coloring, cocoa powder, and vanilla together until thoroughly combined and no lumps remain. Very slowly add to the mixer, mixing at low speed until well combined.
Add in one-third of the flour mixture, mix until combined. Add in one-third of the milk, mix until combined. Repeat adding in the flour then milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
In a small bowl, add the baking soda to the vinegar. Mix well and add to the batter. Mix until just incorporated, about 10 seconds.
Scoop brownie batter into the muffin tin, filling it one-third full. Place a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in the middle of the brownie. Shmoosh down. Fill with cupcake batter. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out sorta clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost when completely cool.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream butter and cream cheese until well combined. Add salt , cocoa and vanilla and mix until combined
On low speed add powdered sugar. Turn speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy. If the frosting gets too thick, thin it out some with a bit of milk or cream. Use immediately, or refrigerate until ready to use.
I’m not fooling myself. These might actually be the best cupcakes I’ve ever made. My friend Sam, who I worked with in Portland, flew all the way down to LA just to eat one. OK. I’m exaggerating. She was in LA, I met her and her friend Alani at a sheeshee restaurant in Santa Monica where Sam proceeded to a) laugh at the dog poop color of the frosting then b) (much to the server’s and other patrons’ dismay) lick the frosting entirely off the cupcake before our dinner arrived. And Sam doesn’t even like frosting!