Red Velvet Chocolate-Swirled Brownie Bars

Red velvet fever has begun in advance of Valentine’s Day. It’s everywhere.

Here’s my contribution.

Red Velvet Chocolate-Swirled Brownie Bars {from scratch, not cake mix} - These easy bars topped with an abundance of chocolate are velvety soft and smooth! They don't call it red velvet for nothing!

They’re in between a brownie and a bar. Not over-the-top chocolaty to give them true brownie status, but much fudgier, denser, and richer than your typical bar.

Classic red velvet is known to have chocolate undertones, but isn’t overly chocolaty, and these hit that mark. 

Red Velvet Chocolate-Swirled Brownie Bars {from scratch, not cake mix} - These easy bars topped with an abundance of chocolate are velvety soft and smooth! They don't call it red velvet for nothing!

And they’re as far away from red velvet cake that you can get.

Nothing light, fluffy, or cakey about them. They’re smooth, rich, dense, and supremely moist. 

Red Velvet Chocolate-Swirled Brownie Bars {from scratch, not cake mix} - These easy bars topped with an abundance of chocolate are velvety soft and smooth! They don't call it red velvet for nothing!

They’re an easy, no-mixer, scratch recipe that comes together in minutes. Just as easy as opening a box of red velvet cake mix, but so much better and more unique tasting.

I made them by adapting my trusty blondies base recipe. Melt 1 stick of butter, stir in an egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and then whisk in cocoa powder. 

Red Velvet Chocolate-Swirled Brownie Bars {from scratch, not cake mix} - These easy bars topped with an abundance of chocolate are velvety soft and smooth! They don't call it red velvet for nothing!

Then I added the red food coloring, and lots of it. I bought two sets of  Betty Crocker gel food coloring (with red, blue, yellow, and green) in order to get two red vials needed. And lucky me, I have enough green on hand that I’m already ready for Saint Paddy’s Day projects, now and through the year 2020.

My grocery stores stopped carrying the old fashioned drops and gel is being sold, and in package sets. Get your hands on as much red food coloring as you can, gel or old-fashioned drops, because turning chocolate batter red is a big task.

After you get the batter as red as you like, stir in flour, turn it out into the pan, and drizzle with melted chocolate chips to create the swirling. I detailed in the recipe section how to make the easy swirled pattern.

Red Velvet Chocolate-Swirled Brownie Bars {from scratch, not cake mix} - These easy bars topped with an abundance of chocolate are velvety soft and smooth! They don't call it red velvet for nothing!

It’s challenging to determine when any kind of dark-colored food is done, and red and brown food is some of the hardest. I baked for 28 minutes. I recommend 28 to 30, or until the top is set and isn’t glossy. The chocolate swirls will be glossy, but not the batter.

They remind me of the Gingerbread Molasses Chocolate Chip Bars I made before Christmas and a longer cooling period is preferred. I urge you to allow them to cool in the pan for at least a few hours, or overnight. It’ll give the chocolate a chance to set up fully and for the bars to just rest so slicing is a neater job.

Red Velvet Chocolate-Swirled Brownie Bars {from scratch, not cake mix} - These easy bars topped with an abundance of chocolate are velvety soft and smooth! They don't call it red velvet for nothing!

You’ll be rewarded with bars that are soft in the interior, with slightly firmer and chewier edges, and you’ll just want to sink your teeth into them.

The chocolate swirls on top help to accentuate the cocoa that’s stirred into the batter. The overall chocolate level is present, but not too dark or too intense.

They’re buttery, rich, and velvety soft and smooth. They don’t call it red velvet for nothing.

Red Velvet Chocolate-Swirled Brownie Bars {from scratch, not cake mix} - These easy bars topped with an abundance of chocolate are velvety soft and smooth! They don't call it red velvet for nothing!

Red Velvet Chocolate-Swirled Brownie Bars {from scratch, not cake mix} - These easy bars topped with an abundance of chocolate are velvety soft and smooth! They don't call it red velvet for nothing!

Red Velvet Chocolate-Swirled Brownie Bars {from scratch, not cake mix} - Big chocolate rivers in every bite!! Velvety soft and so good!!!

Print Recipe

Red Velvet Chocolate-Swirled Brownie Bars

These easy, no-mixer brownie bars are in between a bar and a brownie. Not supremely fudgy to give them true brownie status, but much fudgier and richer than your typical bar, and not cakey. They're smooth, rich, dense, and supremely moist. I bought two sets of Betty Crocker gel food coloring (with red, blue, yellow, and green) in order to get two reds vials. Use whatever kind of food coloring you like; you'll need lots of it in order to dye the chocolaty batter red. They're squishy soft in the interior, with slightly firmer and chewier edges. The chocolate swirls add a nice burst of chocolate, without being overly chocolaty in order to stay true to red velvet. They're buttery, velvety soft, and perfect for Valentine's Day or Christmas!

Yield: one 8x8-inch pan, 9 generous pieces

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: about 28 minutes

Total Time: 1+ hour, for cooling

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 large egg
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
heaping 1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 vials red food coloring, or as needed (I used 2 red Betty Crocker gel food coloring vials)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
  3. Wait momentarily before adding the egg so you don't scramble it. Add the egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and whisk until smooth.
  4. Add the cocoa and whisk until smooth.
  5. Add the red food coloring and whisk to incorporate. I used 2 vials of red food coloring. I had to buy two sets of gel food coloring (red, blue, green, yellow) for the two reds I needed. Use any type of food coloring you like; you'll need a lot of it because it takes a lot to turn a chocolaty batter red. Keep adding until desired shade is obtained.Add the flour, optional salt, and stir until just combined; don't overmix.
  6. Add the flour, optional salt, and stir until just combined; don't overmix.
  7. Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula; set aside.
  8. In a small, microwave-safe bowl melt the chocolate chips, about 1 minute on high power. Stop to check and stir. Heat in 10-second bursts until chocolate can be stirred smooth.
  9. Drizzle the chocolate over the pan and swirl lightly with the tip of a table knife or a toothpick. To create the pattern shown, drizzle chocolate over batter in 5 wide, evenly spaced, parallel lines, each spanning the length of the pan. Like 5 rows of long train tracks. Rotate pan 90-degrees. With a toothpick, starting at the top of the pan, "draw" 5 evenly spaced lines through the chocolate. You're dragging the toothpick perpendicularly through the first set of lines to create the swirling.
  10. Bake for about 28 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Allow bars to cool in pan for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving; however, for optimal results, cool overnight so the chocolate has a chance to fully set up fully. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

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159 comments

  1. looks like a valentines must!

  2. I don’t even know where to begin!!! These are just AMAAAAAZING. I mean, your photos! And this recipe! Please, send some this way :)

  3. anything to do with red velvet is good with me! these look so lovely!

  4. Oh my. I HAVE to try this! So pretty!

  5. How beautiful! I love love love the chocolate swirls in there. Great valentine’s idea!

  6. We are huge brownie lovers over here in my home! These look really fun… so colorful and decadent! I’ve never tried the BC food gel– yet. Can’t wait to make a batch of these!

  7. Oh wow, these look ridiculously good! I love all things red velvet, especially around Valentine’s Day!

  8. LOVE the vibrant colors here!!! That chocolate swirl looks so decadent, definitely takes the brownies over the top! I love that you did a chocolate swirl instead of the standard cream cheese swirl, it’s a nice, intriguing twist :)

    xo Lindsay

  9. You’re not kidding when you say these have a dense, fudgy texture, Averie. The photos say it all – these are gorgeous! I’m loving the vibrant red of your red velvet and the beautiful contrast with the chocolate swirls. Fuggedabout Valentines Day – I could eat these all year round.

  10. I love how these are actually red! Definitely perfect for Valentine’s Day :)

  11. That red velvet swirl is perfect, these are perfect for Valentine’s!

  12. These brownies look FANTASTIC and sooooo pretty!

  13. How perfect do these look?! I’ve only had red velvet cupcakes but I’m sure the brownie version is a million times better.

  14. You may be my brownie guru. I am always looking for new recipes and tips on how to get that perfect brownie. I loved what you wrote and can’t decide which of your recipes to make for the big game day. I agree, keeping the brownies overnight to cool, has them just right and easy to cut in the morning. I think twenty eight minutes in an eight by eight pan usually does the trick. And, a parchment paper lining is very helpful. I’ll be back with an update (and for more recipes)!

  15. So fun! Love how you swirled them. Perfect for Valentine’s.

  16. These are so perfectly red and fudge-y looking! And I love the chocolate drizzle over the top! Pinned for sure!

  17. they’re looking so yummy and red and delicious :P

  18. These puppies look so heavenly! What a perfect Valentine’s day treat.

  19. Mmmm, these are perfect. They look so dense and enticing! Beautiful. And so easy. Winning combination. Love these, Averie. Have a great weekend!

  20. Longtime reader-first time commenter, I’ve made a ton of your desserts and absolutely loved them all. What I want to know is- how in the heck did you get that entire thing out of the pan without crumbling or breaking it? :0

    • I line my pans with aluminum foil ALWAYS which I instruct in the recipe. So I just lift it out by the foil, slide the foil out from the bottom, voila. Plus your pan is totally clean too! Thanks for being a longtime supporter & trying the recipes!

  21. These look perfect, right up my alley! Making these this weekend!!!!!!

  22. My husband just loves red velvet :) these look seriously divine! Thanks for the recipe :)

  23. These brownies look absolutely amazing. However, when I look at the pix, I wonder about how they set up. Does all the red dye move to the top during the baking? Please let me know. I’d like to bake these up for a special V-Day treat. Thank you.

    • No the red food coloring doesn’t shift. Once it’s in the batter, as long as you’ve stirred it evenly, it stays even during baking. Now some areas right next to the chocolate may appear or change color slightly since it’s right next to huge rivers of melted chocolate!

  24. These will be perfect for my husband and his battle buddies!
    I want to bake my favorite soldier something nice for saint Valentine’s Day.

  25. This may be a silly question but if I don’t have a 8 inch square pan but have an 8×14 inch retangular pan, about how much more of each ingredient would I use so I don’t lose out on anything! I’m so excited to make these! Thanks so much for your help!

    • I’ve never tried baking the recipe in that size but it sounds like nearly doubled of my pan size. You may just want to try doubling the recipe but I have not tested it this way, nor have I tested doubling the recipe and how that effects baking time, etc.

  26. I’ve never really baked anything before but I saw these and am going to give them a go. For the butter, approximately how many grams is a stick? (Butter in the UK doesn’t come in sticks). And what is the volume of the cups you are using?
    Thanks!

  27. These are so perfect for Valentine’s Day! I will definitely try this recipe out. Just wondering, how would i modify this recipe to fit a 9×11 pan? Any tips would be greatly appreciated :)

  28. If you use food colour paste instead of gel you get that deep red colour without having to use as much colouring, using the end of a tea spoon as a spatula you only need two small blobs and the mixture will be wonderfully red with paste.

    • I used gel for these and used 2 tubes. It does take A LOT to get a really vibrant bright red shade like these, but you could probably use much less if you didn’t want it to be bright red. I agree though, gel vs other types, night and day in terms of intensity of the pigmentation.

  29. So….I decided to try this today and it didn’t really work. After adding three whole bottles of red food colouring to the batter it still wasn’t enough to turn the dark brown batter red, which is a shame. Presumably there are types of food colouring that work better than others, but once you add the cocoa powder the whole mix turns incredibly dark. Was this the case when you did it, or can you get cocoa powder which is of a lighter shade of brown?

    • I used gel food coloring which is more intense then other types. You need a lot as I indicated in the recipe. All cocoa powder varies in color. I used the lightest one I have which is from Trader Joe’s. I find that other brands, Hershey, Ghirardelli, etc are all darker.

  30. Um. can we say yum?? I made these bars, not as red velvet but as plain brownies. Or more like incredibly rich, dense, chocolate-swirled heaven brownies. Their flavor and texture reminded me of the amazing rich brownies from a bakery that used to be around when I was a child, which my mother would buy as special treats for us! Thanks for the recipe!

  31. Like so many have said before these look absolutely amazing. I especially like the picture of the nine squares. Good job there.

  32. I’m glad these are the typical cakey red velvet… I’m all about the fudgy brownies. But the color of these is GORGeous!!! Loving the chocolate swirl on top too Averie. Perfect for valentines day. Pinned these bad boys and making for my sweeties {hubbie and little 21 month old son :)}

  33. I just adore how swirly and pretty these are, Averie! Happy Valentine’s Day to you- I hope it’s sweet :) xoxo= K

  34. So looking forward to try this recipe!!! But before that is it okay if i used BC red velvet cake mix instead of preparing one??will it give the same result??

  35. When you pour the melted chocolate on top of the batter, isnt there a chance that it will seep through and you wont get that chocolate swirl on top?

  36. can I substitute it with other colors(purple)? But I tried And like it, Averie

  37. The color turned out amazing – although they aren’t technically red velvet b/c red velvet flavor is buttermilk and vinegar with a mild cocoa flavor. Good call on the gel color

  38. Those photos make me want to dive into my screen! I have guests over tomorrow night and a million chores to do as I’m also leaving on holiday soon. As a baking lover, I hated the thought of having to buy dessert …. am so glad I found this recipe (and your blog!), will give this a shot early tomorrow morning and I’ll let you know how it turns out!

    • These bars were one of the best things I made all 2013 (well I made them during the 2013 holiday baking season). They were seriously amazing and I hope you get a chance to try them! Please keep me posted how it goes!

  39. I made these last night! Although they did come out tasty they didn’t come out like a bar. More or a cake. Not sure where I went wrong with the directions. Maybe a bit too much flour??? Anyway. I did enjoy them.

    • It could be the cocoa you used, or it could have been over-flouring, although over-flouring tends to make things denser, not cakier. I find that some brands of cocoa make things very airy and light and possibly even cakier. Also overbaking can do it. It’s my basic blondie recipe that I’ve literally adapted 50 times with other desserts/bars/blondies so I’m not exactly quite sure what happened with yours. Glad they tasted good still!

  40. So, I didn’t see anything in the comments, but these loom really delicious and I think I’m up to the challenge of making them. I love traditional red velvet cake so even without the cream cheese frosting, I’m wondering would white chocolate work

  41. I thought red food coloring was bitter unless you bought one specifically labeled “No Taste”. I made a cake entirely covered in red roses once= disaster! The bright red gel Wilton colors (what I have available) are all bitter! The “No Taste” is duller by comparison. Also, aren’t red dyes made with cochineal extract? I’m not the food police, but I’m starting to be more careful about some things.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/lifestyles/health/campaign-to-rid-foods-of-red-dye-made-from-bugs-is/nbRDS/

  42. They look delicious!

  43. I need to make this in a 9×13 dish, how do I adjust the recipe? Thanks.

  44. Hi Avery,
    These photos have surely brought out the sunshine on my day! I am just aching to bite into them!
    My tiny problem is that I am vegetarian and don’t eat egg. I generally use substitutes like yogurt, flax seeds, bananas…But the texture of these little nuggets of joy seem like they are tied to precise proportions.
    Could you plssssss recommend the right egg substitute for this recipe?
    Love!
    Vasudha

  45. I’m really looking forward to making these! I just had a question regarding how you store the bars overnight to rest? Do you leave them in the pan and cover them with foil? Or leave them in the pan without being covered?

  46. Wow. Just wow.
    I usually am not a big fan of red velvet but I just made these for my sister and I have to restrain myself from eating the entire batch they were so good.
    (Btw I made a double batch and baked it in a 9 by 13 inch pan for 30 minutes and they came out beautifully)

  47. You, who made this is a genious and I love you <3

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