Caramel Kahlua Brownies

If you bake a lot, you can probably relate to the situation I’m about to describe. You make a cake or cupcakes and don’t quite use all the frosting, so you throw the extra in a ziploc bag and stick it in your freezer, sure you’ll use it for another project before long. Soon that one bag of frosting has become three or four, and maybe you’ve thrown a few extra brownies, the last slice of pie, a loaf of bread and who knows what else in there too. And suddenly you’re wondering why you don’t have any room in your freezer for the groceries you just brought home from the store :)

Caramel Kahlua Brownies

With that in mind, I was determined to find a way to use the leftover buttercream after making these chocolate salted caramel cupcakes. It was either that or throw it away because there was no way I was going to let it contribute to the freezer issue. I hate wasting food (major pet peeve of mine!), so in reality the only option was to repurpose it. I was low on inspiration, but my friend Jeannette came to the rescue suggesting these Kahlua brownies. Coffee, chocolate and caramel in one decadent dessert? Yep, she was definitely on to something.

Caramel Kahlua Brownies

I used to be a fan primarily of cakey brownies, and while I still really like them, I’ve also come to appreciate fudgy brownies too. This recipe, made with lots of rich dark chocolate, yields something more on the fudgy end of the spectrum. Coffee flavor is infused through the inclusion of not only the Kahlua, but also instant espresso powder. I wasn’t shy about dolloping the salted caramel buttercream on top, and for me, its sweetness and light texture was the perfect complement to the rich brownies. As much as I wanted to stash a few of these in the freezer for another day, I sent them off to work with Shane instead. Luckily, there’s no shortage of options left in there for me to choose from when a craving hits…

Salted Caramel Frosted Kahlua Brownies
brownies heavily adapted from Simply Recipes, frosting from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes

{Note: You probably only need about half of the frosting for the brownies. The extra can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for a month. Just bring the frosting to room temp and beat it on low speed until smooth before using.}

Brownies
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Kahlua
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (3.75 oz) all-purpose flour

Salted Caramel Buttercream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6-8 tablespoon salted caramel sauce

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on opposing sides so you can lift the brownies out easily once they’re baked. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Add the chopped chocolate and the butter to a medium heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and, stirring occasionally, melt until everything is smooth (you could also do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts on 50% power). Whisk in the espresso until incorporated. Set the bowl aside so the mixture can cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, Kahlua, vanilla and salt until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the warm chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Finally, stir in the flour with a rubber spatula just until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking ban, spreading evenly with a rubber spatula to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake the brownies for about 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. (Do not over bake, or the brownies will dry out.) Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan. Use the foil to lift the brownies out of the pan.

To make the frosting: Add the butter to a large bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter on medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, stopping to scrape the bowl as necessary. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and sugar. Whisk to combine. Place the mixer bowl over a pot of simmering water, and, whisking constantly, heat until the mixture is warm to the touch and the sugar has dissolved. You can test by rubbing a bit between your fingers – it shouldn’t feel gritty at all.

Put the bowl on the mixer, and starting on low and gradually increasing the speed to medium-high, beat the egg white mixture until stiff, glossy peaks form – this will take about 8-10 minutes, and the bowl should feel cool to the touch when you’ve finished. Reduce the mixer to medium-low speed, and gradually add the butter, 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.

With the mixer still on medium-low, gradually add 6 tablespoons of the salted caramel sauce, and continue beating until it is completely incorporated. Taste the frosting, and if you want a stronger caramel flavor, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of caramel sauce.

Dollop the frosting onto the cooled brownies and spread to cover. Slice into squares to serve.