Lemon brownies put a fresh, tangy twist on the classic fudgy brownie. And topping these bright citrus squares with smooth, rich cream cheese frosting creates an irresistible flavor pairing that takes this treat to the next level.
The tart lemon accent complements the sugary frosting perfectly. Let’s discuss how to make these lemon cream cheese brownies from scratch and explore what makes this combination so delightful.
Crafting the Brownie Base
A from-scratch brownie recipe allows us to infuse maximum lemon flavor throughout the batter. Here are some tips:
Choosing a Recipe
Opt for brownie recipes with less cocoa powder, like 1/3 to 1/2 cup.Very chocolate-heavy batters will overpower the lemon. An egg-based brownie with around 2 cups sugar strikes the right balance.
Adding Lemon Zest
The zest from 1-2 lemons gives bright, concentrated lemon essence without adding too much moisture. Whisk zest into the dry ingredients before adding wet. Reserve juice for frosting.
Extract or Juice
1-2 tsp lemon extract boosts lemon taste. Or add 2-4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice to the wet ingredients. Acidity brightens flavor.
Use European-style butter and high quality dark chocolate. Their flavors allow the lemon to shine.
Sprinkle raw sugar atop the batter before baking. Dissolves into fudgy sparkles and lemon candy crunch.
The Cream Cheese Frosting
A rich, creamy frosting balances the citrusy brownies beautifully.
Softened Cream Cheese
Allow one 8-ounce block to come to room temperature before mixing – at least 2 hours. Too cold and frosting will be stiff.
Zest and Juice
Add lemon zest for flavor and 1-3 tablespoons juice to tanginess as desired.
Use a hand mixer to whip cream cheese until completely smooth. Then add butter, mixing until incorporated. Finally add sugar and beat on high speed for fluffiness.
Stabilizing with Cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch prevents frosting from getting runny or melting in warmer weather. Dissolve it in the lemon juice before mixing in.
Substitute some lemon with lime juice/zest. Or blend in lavender extract or flower petals for subtle floral notes.
Putting It Together
Now it’s time to assemble the frosted lemon bars!
Let brownies cool completely so frosting won’t melt. Then cut into squares with a sharp knife.
Pipe or spread a layer of frosting on each brownie. Top with second brownie square to make a sandwich.
Adorn frosted lemon brownies with lemon slices, candied lemon peel, toasted coconut or white chocolate drizzle.
Sprinkle with additional lemon zest or coarse sugar for crunch.
The Perfect Flavor Combination
What makes the pairing of lemon brownies and rich cream cheese frosting so perfect?
The cake-like brownie base provides dense, fudgy bites while the frosting is light and creamy. This contrast is pleasing.
Bright and Fresh
The tart lemon cuts through the sweetness of the brownie and frosting, keeping each bite from becoming cloying. It adds vibrancy.
Lemon’s citrus flavor blends beautifully with creamy ingredients like cream cheese, milk, and butter. It enhances their flavors.
The combination comes across as a grown-up, elegant twist on a childhood treat. It feels special.
The fresh lemon scent is uplifting. It stimulates appetite and makes this treat hard to resist.
Full Lemon Brownie Recipe
Now that you know the secrets behind these rich, decadent lemon cream cheese brownies, here is a full recipe to try at home:
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large eggs
- 1 Tbsp lemon extract
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1⁄4 tsp salt
- Raw sugar, for topping
- 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1–3 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1⁄2 tsp cornstarch
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×9 inch pan and line with parchment paper.
- Make the brownies: Cream sugar and butter 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, lemon extract, lemon zest, and vanilla.
- In another bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder and salt. Fold into wet ingredients until just combined.
- Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle raw sugar over top. Bake 25-30 minutes.
- Make the frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter until creamy. Add powdered sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, cornstarch and salt. Mix on high speed for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Once brownies are cool, cut into squares and assemble into sandwiches with frosting in between. Decorate frosted lemon brownies as desired. Enjoy!
With this recipe, you’ll have a sophisticated, elegant dessert that delights the senses. The tangy lemon brownies paired with luscious cream cheese frosting make for a delightful combination.