E Z Brownies

39 Comments

Years ago a friend and I started a charity event that focused on wine tasting, to benefit our local SPCA. We really had no budget, but wanted to offer foods to go along with the wines.

The first event was successful, with about 400 people attending. That’s considered pretty good in our town of about 50,000 people. Fortunately, it has grown in popularity over the last 20 years!

Back then, money was tight. We couldn’t donate money to our beloved SPCA, but over the years I fostered animals, and volunteered in other ways. And every year, I made food for the wine tasting event, its biggest fund raiser.

A few years in, one of the wine distributors wanted to do chocolate and wine pairings, and I created these E Z brownies for that purpose.

They are called E Z because, wait for it, a box mix is used. Do you think any other time in my life I’d use a box mix???!!! Hell no! But It was for such a good cause.

The brownie mix is enhanced with liqueur, and goodies are added like chocolate chips or toffee bits or dried fruits. It was always fun to mix and match the flavors.

Fortunately, a wonderfully generous beneficiary of the SPCA also owned a liquor store, so she gave me all of the liqueurs I needed for these brownies!

So, for $1.16 per box of brownie mix, I could make hundreds of brownies for not much money, and everyone loved them. I wanted to share the recipe, because you can create a fabulous, customized brownie, starting with a box mix. I still can’t believe I just wrote that 😬

To really make the brownies stretch, I make mini brownies. They’re bite-sized.

Faux Brownies
Makes 16 regular-sized brownies, or cut each into 6 pieces for 96!

1 – 18.3 ounce box brownie mix (brands are different weights)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, whisked
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup liqueur, I used Amarula
1 cup bits and/or chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 9 x 13” baking pan with corners. These are non-stick, but I still add a little spray oil.

Place the brownie mix, the eggs, flour, and choice for liqueur and stir until the mix is fully incorporated.

Fold in the chips and bits and scrape into the prepared baking pan.

In these brownies I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chips and dried cranberries. Amarula is a fruity liqueur, so I thought this would be a nice combination.


Bake for 22 – 25 minutes.


For thicker brownies, smaller pans can be used, or you can use twice the amount of mix; of course baking times will vary.

You can adjust any box mix just by balancing the dry and wet ingredients. Liqueur is a wet ingredient, so compensate by adding a little flour or even cocoa.

See the cranberry bits and the chocolate chips?.

These brownies are thin, but extremely dense, chocolatey, and chewy.

Like I mentioned, a square pan would bake up thicker brownies, but for a crowd, these 9 x 13″ pans are perfect, especially when one recipe makes 96 mini brownies!

Try these combinations:
Dried tart cherries and Amarula
White chocolate chips and Framboise
Dark chocolate chips and Bailey’s
Toffee bits and Buttershots
White chocolate chips and Rumchata
Candied nuts and Amaretto
Freeze-dried raspberries and Grand Marnier
Caramel Corn and Kahlua
White chocolate chips and Chambord

39 thoughts on “E Z Brownies

  1. Okay, I haven’t used a brownie mix since the late 70s when I was in college! But I trust you! By the way, you are the only other person I know who has Amarula in their hooch cabinet! Love the stuff!

    • HA! Amarula is really fabulous!!! I’ve hesitated for years about this recipe, but it did really help when trying to reduce expenses for the charity. You know, normally, that I’d make them the “real” way normally!!

      • I meant to say in my earlier comment – the work you did was wonderful! So many people could learn from your kindness and caring!

        I fell in love with Amarula when I was in Namibia… and found it available readily in Tucson! Happy New Year, Mimi!

      • Aww, thank you. If my husband and I both die, Jane Goodall gets everything. But up until that point, it’s all about our local SPCA! We’re going to be in Namibia for the first time next September. So excited!

  2. What a very beautiful thing that you and your friend started. Are you still actively involved in the wine tasting event? Nibbles and a delicious glass = win-win, and I imagine that it gets bigger each year.

    • Thank you. Yes, I’m still actively involved, but now we can afford to donate money instead of just labor, and now we actually get to attend the event and taste wine! But ironically, the reason I made these recently was for the last wine festival in November. Someone remembered them and asked for me to make them! I think I ended up counting around a thousand mini brownies!

  3. As long as you get a decent brand of “box mix” and add your own touches to it, they can be a lifesaver. And adding a bit of booze as well – what could be nicer? I would imagine there are few people, who haven’t at some time, had a box of cake mix in the cupboard, in case of emergencies!!?!
    Amarula – haven’t tried it, education not complete!
    Enjoy the ‘bringing in’ of the new decade. :))

    • You need to try Amarula – it’s fruity in a subtle way and creamy. Almost like Bailey’s. I think our education in all things food and drink will never end! And that’s why I love blogging so much! Happy New Year!

    • You can certainly use a higher quality mix! In fact, I’d encourage it. but it was fun to be able to make thousands of brownie bites for so little cost! Do look for Amarula. It’s made from an actual African fruit!

  4. I admit I’ve never used box mixes for cakes, but I’ve tasted ones made with them, and could always detect an artificial aftertaste. However, I can see your reasoning for using it for such a good cause, and love the flavors you’ve added! :)

    • Yes, it was ALL about keeping expenses down, so there was no other option. Thankfully the liqueurs I used were high quality! I tried two mixes from Trader Joe’s recently, both were awful. But I did make a brioche mix from king Arthur’s flour, and bought it again to make for my mother when I visited. I originally made it for the stuffing I posted on in November, and it worked really well for that. I’m willing to try shortcuts; I remember when I was too stubborn to buy pre-washed spinach! But I’m with you on fake food!

      • So true! Sometimes we have to pick our battles! Lately I even switched to store-bought puff pastry! I use all-butter quality brand, and even though it’s not as good as my homemade, it’s not bad at all, and it is a huge time saver! :)

      • Of course it is! I also have discovered some garlic-infused olive oils that don’t taste oxidized or smell badly. I always made my own garlic oil in my fridge, but I’m getting a bit arthritic, and even peeling garlic has become a pain in the thumbs! So bring them on!

  5. These brownies!! I love an easy recipe, and these definitely look like they would not disappoint. Amarula is SO good!!! Since my hubs is from SA he’s a big fan of it. Gotta try these in the New Year after we’ve come down from our sugar coma :)

  6. My goodness but I wouldn’t have even imagined so many ways to work with a boxed brownie. We have used this brand many times, and you’ve added inspiration and I’m eager to experiment. SPCA and rescue affiliations are so important to me, too. This was a heartwarming story–and delicious!

    • Aw thanks. My friend was awesome. She practically built the place by hand. Blood, sweat, and many tears. She’s moved away, but still comes back to help out, since it’s a special charity for her of course. The local SPCA is really successful, considering it’s a small community. You must have some rescue animals at home as well! Happy New Year!

    • Well scratch is always always better. And for me to have ever picked up a mix of anything was not something I’d ever done, but it was for a good cause! Amarula is fabulous. Hopefully I’ll get to try the actual fruit next year when we visit SA!

  7. Mimi, I’m not even sure we have brownie mix over this way. I’ll be looking out for it next trip to the market cause your EZ brownies sound perfect with a glass of red. Happy New Years.

  8. I love the idea of cutting the brownies into bite size squares and the addition of the flavorful liqueurs! I am a big fan of convenience, and some of these mixes really are a great base! I just happen to have a box of brownie mix in the pantry, can’t wait to experiment!
    Jenna

    • I think that’s my middle name! I like using different ingredients, mixing and matching – it makes my time in the kitchen more fun. Happy New Year!

  9. My first forays into baking involved doctoring boxed brownie mixes, so I can totally appreciate this one. I love the flavors here, although I’m not too familiar with that liqueur. I’ll have to check it out! Also, I really love the cause. SPCA is near and dear to our hearts! :-)

    • Oh, that what probably a great way to learn how to be creative when baking! And, it’s baking, not fine pastry making! The liqueur is fantastic, it is made from a South African fruit. Very yummy. Good to hear you’re a supporter as well, although supporting any charity is good, whether for people or animals!

  10. Hey, I’m game for a shortcut any time! A Kahlua bundt cake made with a cake mix is still a family favorite. And speedy brownies are right up my alley. Off to see what Amarula is :) Happy New Year, Mimi!

  11. When I was in Culinary school, my pastry teacher told us he was also a recipe developer for Betty Crocker cake mixes. He was an amazing pastry chef, and ever since then, I’ve held boxed cake mixes at a higher level. And doctored up, I think you can make some pretty awesome cakes. Like yours, for example! :-) ~Valentina

    • Oh that’s fascinating! I’m surprised he admitted this!!! I didn’t know you were in culinary school – I must read your bio again!

  12. Mimi, i feel the same way but I have to admit that the texture of boxed brownies is always great, it’s the flavor that’s lacking. But you solved that!! I once actually baked my brownies side by side with a mix i bought just for the purpose, to convince a friend that homemade were so much better! She was happy that all the boxed ones got sent home with her, lol!!

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