Dark Chocolate Citrus Brownies with a Cream Cheese Swirl

I’m not going to start another blog post with song quotes.

And I’m not going to say that if you still haven’t decided what to make for Valentine’s Day, that you should make these brownies.

Mostly because I think that chocolate desserts on Valentine’s Day should be rich and fudgy and decadent. And these brownies are not. Instead, they are light and cakey and intriguingly flavored with citrus. And they are addicting.

And if I can give you one word of advice regarding Valentine’s Day, is that you should avoid being around addicting foods. Because you don’t want to spend your day (and night) stuffing your face with cream cheese brownies. Just don’t.

May I also suggest sharing these brownies with a few other people, and not just you and your date, because the more people who taste these brownies and give you accolades for how delicious they are, the more it’s going to be worth it that you accidentally burned your hand from taking these brownies out of the oven. They’re really worth the burn mark.

(Take note that injured hand means less mobility and less chances of you reaching for more brownies).

But seriously, share the love with these brownies. The citrus flavors, provided by lemon-flavored hazelnut spread, orange zest, and Cointreau, shine through, nicely complementing the sweet cream cheese and the deep chocolate flavor. The brownies are airy and soft, and the cream cheese swirl adds a textural contrast.

I received a sample of Nudo Dark Chocolate Spread with lemon – think Nutella but darker, made with olive oil, and amped up with a hint of lemon – and as soon as I tasted it, I knew it would work well with a baked good.

And like my other baked goods with booze, the Cointreau here is very minimal so it only lends a subtle alcohol hit, but it does add another bright citrus flavor.

Dark Chocolate Citrus Brownies with a Cream Cheese Swirl


Brownie Batter

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
1 cup dark chocolate hazelnut spread (I used Dark Chocolate Crema with Lemon but you can use other chocolate hazelnut spread and just add lemon extract)

Cream Cheese Swirl

4 oz (1/2 package) cream cheese
1 egg
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange zest


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine flour and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy.  Add in sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and orange liqueur. Mix well, then fold in hazelnut spread (if you're using Nutella or some other brand, add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract). Stir in flour mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine cream cheese swirl ingredients together.  Beat together until smooth.
  5. Spread 3/4 of brownie batter in buttered 8x8 pan. Spread cream cheese mixture on top brownie batter. Spoon remaining brownie batter over filling. Cut through mixture with knife several times for a marbled look.
  6. Bake 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in brownie 1 inch from side of pan comes out almost clean. Cool brownies completely, and cut into squares.


Do you have a favorite brownie recipe? Links are welcome! And if you insist on making a fudgy bar, how about these Salted Nutella Rice Crispy Smores Bars?

PS – If you’re interested in attending Taste of the Nation Boston this year, here’s a Valentine’s Day discount that will give you 20% off general admission and VIP tickets: LOVEBOSTON. I’ve been attending this fantastic event for the last couple of years (see my recaps here and here) and I’m looking forward to the event in April!


26 Responses to “Dark Chocolate Citrus Brownies with a Cream Cheese Swirl”

  1. #
    Megan posted February 13, 2013 at 10:39 am

    I don’t see anything wrong with stuffing my face with these brownies! And that spread sounds amazing. I would love a darker Nutella-like spread.

  2. #
    Erin | The Law Student's Wife posted February 13, 2013 at 11:12 am

    I know you warned me to share….but do I have to? :-)

  3. #
    Ashley posted February 13, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    You’re just taking it to the next level – brownies + cream cheese + citrus? Hot darn! I bet they’re as addictive as you say.

  4. #
    Amy @ Elephant Eats posted February 13, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    wow, these look so so good. I love orange/chocolate and also cream cheese/chocolate, so it seems you’ve created my perfect dessert…i.e. i should at no cost make them! Unless I arrange to burn both my hands as you *recommend ;)

  5. #
    Michelle Collins posted February 13, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    I love cream cheese in brownies. I love the hint of citrus in these, too!

  6. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted February 13, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    I am very intrigued by the hint of lemon in this spread – and bet they add great depth to these brownie bites!

  7. #
    Daisy posted February 13, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    i like that these are light and cakey with such intriguing flavors! have a happy valentines day!!

  8. #
    Sacha posted February 13, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    The chili-hazelnut spread sounds awesome. I’d say “addicting” is a good thing for Valentine’s day evening!

  9. #
    Susan (Oliepants) posted February 14, 2013 at 12:11 am

    This looks AMAZING!! And perfect for Valentine’s Day. I have yet to make a brownie with a cream cheese swirl but I could totally see how the flavors complement each other. Great work, friend!

  10. #
    Colleen @ Culinary Colleen posted February 14, 2013 at 1:14 am

    This probably goes without saying, but you make the most delicious sounding desserts. I’m feeling like I should bake something sweet this weekend for Valentine’s day!

  11. #
    Joanne posted February 14, 2013 at 8:21 am

    Okay, these just look dangerous. in the best possible way. Citrus AND cream cheese swirls? Come to momma.

  12. #
    dan posted February 14, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Stop telling me what to do!

  13. #
    Kathryn posted February 14, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Love the idea of the citrus in there, such a great combination with the richness of the brownie and the cream cheese. A perfect valentine’s treat!

  14. #
    Amy (Savory Moments) posted February 15, 2013 at 8:25 am

    These sound and look really, really good! I love the addition of orange to these brownies. Very yummy!

  15. #
    CCU posted February 15, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    These look so addictive my friend, I am LOVING the delicious swirl!

    Choc Chip Uru

  16. #
    Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking posted February 15, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    So awesome! I love the cream cheese swirl and addition of orange liquer and zest. Great idea, Bianca!

  17. #
    honeywhatscooking posted February 16, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    this looks decadent. I make something similar with Cointreau, as you mentioned, but without the cream cheese swirl. I could imagine how yummy it would taste with the swirl. Nice job! Gorg pics. :-)

  18. #
    Natalie posted February 16, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Really lovely brownies! I like the added citrus in these, and cream cheese swirl? These have got to be delicious!!

  19. #
    Jenny @ BAKE posted February 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    I love the marbling it’s so pretty!

  20. #
    Roxana | Roxana's Home Baking posted February 17, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    I could go to town with a pan of these brownies. One of my favorite combo, cheese and chocolate, DELICIOUS!
    Thanks for sharing and thank you for the lovely comment left on my guest post on Jen’s blog

  21. #
    Jen @ Savory Simple posted February 18, 2013 at 10:03 am

    My grandma makes a similar recipe and I can never get enough of them. These look fantastic!

  22. #
    Nina posted February 18, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Citrus and Brownies…thats a great combo. Looks fantastic:)

  23. #
    grace posted February 19, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    i’m such a fan of cream cheese brownies! the contrast is magnificent, and they’re so pretty. i’ve never added citrus to a brownie recipe, but it’s a great idea and one i’ll definitely be trying!

  24. #
    Shannon posted February 20, 2013 at 11:28 am

    wow, what a combo! another winning dessert :)

  25. #
    Carmel posted February 20, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Oh, yum. There’s a place in Portland that does a chocolate sandwich with this amazing bread, chocolate (duh), a drizzle of olive oil and salt. It sounded strange at first, but I really love the olive oil/chocolate combo. Kind of reminds of me churros y chocolate in Spain since the churros are often fried in olive oil. Oh, and brownies are one of my faves. YUM.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted February 21, 2013 at 2:17 pm

      Mmmm churros… I want to go back to Spain just for that!

Leave a Comment