I am the loathsome sap who loves Valentine’s Day.
I buy heart-shaped sprinkles; I bring Tweety Bird valentines to the office; I wear pink. Most importantly, I bake caramel Boyfriend Brownies.
My purchase of cupid-printed cupcake liners, assorted truffles, and shiny greeting cards fuels a Hallmark holiday that probably does more harm than good for the average woman’s self-esteem, right along with her date’s wallet. I simply cannot help myself. To those familiar with my mental age, insatiable desire to prepare theme meals, or acute chocolate dependency, my weakness for Valentine’s Day comes as no surprise.
Hate me for loving Valentine’s Day? Eat a caramel Boyfriend Brownie.
Now, you can hate me. Hate me or fall at my feet in gratitude. I accept both reactions.
You see, caramel Boyfriend Brownies are simultaneously the most superb and the most awful item to enter your life.
We’re talking first devouring caramel Boyfriend Brownies, then in a brief fit of self control, hiding the remainder from ourselves, only to wind up desperately licking our fingers as we scrape shards of buttery, dried caramel from the tight corners of our pan. It’s that kind of awful. And by awful, I mean awesome.
What could be awful about a sticky layer of caramel lava flowing over a bed of melty semi-sweet chocolate chips and squished betwixt two layers fudgy German chocolate brownie? Answer: Absolutely nothing. (Except for the part where I realized the caramel shards were laced with cooking spray residue. WORTH IT!)
Boyfriend Brownies have been the sweet star of my Valentine’s Day since high school. Back when, I had no idea what to purchase for my fledging-boyfriend’s V-Day gift, so I baked my way out of the conundrum. Caramel Brownies were born. The finished product was such a raging success with the BF that, had I known just how well they would be received, I would have demanded a dinner-upgrade. Olive Garden perhaps?
Flash forward 365 days: New year; new boyfriend; same issue. I had no clue what to choose for his Valentine’s gift. Da-dun! **Cue Superman music** Caramel Brownies to the rescue! Same recipe; same triumphant success. We went to Red Lobster. I privately christened caramel brownies with a new name: Boyfriend Brownies, my V-Day hit.
Every Valentine’s Day since, I have made my caramel Boyfriend Brownies, independent of my relationship status. Even without a date—and I have spent far more Valentine evenings drinking Shiraz and watching bad action movies with the girls than at dinner with a BF—caramel Boyfriend Brownies are reason enough to welcome Valentine’s Day.
A few important recipe notes to ensure your caramel Boyfriend Brownies are a pan of gooey perfection:
- This recipe calls for cake mix. In my current life, I typically shy away from recipes that call for boxed mixes, because I find comfort in measuring and understanding each ingredient. In high school when I first baked caramel Boyfriend Brownies, I could have cared less. One bite and neither will you.
- Make sure to use German Chocolate mix! No Devil’s Food. No Triple Chocolate Fudge (note: this is the only time you will every hear me forbid triple chocolate anything). German chocolate cake is lighter in flavor, so once you’ve piled on the chocolate chips and bubbly caramel, the brownies will still be irresponsibly decadent, without being excessively rich: a recipe for dangerous consumption.
- My high school version of the recipe calls for store-bought caramels. I find store-bought caramels to be over-priced and intolerably annoying to unwrap, so this time around, I made my own caramel instead. Homemade caramel sounds high-maintenance, but I promise that you can make caramel with more success than you ever imagined. Plus, making your own caramel will leave you feeling like an empowered, sugar-transforming wizard. My fingers tingled just writing that.
- If you don’t mind dealing with annoying plastic wrappers or care about being a sugar wizard: I have included directions for the store-bought caramel approach as well.
- You must, must, must let the brownies cool as directed, or they will be a disaster to cut. Waiting is torture, and disasters can be beautiful—just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Final selling point: the last boy for whom I baked caramel Boyfriend Brownies married me. Bake them for certain; share them with caution.
And demand Olive Garden.