Twas the day before Christmas…
It’s the day before Christmas, and the kids are home and driving you crazy!! They’re excited and a little bored. Here’s a fun and easy baking idea that zhooshes up a box mix of brownies into something festive. It’s a perfect baking project for young cooks (of all ages), as well as those non-bakers needing to bring something to a get-together. Santa Brownie Hats are a great last-minute quick & easy holiday treat to set out on the buffet table or bring to potluck or gathering.
If you have your own tried & true brownie recipe, go ahead and use it. I’m a huge believer in box mixes! They always turn out great and are a no-brainer. All you need is a couple of eggs and some oil. I stock up on brownie mix whenever it’s on sale or a BOGO, so I always have a box in my pantry.
If you aren’t inclined to mess with baking brownies, store-bought brownie bites (the kind that are round) will work just fine, and no one needs to know that you didn’t bake them yourself. Hey, the goal is to impress, not stress! Do whatever feels right to you – no judging!
If you have a mini-muffin pan, this is the time to use it. It makes the perfect size without messing around with a cookie cutter. I have been making these treats for years, and one of my favorite hacks is to line the muffin tin with mini cupcake liners and spray them with non-stick or baking spray.
My experience proves this to be the best way to get perfect brownies with the least amount of clean-up. (The less clean-up, the less stress!). If you don’t have a mini-muffin pan, go ahead and bake them in a 9×13 pan and use a small round cookie cutter after the brownies are cooled.
Here’s another hack: Only fill the muffin wells halfway full! You want the tops to be as flat as possible, not rounded mounds. There will be leftover batter when you do this. No worries! You can make another batch. Or, use the leftover batter to fill an 8×8 square pan; there will be just enough. You can use this pan to serve plain brownies (for non-strawberry lovers).
For this blog, I baked both to show you the difference. Another reason I prefer the mini muffin pan is the batter is all used, so there is no waste. However, when using a cookie cutter, I save the brownie “scraps” for munching. If you’re baking with kids – they will LOVE eating the unused brownie bits.
“Fudgy” brownies work best
If you’re making the brownies from a mix, follow the directions for fudgy brownies (using two eggs instead of 3 eggs). The brownies will bake quicker than the stated time in a mini muffin pan. I started checking at 15 minutes. When the brownies are done, let them cool. Remove the liners, if needed. If using a rectangle pan, cut into small circles.
Prepping the strawberries
Prepping the strawberries is as simple as rinsing and cutting off the green ends to create a flat surface for the berry to rest on the brownie. The berry tip also needs to be cut off, so you have room to finish the hat with a small dollop of frosting.
If you want to be extra fancy, you can hollow out the strawberries and stuff them with frosting. I don’t do that anymore. It’s too much work and, honestly, there’s no need. These treats are sweet enough. They don’t need any more frosting.
Fuss-free “fancy” frosting
The frosting is delicious and easy to make. Mix the mascarpone, butter, and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. It is the mascarpone that gives this frosting an extra special holiday touch. It’s the “impress” element!
Mascarpone has a higher fat content than “American” cream cheese and has a much richer, creamier taste. The mascarpone flavor is similar to that of cream cheese, ricotta cheese, creme fraiche, or clotted cream, but with a little more sweetness and acidity. If you can’t find mascarpone, substitute cream cheese. Although it won’t taste the same, it works just fine. (My hack for zhooshing up cream cheese is to add a half teaspoon of almond extract.)
When the brownies are cool, pipe the frosting in a circle around the brownie and place the strawberry on top. You can use a pastry bag, piping tool, or a plastic bag with the end snipped off. It takes a couple of tries to get your groove and find a piping method that works for you. My recommendation is to go for the “rustic look” and forget about perfection — especially if you have the kids helping!
Pipe a little dollop in the top of the berry to finish off the hat. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. Enjoy these fun and easy holiday treats! You will never go wrong with brownies, frosting and fresh strawberries. Ho-ho-ho!
Santa Hat Brownies with MascarponeCourse: Dessert, TreatsCuisine: HolidayDifficulty: Easy
Impress, not stress over the holidays with these cute, easy and delicious Santa Hat Brownies! Make your own brownies, or use store-bought brownie bites, and top with homemade (easy) mascarpone frosting and a fresh strawberry.
1 box brownie mix – mixed according to directions
(usually with 2 eggs, 1/2 cup oil and a 1/4 cup water)
6 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
8 ounces Mascarpone, at room temperature
2 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar
OPTIONAL: 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- Prep: Mix brownie mix as per package instructions. Use non-stick or baking spray to generously cover a mini-muffin pan (for best results use mini-cupcake liners sprayed with non-stick) Thoroughly rinse strawberries. Pat dry and remove green tops with a sharp paring knife, creating a flat surface, Slice off the tip of the strawberry.
- Bake brownies, as per box instructions, in the prepared mini-muffin pan, filling the wells half full. When done, cool on rack, Remove the paper liners.
- In a large bowl, combine the softened butter and mascarpone with an electric mixer. Add in the powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Spoon the frosting into a pastry bag, frosting tube, or ziplock bag. Pipe a circle of frosting around the brownie and a dab in the center. Place the strawberry on top of the brownie and pipe a tip to the hat.
- Brownie mix: If you prefer, use store bought brownie bites
- Mini-muffin pan: If you don’t have a mini-muffin pan, bake the brownies in a 9×13 pan and use a small round cookie cutter to make the rounds.
- Mascarpone: Cream cheese may be substituted