Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

October 28, 2016
7 Ratings
Photo by Posie Harwood
  • Makes one 8" square pan
Author Notes

A very dense, fudgy brownie is topped with a quick pumpkin cheesecake-like batter and swirled together. The result is a serious brownie: one for chocolate lovers and not for the faint of heart! —Posie (Harwood) Brien

What You'll Need
  • For the brownie layer
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional, for enhanced chocolate flavor)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks or chips
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • For the pumpkin layer
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (sweet potato will work too)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8 inch square pan or line it with parchment paper or foil.
  2. To make the brownie layer: In a large bowl or stand mixer, add the eggs, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. Beat for about 4 minutes.
  3. Melt the butter with the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, or in the microwave. Whisk until the sugar dissolves and becomes shiny.
  4. Add the sugar/butter mixture to the cocoa mixture and mix well.
  5. Fold in the flour and semisweet chocolate and mix until evenly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. To make the pumpkin layer: Mix all the ingredients together and whisk until thoroughly combined.
  7. Spoon the pumpkin mixture over the brownie layer. Using a knife, swirl the pumpkin into the chocolate. You can do this as little or as much as you want! If you don't swirl very much, the layers will be more distinct. If you swirl a lot, the batters will combine more for a denser brownie with less distinct layers. Both are delicious.
  8. Bake for 35-45 minutes (if you swirl them together more, it'll take on the longer side, but start checking after 35 minutes). The brownies should begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, the center should appear set, and a cake tester inserted in the center should have a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
  9. Let cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes, then slice.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • donnareed6
  • Eloise Rotenberg
    Eloise Rotenberg
  • Margie V
    Margie V
  • Phoebe Matthews
    Phoebe Matthews
  • MiChal

22 Reviews

fificat1 October 18, 2023
After watching the video, and then reading the recipe, I'm curious, which brownie did everyone use? The one in the video is different than the recipe. It doesn't contain any baking soda/powder in the chocolate part; nor does it contain any ginger or cream cheese in the sweet potato part. Which is the correct recipe?
donnareed6 October 18, 2022
I made these over the weekend and was disappointed. Oh yes, they are very dense and fudgy, but so are other, less fussy brownie recipes (such as whisking the butter and sugar over heat). Like many of the other reviewers, I found the swirling difficult due to the stiffness of the brownie layer. And I found it difficult to determine when the brownies were done. I think the flavors lack balance, with the pumpkin & spice overwhelmed by the cocoa.
While I thought these were curated, I'll be sure to check review comments before making Food52 recipes. Very helpful!
Eloise R. November 25, 2016
I made a double batch two weeks ago and they were a hit! In one pan I mixed the pumpkin more thoroughly with the brownie batter, and the other less mixed. People like each version, but I preferred the more mixed kind (a cakier texture). I used a hand mixer for the pumpkin batter - I think this was essential, otherwise the cream cheese would have appeared lumpy.
Brooke November 20, 2016
I was really excited about making these for Thanksgiving but they didn't work out so well for me. As others mentioned, the chocolate batter was super thick. But my pumpkin batter was extremely thin. I think that I should have whipped the pumpkin batter with a mixer. I used a spatula as the recipe suggested and it turned out very thin and lumpy. This made for very unappealing end result. Mine looked nothing like the picture. The brownie part tasted good but I had to cut off the pumpkin part.
Chloroph November 10, 2016
So, I made a double batch of these last night. I, too, was concerned that the chocolate batter was so thick that it was hard to spread. I thought I must have made a mistake. When I read the other comments, I did n't have much hope for these. But I must say, mine turned out amazing. I love dark chocolate and these were the bomb! The was so moist, almost fudge-like, and the cream cheese and spice swirl was subtle in a good way that added depth of flavor without calling attention to itself. I don't know if this made a difference but I didn't have ground ginger spice on hand so used the same amount of finely chopped fresh ginger. I will definitely make this again when looking for something decadent and a little different!
Margie V. November 8, 2016
Took a chance and made a double batch of this recipe. Have to say I'm disappointed. Too much cocoa in this recipe, not nearly sweet enough. I usually like recipes that are less sweet, but these are almost bitter. Pumpkin layer needs more sweetness as well. You might be able to modify this recipe, but I won't be bothering since I have other cream cheese/chocolate brownie recipes that are great.
Phoebe M. November 5, 2016
Hmmmm so I have several issues with this recipes, namely that the brownie batter was so thick and stiff it was really more of a chalky solid I would liken to marzipan or something...which then made it impossible to do any sort of "swirling" with the pumpkin batter. I baked them anyway just to see what would happen and am not impressed with the way the brownie layer tastes, or it's texture...I appreciate a fudgey brownie as much as the next person but this was dry and crumbly; moreover, the chocolate flavor is far too intense and completely overpowers any pumpkin flavor from coming through. I'm usually impressed by all of Food 52's recipes and have gotten great results across the board, but this recipe did not deliver and I will not be making it again.
Natalia J. November 3, 2016
These brownies are unbelievable! I'm not sure what all the fuss is about with the swirling, just use a knife till it looks a little mixed :-) These are a new staple for me!
MiChal November 3, 2016
Swirling was a challenge. But these brownies are delicious! Decadent yet not too sweet.
Hannah Z. November 3, 2016
I also found the brownie batter "unswirlable" -- i line my pans with a foil sleeve so i didn't want to rip through the bottom with the knife. The "cheesecake" layer also seemed very loose. I typically use hot coffee to activate/dissolve cocoa powder when i make classic brownies and i think this would have helped make the brownie batter more manageable, as well as substituting oil for some of the butter. The cream cheese layer was nice, but mostly lost against the chocolate, but i like my chocolate layer very rich.
Marylouise S. November 1, 2016
I had the same problem with the very thick brownie batter and not being able to swirl the pumpkin into the brownie. Truthfully I thought the brownie recipe was kind of weird, I've never seen one that started with the cocoa and eggs being beaten together before the butter and sugar was creamed. I was not happy with the results. I thought the brownie was too thick and the chips weren't necessary. If I make these again, I will use a simple brownie recipe and add the pumpkin mixture, which was quite good.
PJtaste November 1, 2016
Great and seasonal recipe. Thank you.
Rosemary October 31, 2016
Really confused about the butter/sugar step. Mine melted to a yellowish and still gritty mixture with a sheen, but if I continue to cook it down to melt all sugar, it'll boil and turn to caramel. Which is ok if that's what's supposed to be happening but I can't tell and am having a little panic. Why did I wait till last minute to make these for a party? It seemed so easy but it's really not.
Posie (. October 31, 2016
Rosemary, all the sugar doesn't need to melt entirely. You just want to start dissolving the sugar which will make the brownie texture better. Once the butter melts, just whisk it for a minute or two longer, that's all!
Rosemary October 31, 2016
Christina October 30, 2016
There was no "pouring" the batter into the pan for me. The mixture was dense and bordered on cookie dough. The pumpkin mixture was very loose. I wasn't able to "swirl" in the pumpkin mixture into the brownie batter. Did anyone else have this same issue?
Carolyn October 30, 2016
I had the exact same issue! They brownies are cooling now so I'm not sure how the textures came out after baking, but there was definitely no swirling to be found.
Posie (. October 31, 2016
Yes the base batter is definitely super thick! To "swirl" it you really need to use some elbow grease :) -- it won't swirl cohesively the way a cheesecake brownie would. However, if you prefer a looser brownie batter that will swirl more you can reduce the cocoa powder to 1/4 cup and the flour to 2/3 cup. But then they won't be as fudgy (which I like because they are so delicious when frozen!). Hope that helps.
Christina October 31, 2016
Cutting these "brownies" was a bear - very thick and DENSE (but at least they were chewy). The problem may be that there is too many chocolate chips (never thought I would say that!).
melissa October 29, 2016
Should we use unsweetened cocoa powder? Dutch process? I am always getting confused with the types of chocolate and cocoa...
Posie (. October 29, 2016
Definitely unsweetened. Does not need to be Dutch process!
melissa October 30, 2016
made them last night for a halloween party -- they were well-received!