Claire’s Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

Decadent chocolatey, brownies with swirl of cream cheese from Lighten up, y’all by Virginia Willis
Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies + Cookbook giveaway - Low Calorie Low Fat Dessert

For most of my life, I did not have a clue what Southern food was. I thought it was mushy vegetables, bland grits and lots of butter and lard. Oh my! Then we moved to Georgia. The food snob in me turned my nose up to Southern food. I didn’t like it ;that was for sure and thought I never would. What is that saying “Never say never”. Yup, that is correct. It turns out I love collard greens, pimento cheese, properly cooked grits and so much more. I just had to give it a try. I still won’t eat mushy green beans, but bring on the biscuits and gravy. I even on occasion will find myself saying “y’all”. What is happening to me?

It turns out the South has some fantastic food. So when I was contacted by Virginia Willis about reviewing her cookbook, Lighten Up, Y’all, which is classic Southern recipes made healthy and wholesome, I said “Oh yes!”. I absolutely, positively love cookbooks anyway. I couldn’t wait to see how she lightened her dishes and learn some new tips and tricks. To really understand this cookbook, you have to understand Virginia’s influences. She talks about feeling fat as a child, although she wasn’t. That is something I can relate to. She did have a large love of food, which lead her to culinary school in France. This is, to me, the key to this cookbook. It is mostly about Southern food with a french twist. You will not find only traditional Southern recipes but so much more.

Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies + Cookbook giveaway - Low Calorie Low Fat Dessert

I was very excited to see a lightened recipe for Cheese Straws. These are a quintessentially Southern food her grandfather would make. Of course there is pimento cheese and macaroni and cheese. You absolutely cannot have a Southern cookbook without a recipe for Pimento Cheese. I certainly cannot forget about grits too. Her recipes are also influenced by New Orleans. I was absolutely drooling over Crab and Celery Rémoulade Wraps and New Soul Creole Dirty Rice.  I decided to go with her brownie recipe.  This isn’t just any ordinary brownie recipe.  Claire’s Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies caught my eye. Who could resist the description of “grown woman” brownies?  She worked with Claire Perez, a French-trained pastry chef to develop this recipe.  It is decadently, chocolatey with a bites of a cheesecake like swirl.

I did enjoy this cookbook and look forward to trying more of the recipes.  Each recipe also includes the nutritional value; so you can keep track of your calories or calculate Weight Watchers points.  I think y’all will like it, too.  So I am giving away one copy of Virginia Willis’ cookbook, Lighten Up Y’all.  You can find the entry form below.
Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies + Cookbook giveaway - Low Calorie Low Fat Dessert

Will_Lighten Up Yall
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Yields 16

Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

10 minPrep Time

50 minCook Time

1 hrTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe


  • 4 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 6 oz. best-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, 2 tablespoons of sugar and vanilla.
  3. Stir until creamy and smooth.
  4. Separate one of the eggs, reserving the white for later use, and add the yolk to the cream cheese mixture.
  5. Stir to combine, then set aside.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  7. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and chocolate over medium heat, whisking until the chocolate is melted.
  8. Whisk in the remaining cup of sugar and stir until melted.
  9. Add the buttermilk, applesauce and vanilla.
  10. Remove from the heat. Add remaining egg and egg white, whisking constantly until incorporated to prevent the eggs from curdling.
  11. Add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
  12. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan.
  13. Using a tablespoon, drop 9 dollops of the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter.
  14. Using the tip of a sharp knife, draw through the two batters in a criss-cross pattern to create the swrirl effect.
  15. Bake the brownies until the top is firm to the touch, rotating halfway through baking, about 40 minutes.
  16. Place on a wire rack and let cool completely.
  17. Coat a serrated knife with cooking spray and cut into 16 squares.
  18. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

Recipe courtesy of Lighten Up Y’All by Virginia Willis

Happy Healthy Eating,


But wait, there’s more.  Check out these deliciously, low calorie chocolate recipes:

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 Dark Chocolate Pavlovas with Wine Soaked Strawberries

Skinny White Velvet Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

White Velvet Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting 

I have not been compensated for this review. I did receive a copy of the cookbook.  As always, all opinions are 100% my own.


  1. Wow I didn't realize a lot of those things were Southern! I grew up in Michigan, but still grew up with pimento cheese (both the spread AND the actual blocks of cheese with pimento in them lol) and definitely cream cheese brownies. Those have always been my favorite kind of brownie! My boyfriend is originally from Oklahoma and is obsessed with okra, blech.
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Kelly, I am just starting to like Okra. I had it grilled and it was great, not slimy at all! There may be hope for okra yet. It is amazing how much food travels! Thanks for stopping by Food Done Light today, Christie
  2. I actually did Weight Watchers a few times and think it is fantastic. The fact that these icream Cheese Swirl Brownies can be included in the plan is just outrageous! I also adore cookbooks and just can't wait to try this recipe! Your pictures are stunning!! xo Nic
  3. Charlotte Moore says
    These brownies look so tasty. Hard to say what my favorite Southern food is. I really like BBQ, baked beans and slaw as a meal, but corn bread is one of my favorite foods. Love collards too. HA!!! Would love town this book.
  4. This sounds like a fantastic cookbook to have! Your marbled brownies look so delicious and incredibly moist. Since they're light, I can eat the whole pan myself, right?
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Miranda, The brownies are wonderfully moist. The whole pan, well maybe not, but definitely two brownies.
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Miranda, These are deliciously moist brownies. The whole pan? Well, maybe not but definitely two brownies.
  5. Oh, I want to get my hands on this cookbook - Virginia Willis has some amazing food! I like pretty much any kind of cuisine, when it comes to Southern, it's really hard to choose a favorite. I love biscuits 'n gravy, collard greens, pickled pigs feet (don't judge), and meltingly tender slow braised oxtails over grits. But I think that pulled pork and fried green tomatoes may be my ultimate favorite. Thanks for the chance! Oh, and p.s. - I want a pan of these brownies for dessert!
  6. I grew up in New Orleans and love southern food, the problem is that most of it is pretty high in fat and calories. I love lightened up versions of favorites I grew up with. These brownies look and sound so good - I'm going to need to make them soon.
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Joanie, New Orleans has amazing food! Hard to beat that. This cookbook definitely makes Southern favorites attainable.
  7. My favorite southern food is creamed spinach. One of the few ways I like to eat soinach!
  8. fried green tomatoes are the first thing I eat when we visit Charleston each spring - but thee brownies would be top of that list as well
  9. I'm originally from Ohio, and I married a Southerner, too. And I, too, never thought I'd like half of the things we think of as "Southern". Well, color me corrected 'cause I love pimento cheese and grits now, too. I will have to check out this cookbook as well--and maybe even buy it for a few of my husband's family members for gifts. After all, none of us want to feel fat or bogged down with any type of comfort food! :)
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Dee Dee, This cook book is a nice mix of Southern and French. There is something for everyone.
  10. I love sweet tea, and biscuits, and Cheerwine pound cake!
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Teresa, I've never had Cheerwine pound cake. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for entering the giveaway and Good Luck Christie
  11. I like collard greens.
  12. Wow those look amazing! I'm all about Southern food down here in Atlanta!
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Valerie, There are definitely some delicious Southern restaurants in Atlanta. We are slowly trying to work our way through them all!
  13. Yum! I love a lightened up recipe that tastes just as guilty as the original!
  14. These brownies look so yummy! I love Chocolate and cream cheese together!
  15. What a fantastic cookbook!! Oh, and these brownies - Wow! So moist. I can have at least 3 of these, right ?Since they're light and all? Say yes!
  16. Kristin Weeks says
    This cookbook looks grand! My favorite southern dish is the classic Gumbo. I love southern dishes but I am always trying to get them to be a little healthier and this book looks like a good one to have to accomplish this goal! :)
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Kristen, Gumbo is a fantastic pick! I have yet to make a good one. Some day! Thanks for visiting Food Done Light today, Christie
  17. Oh my goodness, lady! Turn your nose up at Southern food? lol! I love the stuff! Grits are definitely a favorite of mine... oh, and some good fried chicken! :) These brownies look amazing, and I am loving this cookbook concept- lightened up southern dishes? Genius!
  18. You are absolutely right the South does have phenomenal food and it's not all heavy. My husband and I spent a weekend in Savannah and OMG looooooved the food. Sooo delicious and fresh and really not heavy - at least not where we went. This brownie looks delicious! I love anything with a cream cheese swirl :)
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Erica, Southern food has come a long way. Love that it is all about fresh ingredients now.
  19. My favorite southern dish? How do I choose?!! I'll go with greens! I do so love them!
  20. Christie, Outside of the south, I had some amazing southern food in the cafeteria of army hospitals (of all places)! While my son was in Walter Reed I'd chow down on cornbread and collard greens, though when he was over at Tripler the cooks had a Hawaiian influence and my favorite meals there were breakfast of rice--not grits--with eggs and hash. I'd have to say NC style BBQ is my overall favorite dish though--the vinegary kind. These brownies look wonderful--and something I can have my kids make for us. Thanks!
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Kirsten, I hope your son has recovered. I love the idea of Hawaiian and Southern mix of food. My mouth is drooling over the prospects!
  21. Brownies are our favorites! I've got it pinned. Thank you!


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