Passed down recipes are always the best. Anyone that grew up around my wife is familiar with these brownies – known simply as “Elisabeth’s mom’s brownies”. This original recipe comes from her great aunt but has been modified here. This recent batch of brownies was prepared for our housewarming party and may have been the best batch yet. To be honest, we didn’t actually put peanut butter or walnuts in the brownies in case of any nut allergies. And don’t let their appearance fool you, these brownies taste better than they look; one time a friend stepped in a batch of these, thought he had stepped in dog poop and as he was scraping it off, was surprised that it didn’t smell. Ignore the purple glow in the picture – heavenly as these brownies are, it’s not a halo from heaven – it’s just the light from my TV.


10 oz individually-wrapped soft caramels
2/3 cup nonfat evaporated milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 package dark chocolate cake mix (use yellow cake for blondies)
1/2 cup Smart Balance Light (or similar)
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1T cocoa powder


1. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine caramels and 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Microwave for 2 minutes on medium heat, stir, and continue to cook until completely melted, checking every 30-60 seconds.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray and lightly dust with cocoa powder. In a large bowl combine cake mix, Smart Balance, the remaining evaporated milk and walnuts, if using. Stir until well mixed using your hands if necessary.

3. Press half of the cake batter into the bottom of the dish to form a flat layer. Bake for 6 minutes in the oven. Remove the dish and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top, then pour on the caramel and drizzle the peanut butter on last. Spread the remaining batter on top in patches and smooth out. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature then cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Cut up into small pieces and celebrate!

Filed in Bakery, Dessert, Peanut Butter, Vegetarian

37 Responses / Leave a comment »

  1. VeggieGirl says:

    You had me at “caramel”!!

  2. Katrina says:

    That’s what I’m talkin’ about! They sounds great and healthy with that Smart Balance ;) hehe.

  3. Julia says:

    Sounds so good! But I can’t make them, my hubby is a diabetic and cannot resit sweet things. You don’t know how hard it is to keep a diabetic with a very large sweet tooth from blowing his blood sugar levels out the window and off the chart if brownies like that are in the house.

    • Nick says:

      That’s too bad. Maybe sugar-free cake mix? Sugar free caramels? Or just nix the caramels and use peanut butter mixed with some Splenda perhaps?

      • Julia says:

        Maybe I could if I was the one cooking, but since he has retired on disability(his job & plant closed) he took over the cooking to be useful around the house. I work during the school year as a school crossing guard so summer is my time off to do what I want.
        Once in a while I do cook but it is usually something he is not familiar enough with the recipe to attempt it.

  4. Natalie says:

    Those look amazingly good :) I want one now!!

  5. OMG!! This pb brownies sound divinely rich…Now I’m hungry :)



  6. Marta says:

    Nick!!! I could just dive into that tray of brownies!!! Passed-down recipes are certainly the best, they’re tried and modified to perfection plus there’s the nostalgia and charm of continuing on family tradition.

  7. Those brownies sound amazing!!! They also look good to me – even if your friend thought they looked like dog poop. haha

  8. Eve says:

    OMG – I need to make those!

  9. Shelby says:

    Caramel?! YUM!

  10. Sagan says:

    Deeeeeelicious. Love the brownies.

    Also I don’t “get” evaporated milk. I usually avoid any recipe that calls for it because I never have it in the house. What is it exactly? And can it be substituted with regular milk or powdered milk? (I’m guessing no…)

    • Nick says:

      Ah, well do you know what Skim Plus is? Basically it’s skim that has some of the water evaporated so that it’s more concentrated milk. It turns out creamy and has more protein/carbs but in the same ratio as regular skim. Evaporated milk is even more concentrated than Skim Plus. I’m sure you could substitute – basically take a little less than 2/3 cup of skim milk and add powdered milk until the carb/pro levels are identical to that of 2/3 cup evaporated milk. Voila!

  11. caronae says:

    They look amazing! I love deserts that are full of tons of different stuff!

  12. Reeni says:

    These look extra fudgy, ooey-gooey, and so rich! Just the way I like them. That story is hilarious – but I’m sad the brownies were wasted!

  13. Wow, I have a party to go to next week and I am totally going to make these (so I don’t eat all of them at my house! ha!)

    Thanks for posting that!

  14. Caramel, chocolate and PB! Love everything of it.

  15. megan says:

    They look killer to me. I gave them a SU cuz they look so good!

  16. OH MY GOSH! Those are like heaven in brownie form!!

  17. stephchows says:

    Brownies… that involve PB!! Sign me up! yum!

  18. Charlee says:

    I just found your blog, and I wondered, How much peanut butter do you go through in a year??!

  19. RickyRae says:

    This looks sooooo freakin’ goooood!! Pretty much anything with carmel is irresistable to me!

  20. Stephanie says:

    I gained 10 pounds just looking at the picture. *drool* This is definitely one I NEED to try.

  21. What a great flavor combo! Hey I jsut made gluten-free peanut butter cookies! They were pretty yummy and I thought of you!

  22. ttfn300 says:

    you know, i don’t know if i could chose–pb or caramel. the best is to combine them :) hope you had a good bday!!

  23. dawn says:

    geeeeeez! temptation much?

  24. Joanne says:

    Who can resist a brownie? What makes it even worse is the caramel. I wouldn’t trust my self alone with these, in the house, no one around …bee lining it for a dark closet armed with a pan full of pb caramel nut brownies!

  25. cheryl says:

    love the look of those…or maybe not the look, but what I’m sure they taste like!

  26. Kate says:

    Ok, these look amazing, but being British, you’re going to have to explain a few things to me before I can make them! Firstly, what are “caramels”? What do they look like? Are they hard or soft?
    What is “Smart Balance”? Is it some kind of margarine? Is evaporated milk the same as our evaporated milk? We also have condensed milk which is thick gooey sweetness – evaporated is runnier – is that the same as you mean? I hope you can clear these things up for me, because I do so want to make these – they look scrumptious!

    • Nick says:

      Haha, it always amazes me that even though 2 people speak the same language, they may not understand what the other is saying =).

      Ok so the “caramels” I’m referring to are soft but quite firm and chewy candies – the kind that’ll pull all the seals, caps and crowns out of your mouth. Here, they are individually wrapped and cube-shaped about 1.5cm on each side.

      Smart Balance is a brand of “healthy” margarine, it comes in a tub and only has about 5g fat (and mostly healthy fats) per tablespoon. Regular margarine/butter works too, this is just healthier and was all we had at the time but it worked out great!

      It sounds like our evaporated milk is the same as yours – a bit runnier, but the only ingredient is milk. Condensed milk is that thick gooey sweet stuff but isn’t needed for this recipe.

      Hope this helps, you’ll have to let me know how it turns out an ocean away! Enjoy!

  27. Kate says:

    Ok, thanks!!! I’ll let you know how they turn out after I’ve made them – really looking forward to them :)

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