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Cajeta Cream Cheese Brownie Tart

Marbled cajeta cream cheese brownie tart.
Photo by Elizabeth Coetzee, Food Styling by Sean Dooley

One of my favorite things to bring back home from trips to Colima were candies. I’d bring back a little bag filled with rollos de guayaba (guava rolls), borrachitos, and bolas de tamarindo (spicy tamarind candies), but my most favorite candy of all were these little boats filled with cajeta. Cajeta is related to caramel but is a much closer cousin to dulce de leche. It’s luscious, sticky, and so sweet. It is essentially goat’s milk that has been reduced to a very thick and viscous syrup that you can enjoy as a topping on your favorite desserts. If you happened to be in Colima or Jalisco, you could enjoy cajeta de sayula, which would be packaged in a little wooden boat . My mom used to tease us when we were growing up, telling us cajeta came from “leche de burra,” or donkey’s milk, but that never deterred my sweet tooth, or me from eating any less.

In 2017, when I went to my first pop-up event as a vendor, I was armed with cajeta cream cheese brownies. I wasn’t sure how they’d do since I was debuting them there. But within a few minutes, my entire pan was empty. People kept coming back for more cajeta brownies, even placing special orders; they were that good! The beautiful swirling appearance of the brownies truly makes them a work of art you can eat.

This recipe was excerpted from ‘Chicano Eats' by Esteban Castillo. Buy the full book on Amazon.

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What you’ll need


For the brownie base

¼ cup coffee
½ cup (70 g) grated Abuelita chocolate
¾ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
8 Tbsp. (85 g) unsalted butter, cubed
½ cup (50 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. Diamond Crystal kosher salt
⅓ cup (43 g) all-purpose flour

For the cajeta cream swirl

8 oz. (226 g) cream cheese, very softened
½ cup (152 g) cajeta
1 large egg
½ tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Step 1

    Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

    Step 2

    Spray a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray, then place the tart pan on a large baking sheet.

    Step 3

    Make the brownie base: In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat stir together the coffee, grated chocolate, and sugar, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the butter. Set aside for 5 minutes to let the butter melt and cool slightly.

    Step 4

    After the 5 minutes, sift in the cocoa powder and stir to combine, then whisk in the eggs, vanilla extract, and salt. Stir in the flour and set aside.

    Step 5

    Make the cream cheese cajeta layer: Beat the softened cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until it’s smooth and lighter in texture, about 1 minute. Add the cajeta and stir on medium speed to combine, then add the egg and vanilla extract and stir on low speed until just combined.

    Step 6

    Reserve ¼ cup of the brownie batter. Evenly spread out the remaining batter into the tart pan. Spread the cream cheese cajeta layer over that, then dollop on the reserved batter. Take a skewer or sharp knife and swirl the tart all around until the brownie and cream cheese are swirled and marbled together.

    Step 7

    Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until slightly puffed and the tart is set and no longer jiggly.

    Step 8

    Let the tart cool to room temperature, then transfer to the fridge to cool completely. Remove the tart from the pan just before serving.

Chicano East cookbook cover image with photo of red-colored stew with fresh toppings.
Reprinted from Chicano Eats: Recipes from My Mexican-American Kitchen. Copyright © 2020 by Esteban Castillo. Photographs copyright © 2020 by Esteban Castillo. Published by Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers. Buy the full book from Amazon.
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