"Barbenheimer" cheesecake brownies are the darkest, pinkest treat of the summer

Need snack ideas for a movie marathon? This two-in-one dessert has you covered

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published July 22, 2023 12:00PM (EDT)

Barbenheimer Brownies (Mary Elizabeth Williams)
Barbenheimer Brownies (Mary Elizabeth Williams)

It took weeks of tense negotiations, but earlier this week, my daughters reached an agreement regarding the when, where and how for their planned shared "Oppenheimer" and "Barbie" experience. I told them to bring snacks.

The counterprogramming of a bleak Christopher Nolan biopic about the father of the atomic bomb and Greta Gerwig's bubblegum pink fantasia about an iconic doll has already become one of the greatest mashups in pop culture history. It has spawned t-shirts, mock trailers and endless memes. Naturally, I wanted to get in on the action the best way I know how — by baking something. But while Barbie on her own has been a muse for plenty of sweet, pink-themed summer treats, the Barbenheimer pickings have been disappointingly slim. 

In search of something that would satisfy the criteria of equal parts darkness and pinkness, I considered doing a rosy variant on the New York City classic, the black and white cookie. What I really wanted, however, was something that truly captured the vibe, the harmony and the tension. What I wanted was the greatest treat ever invented — cheesecake brownies.

The cheesecake brownie is quite possibly. And while I have on more ambitious occasions made mine entirely from scratch, I see no reason not to get a nice head start here with a mix and then just plonk in a simple cream cheese filling, tinted in honor of the Mattel superstar. I have also mixed in a little espresso powder to the brownie mix to amp up intensity and the color, but it's not a dealbreaker if you don't keep in on hand.

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These are sweet but not too sweet, dark but beautifully dark,  a combination of two equally compelling yet dramatically different experiences. In other words, they're everything that Barbenheimer juggernaut proves we all need right now. In other words, they're everything. Anything else is just Ken.

* * *

Inspired by  Betty Crocker and Recipes by Nora

Barbenheimer cream cheese brownies
 8 - 12 servings
Prep Time
 10 minutes 
Baking Time
 35 - 40 minutes


  • 1 box of your favorite brownie mix, plus the ingredients required (I like Ghirardelli, which calls for 1 egg and 1/3 cup of vegetable oil)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon of espresso powder
  • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk (Save the white for  meringues)
  • Red food coloring
  • Flaky sea salt


  1. Preheat your oven to the temperature recommended on the box. Line an 8" x 8" baking pan with parchment paper, and lightly oil it.

  2. Prepare the brownie mix according to instructions. For extra darkness, add the espresso powder.

  3. With a hand mixer in a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and egg yolk. While continuing to mix, add the food coloring, one drop at a time, until you reach desired pinkness.

  4. Pour the brownie batter in your pan.

  5. Add the cream cheese mixture, a tablespoon at a time, across the top of the brownie mixture. With a knife, swirl through it gently to marbleize.

  6. Bake according to package directions. (I like to pull the brownies out a minute or two early to assure they're fudgy.) Cool, and then let's go party.

Cook's Notes

You could of course use your own favorite homemade brownie recipe here, and just add the cream cheese mixture.

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By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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