While I’m devoted to chewy brownies studded with chocolate, nuts, and what have you, the frosted cake-like brownie has a special place in our family. The kids’ grandmother makes a mean frosted cake brownie that basically subs in for celebration cakes in all our milestone get-togethers. In seeming endless isolation, over here, I went looking through my cookbooks for comparables and couldn’t find one. Likewise, my favourite online sources were a strike-out on the frosted cake-like brownie front. What happened to the Retro Frosted Cake Brownie, y’all? Is it out of fashion? This is criminal!
Since we didn’t do an extended family gathering for the youngest’s 17th birthday [he was singing for the Pope, no less], we did not benefit from grandparental brownie delivery. So, I decided to put my own spin on my mother-in-law’s classic script, which she herself cribbed from an old Ohio Gas & Electric cookbook. Obviously, if you know me, you know this includes amping up the vanilla!
Long live the Retro Frosted Almost-Cake Brownie!
Frosted Almost-Cake Brownies
- 1 13×9 or 15×10 glass or aluminum baking pan
- 4 oz Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
- 1 cup Unsalted Butter
- 1 tbsp [½ shot] Espresso* [OPTIONAL]
- 1 tbs Vanilla
- 1¾ cups All-Purpose Flour, Sifted
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- ½ to 1 tsp Salt
- 2 cups Sugar
- 4 Eggs
- 1½ cups Nuts, Chocolate Chips or Other Mix-ins [WE RARELY USE THEM!]
- ½ cup Unsalted Butter
- ⅓ cup Milk or Cream
- 1½ oz Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
- 1-2 tsp Vanilla
- 1 tbsp [½ shot] Espresso* [OPTIONAL]
- ½ tsp Salt
- 4+ cups Icing Sugar, Sifted [SIFTING IS ESSENTIAL!]
- Heat the oven to 350°F
- Prepare the pan with baking spray or with butter and flour. Or, if desired, line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment, stuck to the bottom with just a hint of butter or baking spray, and simply coat the edges of the pan with the baking spray or butter/flour combo. While we like to serve this brownie straight from the pan, see the Notes* for more options.
- Over a double boiler or in short spates at 50% power in the microwave, melt the butter and the chocolate [with the optional espresso].
- Add the vanilla, stir, and remove the melted items from the heat, allowing to cool for approximately 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer or in a separate bowl, combine the eggs and sugar and whisk until combined and fluffy. If using a stand mixer, switch to the paddle attachment after whisking.
- To the egg mixture, add the melted chocolate mixture and stir to combine.
- Slowly add the flour mixture to bowl of wet ingredients and stir to combine, until there are no large clumps. [And, if you're adding nuts or mix-ins, add them quickly, now.]
- Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a knife in the centre comes out clean.
- Allow the brownies to cool completely in their pan before frosting.
- In a heat-safe bowl, over a double-boiler, combine the milk, butter, and chocolate, heating until the ingredients are not only melted but just beginning to bubble, or boil.
- Add the vanilla [and optional espresso] and stir until combined.
- Remove the bowl from the heat and place on a trivet or towel to protect your work surface. Do not allow this mixture to sit for more than a few minutes before making the frosting.
- Make sure that your icing sugar [aka powdered sugar] is sifted! You do NOT want a clumpy frosting!
- To the hot mixture, add the icing sugar, ½ cup at a time, via a sieve for further sifting or by sprinkling over the wet mixture, stirring with a spatula or a whisk, until a thick frosting forms. [If the mixture is still thin after the 4 cups, add additional sifted icing sugar. We've never used more than an additional ½ cup.]
- Spread the frosting evenly over the top of the brownie in the pan, using a butter knife or frosting spatula to create a lovely pattern on the top of the frosting if so desired.
- Allow the frosting to set up for at least 10-15 minutes without touching the surface.
- Slice and serve right from the pan!*
- Cover and store at room temperature for 3-4 days.