The Great Brownie Debate

I recently learned about a hot debate in the culinary community: What’s the best method for making brownies – cocoa powder based, or melted chocolate based?

DSC02687DSC02807Didn’t know this was such a contentious topic? Neither did I, but thanks to my love of chocolate, and all things sweet, it was a debate I felt fully prepared to take on.

The parameters were simple. Which is better? Brownies made with mostly cocoa powder, or brownies made with mostly melted chocolate? I selected two recipes from the same book, baked them in the same pan (at different times of course), and tested them out on the same sample group (my coworkers).

The results?

Completely and utterly inconclusive. A straight 50/50 split. What. The. Heck.

Ultimately, it all boils down to your personal taste and texture preferences.

Exhibit A: The cocoa powder base

These brownies had a fluffier, cake-like texture. They were less sweet, and had a greater emphasis on the chocolate flavor.


People who liked these brownies better preferred them because of 1) their texture, and 2) their non-sweetness.

Exhibit B: The melted chocolate base

These are the brownies that come out ooey gooey. They are more fudge like in texture, denser, and decidedly sweeter.


The inclusion of granulated sugar, in addition to the already sweetened chocolate resulted in a thin, delicately crispy outer layer, and a chewy, gooey middle.

People who liked these brownies preferred them because of 1) their texture, and 2) their sweetness.

See what I mean? Totally not helpful in solving any sort of debate. In fact, I really just reestablished that there is every need for a debate. Your brownie preference is totally dependent on your preference for gooey vs. cakey, and sweet vs. less sweet.

I’m still on the hunt for the one brownie to rule them all, but in the meantime, pick your favorite type of brownie, and start a debate of your own. And please leave me a comment, I’d love to hear what your brownie preferences are!

Cocoa powder based brownies:


  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 oz. dark or bittersweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Break the eggs into a mixing bowl. Use a hand-held or standing mixer to beat them until frothy, then beat in the sugar. Continue beating for a minute, then (while still beating) add the melted butter in a steady stream. Add the vanilla extract.

3. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder, and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula. Stir in the chocolate chips. Transfer the mixture to a pan lined with parchment paper, and spread the batter out evenly in the pan.

4. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a skewer (or knife, fork, cake tester, whatever) inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean. Let the brownies cool before serving. Unless you’re just planning to top them with ice cream, then go for it.

Melted chocolate based brownies:


  • 3  1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 stick plus 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1  1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 extra-large eggs, beaten
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 oz. dark or bittersweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Break the 3.5 oz of chocolate into pieces, and use a double boiler, or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, to melt the chocolate, stirring frequently. Once melted, remove from heat and set aside.

3. Put the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and the vanilla extract and continue beating until the mixture is soft and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, then beat in the melted chocolate.

4. Stir the flour and the cocoa powder directly into the mixture. When throughly combined, stir in the chocolate chips, and transfer to a baking dish (9×9 inches) lined with parchment paper. Spread the batter evenly through the pan.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer (or knife, fork, cake tester, whatever) inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and let the brownies cool before serving.


4 thoughts on “The Great Brownie Debate

  1. I definitely prefer the cocoa powder based brownie recipe – but I think that’s just because it has always been my go-to (easy enough, and I’m not much of a brownie eater myself). My chocolate cake recipe, on the other hand, is all about the melted chocolate. I am definitely going to run a little experiment of my own around here and we’ll see what the boys say. Stay tuned for the results of that!

    • I would love to hear the results of your experiment! I found it so hard to decide between the flavor of the cocoa powder brownies and the texture of the melted chocolate. I’m hoping I can find a recipe that gives me the gooey texture with more intense chocolate flavor and less sweetness.

  2. I usually go for cocoa powder based as it saves me the hassle of melting chocolate (and possibly burning myself). But I am a fan of the gooey texture, so I may try out the latter kind sometime soon! Thanks for the recipes!

    • Agreed, cocoa powder was definitely less steps between me and brownie happiness, so that’s a plus. I’m thinking possibly a melted chocolate version with some of the sugar swapped out from cocoa powder might be the secret to gooey and super chocolately, but it will take a lot of experimentation. I guess you’ll just have to come visit me in Minnesota so you can help me eat all those test batches!

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