Made with cocoa powder, not melted chocolate, this chewy, fudgy brownie recipe truly is the best ever. The batter comes together in just about 10 minutes and the brownies emerge with a shiny, paper-thin crust extending from edge to edge.

Rich, fudgy brownies.

I’ve been making this brownie recipe for over a decade for various occasions, often for birthdays studded with candles or, for extra fun, a few sparklers. From Fine Cooking Magazine, the recipe calls for cocoa powder alone — no melted chocolate — and produces the fudgiest, chewiest, most delicious brownie ever. It will ruin all other recipes for you. Sorry?

Recently I’ve been on a quest to ensure every batch of brownies emerges with that desirable shiny, paper-thin top layer. With the help of this Stella Parks article as well as a number of reader comments, I’ve finally created the brownie of my dreams. Read on for more details.

Freshly baked and cut shiny-topped brownies.

How To Achieve Shiny, Glossy-Topped Brownies

In sum, the key to achieving shiny-topped brownies is to vigorously mix the batter at its various phases and to bake the brownies in an aluminum cake pan or a metal pan. This is what has made the difference for me:

  • Melt the butter and sugar sufficiently and beat the two together until they are nearly emulsified — the batter should look like wet sand. (I use my flat-bottomed whisk here.)
  • Beat the eggs for about a minute (I again use my flat-bottomed whisk here) until they are foamy and slightly thick.
  • Whisk the butter-sugar mixture really well into the eggs before adding the dry ingredients.
  • Use an anodized aluminum pan. Stella Parks explains in this article that in an aluminum pan, “a well-whipped brownie batter will bake just fast enough, puffing beautifully along the way. The brownies will then settle as they cool, a transformation that creates their crinkly, flaky tops and fudgy middles.” One of you readers has also had success using this USA 8-inch metal pan.

She also recommends lining the pan with foil:

Just-baked brownies still in pan.

Bonus: While these brownies are delicious when freshly baked, they get better by the day, becoming richer and fudgier as they sit. So don’t be afraid to make them ahead of time.

A variety of different cocoa powders.

The Best Cocoa for Brownies?

For years I used Hershey’s natural cocoa powder in these brownies. Recently, however, I switched to Droste Dutch Processed Cocoa, because one of you told me about the concerning levels of lead in Hershey’s cocoa powder. I’ve since learned that Droste has even higher levels of lead than Hershey’s.

All of this said, if you do the math, each brownie contains roughly 4 grams of cocoa powder. Still not ideal, and I will report back if I find a cocoa powder that works well and has lower levels of lead. Stay tuned! In the meantime, here are some recommendations from readers:

PS: My favorite soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies.

Fudgy, Chewy, Shiny-Topped Brownies: Step by Step

First, measure your dry ingredients. For best results here, use a scale to measure — it’s really hard to measure cocoa powder accurately without a scale.

The dry ingredients to make brownies measured out in bowls.

Whisk together the dry ingredients, then set aside:

A bowl filled with the whisked together dry ingredients to make brownies.

In another large bowl, place 3 eggs:

Three eggs in a large bowl.

Then whisk vigorously for 60-90 seconds or until the eggs are foamy and slightly thick. I like to use my flat-bottomed whisk here. Set aside.

Three beaten eggs in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, place two sticks of butter in a pot.

Two sticks of butter in a pot.

Melt the butter then add the sugar:

A pot on the stovetop filled with butter and sugar.

Whisk the sugar and butter together very well here — this won’t take long but the mixture should look like wet sand when you’re done. Again, I like to use my flat-bottomed whisk here.

Melted butter and sugar whisked together in a pot on the stovetop.

Whisk this butter-sugar mixture into the eggs very well, then add the vanilla and whisk again:

A bowl filled with the wet ingredients to make brownies whisked together.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet:

The dry ingredients to make brownies added to the wet ingredients in a large bowl.

Whisk until the batter is very smooth:

A bowl of whisked together brownie batter.

Pour into a foil-lined 9-inch pan (this one is great):

Brownie batter in a pan ready for the oven.

Bake for 37-40 minutes at 350ºF:

Just baked brownies in a pan.

Let cool for 30 minutes, then remove the brownies from the pan. The shiny top layer looks like a sheet of paper you could peel away… a sight to behold!

A sideview of just-baked brownies on a cutting board.

Cut into squares:

Just baked and cut brownies on a board.

Admire your work:

An up close photo of cut brownies on a board.

Celebrate with sparklers?

The best ever, rich fudgy brownie recipe on a plate with sparklers lighting off on top of them.

Or a tall glass of milk.

A stack of the best ever fudgy brownie recipe on a plate.
An overhead shot of cut, rich, fudgy brownie recipe on a board.
Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
An up close photo of cut brownies on a board.

Best-Ever Fudgy (Shiny-Topped!) Homemade Brownies


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 80 reviews

Save Recipe

Description

Source: Fine Cooking

UPDATES: 1/23/2024: In an effort to achieve that shiny, crackly crust every time, I’ve made a few changes to the recipe, mostly to the method, which is reflected in the instructions below. I also now use 3 eggs as opposed to 4, 1 tablespoon vanilla as opposed to 1/2 teaspoon, and 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt as opposed to 1/2 teaspoon table salt. 

Notes:

  1. A digital scale is best for measuring flour and cocoa powder. This one is reasonably priced. Buy it! Baking by weight will change you forever. There’s no better time than right now. 
  2. Cocoa Powder: For years I used Hershey’s natural cocoa powder. Recently, however, I switched to Droste Dutch Processed Cocoa, mostly because one of you told me there are concerning levels of lead in Hershey’s cocoa powder. But now I’ve learned that Droste has even higher levels of lead than Hershey’s. All of this said, if you do the math, each brownie likely contains roughly 4 grams of cocoa powder. Still not ideal, and I will report back if I find a cocoa powder that works well and has lower levels of lead. Stay tuned! In the meantime, here are some recommendations from readers:
  3. The pan. For optimal results, Stella Parks recommends using an anodized aluminum pan, explaining that in an aluminum pan, “a well-whipped brownie batter will bake just fast enough, puffing beautifully along the way. The brownies will then settle as they cool, a transformation that creates their crinkly, flaky tops and fudgy middles.” She also recommends lining the pan with foil. One of you readers has also had success using this USA 8-inch metal pan

Ingredients

  • 72 g (¾ cup) unsweetened cocoa powder, see notes above
  • 84 g (2/3 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon table salt or 1/2 teaspoon Morton kosher salt)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 227 g (1 cup or 2 sticks) salted or unsalted butter; plus more for the pan (I use Cabot salted)
  • 432 g (a heaping 2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and position a rack in the center of the oven. Line a 9-inch square baking pan, preferably aluminum or metal, with aluminum foil (see notes above).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. 
  3. In another large bowl, beat the eggs very well until foamy and thick — about 1 minute of vigorous whisking. 
  4. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat — it should be hot and bubbling lightly. Add the sugar and whisk until well very combined — I like to use my flat-bottomed whisk here. The mixture should be nearly emulsified and should look like wet sand.
  5. Pour the melted butter-sugar mix into the eggs and whisk constantly until very well combined. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to extract any lingering sugar/butter. Add the vanilla to the egg-sugar mix, and whisk to incorporate.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and whisk until smooth. 
  7. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for approximately 37-40 minutes. Insert a toothpick straight into the center. If it comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs, the brownies are done.
  8. Let cool completely in pan on rack (at least 30 minutes) before cutting. Brownies can be made two to three days in advance.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American