How to Make Brownies with a Shiny, Crackly Top and Fudgy Inside

Brownie stack with crunchy crackly top and fudgy center

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There are multiple brownie styles – fudgy, rich, thick, with an almost under-done middle, light and cakey, or my personal favorite, brownies with a shiny, crackly top over a thick, dense, center.

This recipe is designed to maximize the crunchy top and preserve the gooey middle. The basic recipe is from CakeWhiz. Thank you to them for the ratios of wet to dry ingredients. 😀

I made four batches of brownies tweaking their recipe.

Here’s what I learned.

  • Three eggs are better than two.
  • Semi-sweet morsels work better than baking squares.
  • The oven has to be at least 350.
  • You can not over-cream the butter and sugar, nor can you whisk the eggs too long … you are headed into meringue territory. (See below.)
  • A few keys to successfully melting chocolate include a makeshift double-boiler, patience, uniformly sized pieces, and removing from heat sooner rather than later. Let the hot bowl do the work, not the hot water.
  • Cocoa nibs don’t melt and they add a serious richness to the finished product.
  • My people love the combination of chocolate and raspberries more than chocolate and orange.

Stack of brownies with fresh raspberry sauce

However, I prefer a snappy brownie tart that finishes with the essence of orange …

I like the look of a tart, the way the word sounds, and the way citrus cuts through the dense chocolately-ness.

Brownie tart with candied orange


The science/magic of eggs is explained by Sam Worley in this article from Epicurious.

Lynn Clark of the lovely blog, Ink Sugar Spice, has one of the best explanations of what’s going on with the eggs when you make a meringue. That’s what step 4 is about in this recipe: getting the proteins in the eggs rearranged and getting some air into the mix.

Happy Baking!

Brownie stack with crunchy crackly top and fudgy center

Brownies with a Shiny Crackly Top and Fudgy Inside
Spend some time beating the eggs into creamed butter and sugar. Add the beautifully melted chocolate. Sift in the dry ingredients, stir, plop into a prepared dish and bake. 
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Dessert


  • 1 c sugar (200 grams)
  • 1/2 cup + 2 T unsalted room temperature butter
  • 3 large room temperature eggs
  • 1 generous tsp vanilla extract or scrapings from one vanilla bean
  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 3 T cocoa nibs (they won't melt)
  • 2/3 c all-purpose flour (80 grams)
  • 1 T cocoa powder
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt

For Brownies just tinged with orange flavor

  • 2 "slices" of a milk chocolate orange (1/2 oz orange flavored chocolate)
  • 1 - 2 drops essential orange oil


  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350. Butter an 8 x 8 x 2-inch pan or an 11-inch tart pan. Depends on how thick you like your brownies and whether or not you want the fluted edge that comes with the tart pan.
  • Combine the flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  • Cream the room temperature butter and sugar for at least 5 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy. If you have a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment.
  • Change to the whisk attachment, add the 3 room temperature eggs all at once along with the vanilla and whisk on high 5 - 7 minutes until the mixture gets very fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times.
  • Melt the chocolate gently while the mixer is whisking the eggs. As Mary Berry of the Great British Baking Show says "Chocolate melts in a child's pocket." Bring an inch or so of water to boil in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat and put the morsels in a cereal bowl over the hot water. Let the steam/heat melt the chocolate. Stir as needed. Add the 3 T of cocoa nibs to the melted chocolate. Cocoa nibs don't melt.
  • With the mixer running, add the melted chocolate to the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla mixture in 3 - 4 big spoonfuls. Continue to beat with the whisk attachment until it is thoroughly combined, light brown and delightfully fluffy/marshmellowy. This does not take long.
  • Stop the mixer and sift the flour, cocoa, and salt into the creamed mixture. Remove whisk attachment and stir in the dry ingredients by hand. Stop when no white flour clumps remain. It only takes a few turns. 
  • Pour batter into prepared dish and spread it evenly with a spatula. Encourage the cracks by drawing the spatula across the batter in a wavy, side-to-side and top-to-bottom continuous line. Bake 30 - 40 minutes at 350. Let it cool completely before removing from the pan. The top will get shiny, puff up and crack in the oven, it sinks when it cools, creating more cracks.
  • if desired, serve with chilled raspberry sauce and a few fresh raspberries. 
    Stack of brownies with fresh raspberry sauce
  • If using the orange chocolate, melt it with the semi-sweet morsels. Add the orange oil when you cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla.
    Brownie tart with candied orange


    1. Hi Jan!
      I get them at whole foods. They come in a bullet-proof bag with a ziplock closure. They are less processed than other forms of chocolate.

  1. I do so love reading what you write. I will never buy another box of brownies again. I enjoyed the two articles you referenced. The science of baking enthralls me. Thank you for including them! I have to go eat my browniews now…

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