Jan 15, 2010

Cakey Sour Cream Brownies

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So are you a fudgy brownie person or a cakey brownie person? Because I fall into the former category, and these brownies fall into the latter. And to be honest, I am so on Team Fudgy that I considered not even mentioning them to you. But upon further mulling of the whole thing, I decided you really do need to know about this recipe. Because even though they are not my ultimate brownies, they are still very good and if you are on Team Cakey, well, they may end up being yours. And I can’t in good conscience deny any cakey brownie-loving POC readers that pleasure. I’m here for you, people.

For the rest of us, I will not call these brownies, rather I will dub this recipe Rich Chocolate Snack Cake and share its many virtues. Not the least of which is a deep, satisfying chocolate flavor that isn’t shrouded by a cloying sweetness. The chocolate flavor really does shine here.

Another bonus of this recipe is that it’s easy, easy, easy. Which, really, all brownie recipes should be, but who doesn’t love easy? Communists, that’s who. All it takes is a little bit of flour, some melted some butter and chocolate, dark brown sugar, eggs and sour cream.

Back it up now, sister–what?
Oh, yes, I said sour cream. That’s what drew me to this recipe in the first place. And it’s the magical ingredient that keeps these cakey brownies from being dry and boring. The sour cream adds moisture and an edgy flavor element that keeps the chocolate from tasting flat. If ever there was a cakey brownie that might seduce the die-hard Fudgies, this would be it.

I should also mention something about this recipe that has become an obsession of sorts for me lately: the texture and flavor of these brownies actually improves the day after baking them. Even more moist, maybe even a little denser, more chocolatey. I flippin’ love that. In fact, on the second day, I got to thinking about other things that could be done with this recipe because of their transformation after a rest on the counter.

Vanilla ice cream and hot fudge on top, well, yes, yes, of course, but I’m feeling like pouring this batter into two round cake pans and frosting it with a thin layer of Vanilla Bean Buttercream or more generous swirls of Seven-Minute Frosting might just make for the most orgasmic, do-ahead layer cake in the history of the universe. If anyone tries this and you can still speak or type, could you report back with your findings? Awesome, thanks.

Sour Cream Brownies (aka Rich Chocolate Snack Cake)
Adapted from Nick Malgieri’s The Modern Baker

I’ve made several changes to this recipe–most notably, I left out the generous amount of walnuts that the original recipe calls for because I don’t like my brownies walnutted (2 cups toasted and chopped; if you love nutty brownies, add them). I also added a bit of cocoa powder, which gives a much-needed punch of chocolate flavor, but really only works if you use a premium, rich, dark cocoa powder like Valrhona. Make these brownies a day before you want to serve them and wrap them well–the flavor and texture improve the next day.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons premium cocoa powder (I love Valrhona)
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces (chocolate chips work fine, I like Ghiradelli)
1 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Set an oven rack to the center position and preheat the to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 pan with foil, and spray with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa powder and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Allow it to bubble for about 10 seconds, then remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute or two, and then whisk until smooth. Let cool for a minute while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and eggs until smooth. Whisk in the sour cream, salt and vanilla until well-blended. Stir in the chocolate and butter mixture, then fold in the flour and cocoa mixture just until it dissappears into the batter.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the until the brownies just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 30 minutes.

Cool the brownies completely in the pan on a rack before cutting into squares.

  • Oh my this cake look divine! I might have to give this a go tonight. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • What a thoroughly enjoyable post! I am with you, firmly planted in the fudgy brownie camp. But your idea to make this recipe into a cake…I believe it's pure genius. Because if it is truly that chocolatey, sometimes the only thing that can take it to the next level is a nice pairing with vanilla buttercream.

    Anyway, I found you through TasteSpotting and am writing to say that if you have any photos that aren’t accepted there, I’d love to publish them. Visit my site (below), it’s a lot of fun! I hope you will consider it.


  • Yummy! Thanks for this mouth watering recipe. I can't wait more to taste it. I will make it today. So glad to have found this site.

  • Thanks. Just freaking kill me now. Because if I even just make that ONCE, I'm done for, kaput, life ended. Thanks. Just……thanks. Gah.

  • I'm definitely on Team Fudgy! But…then again…these look fantastic 🙂

  • It does look good, even though I am on the fudgy team too.
    Calling it snack cake is ideal!

  • I am solidly in the fudge camp and your brownies are THE BEST I've made, however if this isn't really a brownie and has sour cream I may have to sample it. I am of the opinion that sour cream compliments dark chocolate soooo well. It is a key ingredient in my chocolate cheesecake. And you did call them snack cakes which implies that I can nibble them all day right 🙂

  • this is dangerous for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that no silverware is required. if i have to go get a plate and fork, at least that slows me down a little. 🙂

  • W

    They look sooooo good! I'm in the minority here, since I'm representing Team Cakey. This recipe is right up my alley. Thanks for the non-fudgy-non-brownie recipe!

  • This is what I'm baking over the weekend to cheer up my sister in law who's just lost her pet turtle.

    Can you tell me how many grams of sour cream is roughly 1 cup? Also, in this baking-illiterate region, high quality cocoa and chocolate is hard hard hard to find. I have to do with Hershey's semi-sweet chips or Van Houten semi-sweet chocolate buttons. Also, which cocoa powder would be better – Cadbury's or Heyshey's? That's all we've got here 🙁

    Another question (I'm so sorry I have so many)- Does the sour cream have to be brought to room temperature?

  • Mishti–According to Google, a cup of sour cream is 225 grams. Room temperature ingredients always incorporate a little easier, but sour cream is so soft that it will be fine if you pull it out of the fridge at the beginning of prep and it's still cool when it goes in.

    As for the chocolate, use what you can get! I've never tried Cadbury's cocoa, only Hershey's, which is fine in a pinch. I wonder if you could find some reviews comparing the two online? Let me know how is goes! 🙂

  • Doesn't the image show light brown sugar instead of dark? I don't have much of the dark in stock and would really like to go with the light or a combination. Any tips?

  • Anonymous–Nope! Definitely dark brown sugar. I am the opposite–rarely stocking light brown in the POC kitchen; I just love the flavor of dark brown sugar. I feel dark and light brown sugars could be used interchangeably in this recipe, so if you have light brown, go for it! The great Shirley Corriher often incorporates light brown sugar into her chocolate recipes to make them taste "fudgier", so I'm confident it would work here. Try it and report back!

  • Shauna!!!

    This was a great success… though I had a few cracks on the surface, the brownie was rich, moist and full of flavor. I was to ideally keep it wrapped and wait until tomorrow to eat, but He Who Thinks He Knows It All decided that he must have it now. And the dutiful wife gave it 😉

    I used Alprose 74% chocolate, and Cadbury's cocoa and would surely make it again. I love the dark brown sugar touch, and I prefer it to the regular sugar. I have no idea about the science behind it and what it does to a recipe, but I love it! 🙂

  • What does sour cream do to the recipe? Can it be substituted it with buttermilk or just cream?

  • Julia–Even though there's no leavening ingredient in this recipe for the acid in the sour cream to react with, it's still an excellent tenderizer here, and it adds richness in addition to a nice subtle tang. You could probably substitute buttermilk or plain yogurt, but I haven't tried that with this recipe. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Shauna 🙂

    Smitten as my husband is by these brownies, I have had a request to make these again this weekend. And a colleague, whose son is allergic to nuts and in this part of the world, non-nut brownies are tough to find, has asked me to make some for his kid too. I just want to know two things:

    1. What's gonna happen if I put in a few mini marshmallows into the batter and then bake it?

    2. Since I'm baking for a kid, I'd like to slather a thin layer of frosting. Anything you suggest for this recipe? 🙂

  • Mishti–With some recipes, the marshmallows just tend to melt and disappear when baked. I'm thinking that's what might happen here. I see a lot of s'more-type brownie recipes that just put the marshmallows on top for that reason.

    For frosting, check out Shirley Corriher's Luscious Creamy Chocolate Frosting in the archives–third or quarter the recipe and you should have a good amount for brownies.

  • Oooh, I'm thinking of turning this into a 2 layer cake. All complete with some sinful frosting and choclate hearts for Valentine's day! Do I need to add any baking soda to make it more cake-ly? And any other suggestions?

  • I'd just pour it into two round cake pans, that's it! As for frosting, unless it's the billowy, seven-minute type with no fat in it, I'd keep the icing thin so the whole thing wouldn't be too much. Off the top of my head, I think I'd use (from the POC Recipe Index) Vanilla, Bean Buttercream, Shirley Corriher's Fudge Frosting (very thinly) or as a coating, the Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache. If you try it, report back!

  • Is there a way to get the coating to stick and stay?

  • There's no real trick, just make the ganache, pour it on and let it set (in the fridge it will set up faster).

  • Hmn… so I tried the cake thing, but am not too happy. It tasted great, but didn't rise enough to be called a cake! Anything I can add next time?

  • I wouldn't expect it to rise any more than a brownie would, like what you see in the photos. There would be some extra height from stacking the layers, of course, but it is still a brownie recipe, albeit with a cakelike texture. I've not tried adding any other leavening, so I can't confidently make a recommendation there, but if a more traditional chocolate layer cake is what you're after, check out the Big, Messy Chocolate Birthday Cake in the recipe index.

  • oh this looks amazing! thanks for sharing :O)

  • Wow! These were amazing. I am a fudgy brownie person, and have a recipe I love. I tried these as a possible base for a couple of other recipes where I wanted a chocolaty, tender layer. Problem is, now we can't stop cutting them up and eating them. Next day is definitely better, but I forgot about a pan for a week (covered with foil) – guess what, even better yet! Love it. Great for nibbling plain or with a little whipped cream. I can't wait to try as a layer cake or topped with chocolate frosting. Thanks for posting. I'll be using this recipe many times.

  • I made these the other day and they turned out so good!

    • Hooray!! xo

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