Vinny’s brownie malfunction 😲

cocoa brownies

Sugary cocoa brownies are my favorite!

The good

Kids love brownies. And I have the perfect recipe that kids and their families can make from scratch.

It’s easy to bake with chocolate when you use cocoa! Choose  unsweetened natural-process cocoa powder. Natural cocoa gives you complexity and lots of fruity notes.

Dutch-process cocoa produces a darker brownie, with a chocolate-pudding taste. But the extra processing it undergoes turns some people off.

I’ve tested this recipe with my baker-in-training, Isla, and the sugary brownies got a thumbs up. They were moist and chocolatey in the centre and crumbly crunchy on the surface.

That crumbly crunch comes from the granulated sugar. I should have remembered that when I tried to reduce the sugar.

I was getting too cocky. I had good luck replacing the flour with quinoa flakes from the health-food store for a gluten-free version. Quinoa grains  don’t work as a flour substitute. But the flakes blend into the batter smoothly and add no taste of their own, so the brownies taste like they do with flour.

I also had good luck reducing the amount of sugar and adding a little of the natural no-calorie sweetener stevia.


Isla says: Cocoa brownies are a snap to make!

The bad

So when a friend with diabetes ended up in the hospital, I decided to make her some sugar-free brownies… using stevia, and nothing but stevia.

The melted mixture of butter, cocoa, salt and stevia looked exactly the same as when I used sugar. But then I added the egg.


The chocolate clumped into a sticky ball in the middle of the bowl. And the fat came out of the mixture and sunk to the bottom. Help!

I checked my chocolate gurus. They said to add oil and blend. But I had used lots of oil. It had all puddled out… and wouldn’t go back in!

So I did what any creative baker would do in this situation. I made a bunch of little round chocolate balls. I baked them for the same amount of time as the sugar brownies.

When they were cool, I ventured a tiny bite. Not bad. I took a second nibble. BlechhhK!

Isla came for a visit and spotted them on the counter. “Try one?” I invited, thinking they might be better cold. “Yes!” she said taking a large bite.

The first few seconds everything was normal for a girl digging into chocolate goodies. Smiling. Happy. Then: “BleccccK!”

They were just plain bitter… stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth-can’t-get-rid-of-the-taste awful.

So I put them in the yard for our large population of greedy squirrels.

Squirrel likes Vinny's chocolate balls!

And the ugly…

The next morning I peeked out and caught one of the little black furry animals  enjoying his chocolate treat. But a few seconds after this photo, he went: BlehhcccK! And tossed the morsel off our deck.

So make sure you follow the recipe as I’ve given it to you, below. Use the full 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar… or the slightly modified version with 3/4 cup sugar supplemented with a little stevia. People with diabetes simply can’t have these brownies…

To keep the sugar spikes under some control, eat these sugary treats only once in a while, and drink milk with them. The protein helps regulate blood sugar :).


Enjoy these sugary brownies with milk

Sugary cocoa brownies
16 squares

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1/3 cup  coconut oil or 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar (or 3/4 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup stevia sugar)
  • 3/4 cup  unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup quinoa flakes or whole-grain flour
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 8x8x2″ glass baking dish with foil, pressing firmly into pan and leaving a 2″ overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray; set baking dish aside.
  2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Let cool slightly. Whisk sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl to combine. Pour butter in a steady stream into dry ingredients, whisking constantly to blend. Whisk in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. Add flour and stir until just combined (do not overmix). Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top.
  3. Bake until top begins to crack and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes.
  4. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cool completely in pan. Using foil overhang, lift brownie out of pan; transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.

For each small square made with 3/4 cup sugar plus stevia: Calories  136.4, Fat (g) 9.4, Carbohydrate (g) 14 (including 2 g fiber and 10 g sugar), Protein (g)  2, Sodium (mg) 109, Potassium (mg)  88, Vitamin A (RAE) 44.2, Calcium (mg)  10.9.


  • A cake cup for Krista Learn about the healthful qualities of chocolate, and the special goodness of cocoa. Try another easy recipe featuring the healthiest of all chocolate, cocoa!

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. fullyfreelife
    Feb 17, 2017 @ 19:54:05

    Love your blog! We have tried many different ways to do Stevia and chocolate is on the no list it just doesn’t work. It was good to see someone else has come to this conclusion.


    • Vinny Grette
      Feb 17, 2017 @ 20:08:03

      Thank you :). I’ve been experimenting with stevia for a couple of years, now, and am only just getting to the point where I feel confident enough to write a post on using it. It’s new and takes some getting used to!


  2. madisonbookclubmama
    Mar 03, 2016 @ 13:14:56

    Love this!! Sorry they turned into squirrel food, but lessons learned for sure. Good tip on the quinoa flakes too.


    • Vinny Grette
      Mar 03, 2016 @ 15:02:12

      Plus, quinoa flakes are super nutritious :). These brownies really do turn out moist and chocolaty when you follow the directions. Sadly, a little too much sugar, but once in a while, hey!


  3. lorieb
    Dec 07, 2014 @ 11:24:02

    love the squirrel bit, fussy aren’t they?


  4. apronheadlilly
    Nov 24, 2014 @ 00:00:46

    Wow, so black! Pretty boy!


  5. Lise
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 09:19:41

    Haha! The bit about the squirrel was hilarious. We have swarms of them in our yard and I can just imagine one of them taking a bite out of my failed baking experiments. The next time something goes wrong in my kitchen I know just where it’s going 😉

    I didn’t know drinking milk with a sugary treat will help to balance blood sugar – great tip!


    • Vinny Grette
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 12:29:30

      Yup, have some protein with your sugary treat and lessen sugar’s harmful impact. Do you know the verse: apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze? It’s founded in science :).


  6. Nutty Nutritionist
    Nov 11, 2014 @ 11:27:21

    I find the taste of stevia really repulsive. Even in small amounts, I don’t know how people tolerate it. I wished it was better because I love the idea of a natural no calorie sweetener.


    • Vinny Grette
      Nov 11, 2014 @ 11:39:04

      I find stevia takes the bite out of tart foods like yogurt and lemony things – even bitter coffee in small amounts. The result is more appealing to me than these things unsweetened. And i really try to stay away from sugar, except for those very special occasions. I also find it works to reduce sugar in baked goods, especially chocolate. But I now know it just doesn’t work alone!!!! 🙂


  7. Anonymous
    Nov 11, 2014 @ 11:25:36

    What a great lesson – about baking and chemistry in general!!


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