Gramma Marilyn’s Brownies

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There are these “little old lady” stereotypes surrounding grandmothers. They’re supposed to wear cardigans, have mild personalities, silver hair, a penchant for baking cookies and say “dear” a lot. Gramma has always been loving, kind, and fun but definitely never gave off a “little old lady” vibe until the last few years. When I was young, she liked her dyed blonde hair and lots of eyeshadow, didn’t cook or bake, and had (still has) a quick wit and lots of opinions. She never called me dear, but we did have an arrangement that when she called me by my aunt’s name she owed me a candy bar.

I love my grandparents dearly, and always enjoyed spending the night at their home, or going on trips with them. Gramma and I were close friends when I was a kid, we would tease each other, talk on the phone regularly, and play games. She was my hero, and she always gave me mints out of her purse after church on Sundays.

My expectations as a child were simple and high when staying with my grandparents–I’m going to get copious amounts of candy and chips, and no one will stop me from eating them ALL. Then, I will play games and watch cartoons all night, and go home in the morning satisfied, thinking at least I really got to live it up at Gramma and Grampa’s, where no one made me eat green beans.

Reality would hit me like a Sock ’em Bopper.

Playing with my new model train at Gramma & Grampa’s.

My memories of “treats” from childhood trips to Gramma and Grampa’s mobile home consist of cranberry juice, rice cakes (caramel if we were lucky), yogurt, and Kraft singles. Gramma had us do chores, made me sit still so she could cut my bangs in the kitchen, and enforced a bedtime.

The audacity.

Gramma has pulled through as stereotypical in one way, though. She passed down her, apparently unused, recipe for brownies. I have been making these brownies for as long as I can remember, and this is the only recipe I know in my bones. They are the best brownies I have ever eaten, and they are some of the easiest baked goods I’ve ever made. We sell them at the coffee shop and they have a fan following. Even if Gramma never made them for me, they make me think of her every time I make them, and I will teach my future children how to make them. Isn’t that what really matters?

I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly over the years, but it’s basically the same. You just need butter, sugar, eggs, salt, vanilla, flour, and cocoa.

They’re fudgy and chocolatey without being overly sweet or cakey, and they take just a couple of minutes to make.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, by hand, cream 1 stick room temperature butter with 1 cup white sugar and 2 eggs. I learned the hard way that if you use a mixer for this it aerates the batter too much and you end up with a mediocre cake.

Add 1/4 tsp. salt (honestly, I just eyeball a pinch-ish) and 1 tsp. vanilla extract (I also added just a tiny bit of instant coffee to boost the chocolate flavor. This is 100% optional.) and stir until just combined.


Add 3/4 c. all purpose flour and a heaping 1/4 c. cocoa powder. I use dark chocolate cocoa, but any baking cocoa will work.


Stir until just barely combined, its ok if you see a few small streaks of butter in the dark batter. We don’t want to aerate the mix or activate too much gluten. We just want stuff to be integrated.

The batter will be very thick, don’t panic. I had a friend try this recipe once, and she added milk because the batter seemed too thick. Then, she was confused when she ended up with a cake. Just follow the recipe, and everything will be fine.


Pour into a greased 8×8 brownie pan/dish and even it out as much as possible.


Now is where you can add any extras if you would like. They are not necessary. My mom never added anything when she made them, so I didn’t either for a long time. They still taste amazing.
At the shop, we sprinkle about 1/3 c. chocolate chips on top. They would also taste great with the nut of your choice, I am partial to pecans.

Raw eggs can carry salmonella and uncooked flour can carry e coli. so definitely do not lick the spoon. Nope. Don’t do it.


Pop the pan in the oven and go watch Netflix with your cat, or dog, or toddler.

Betty the Tuxedo


Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven. If you’re using a convection oven, check them after 18 minutes. A conventional oven should take at least 27 minutes. They are done when a toothpick, cake tester or paring knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.


I know it’s really, really hard, but if you want them to look pretty, don’t cut into them until they’ve had a couple hours to cool off. If you don’t care about how they look, dig in whenever. This time, I added some chocolate chips to the top while the brownies were still hot, then used a butter knife to spread them once they’d melted. Voila.

Excuse me while I pour myself a glass of milk


Gramma Marilyn’s Brownies

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee (optional)
3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. cocoa powder (heaping)
1/3 c. chocolate chips or nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray square brownie pan with cooking spray, then flour with a mixture of 1 teaspoon flour & 1 teaspoon cocoa powder.
2. With a spoon in a mixing bowl, mix butter, sugar, and eggs until well combined and creamy.
3. Add salt, vanilla, and instant coffee if you’re using it. Stir until just combined.
4. Mix in flour and cocoa and stir until just combined. Do not over mix. It will be a very thick batter.
4. Scrape into the greased/floured brownie pan. Optional: Sprinkle chocolate chips/nuts on top.
5. Bake for ~30 minutes until solid on top and a toothpick, paring knife or cake tester inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean.
6. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes before turning out onto the rack and cooling completely.
7. Cut and serve alone or with milk, coffee or ice cream.

Serves 9

Published by Noelle

Noelle lives in Denver, CO with her husband Tim and their tuxedo cat Betty. She's worked in customer service for 20 years and is an expert manager. She's sarcastic and has a dry sense of humor. She loves cooking, all things geeky, self-improvement, charity work, learning about God, and creating community.

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