Brownies for a Crowd

These brownies for a crowd, made with semisweet chocolate aplenty and eggs, butter, flour, and sugar, are cake-y and rich. The recipe makes plenty. A crowd-pleaser for parties, tailgating, bake sales, and more.

Cakey Brownies

These brownies for a crowd do the near impossible. They tend to satisfy both kinds of brownie people, whether fudgy or cakey. Don’t believe us? Folks are saying these crowd-pleasing brownies are “cakey and chocolatey and everything a brownie should be.” And “a nice balance between a cakey and a fudgy brownie.” Should you fear that creating such a big batch of chocolate sumptuousness to have on hand would lead you straight into temptation and yet you still want to experience brownie bliss for yourself, simply cut the recipe in half following our instructions in the smaller batch variation beneath the recipe. Or, what we prefer, make the big batch and freeze what you dare not keep on the counter for a later brownie craving. Originally published April 11, 2015.Renee Schettler Rossi

Brownies For A Crowd

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 1 H
  • Makes a couple 13-by-9-inch pans
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Special Equipment: A 12-by-18-inch baking pan or a couple 9-by-13-inch baking pans



Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Line a 12-by-18-inch baking pan or a couple 9-by-13-inch baking pans with aluminum foil or parchment paper cut to fit. Lightly butter the foil or parchment. [Editor’s Note: We found that if you’re short on baking pans, it also works to divvy the batter between a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and a 9-inch-square baking pan.]

In a small saucepan, bring the water, butter, and sugar to a simmer and stir until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.

Dump the chopped chocolate, salt, vanilla, and baking soda in a bowl and pour the hot liquid over it. Let the mixture sit for a minute or so and then gently stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Let cool for about 5 minutes.

Add the eggs to the batter, 1 at time, mixing with a whisk just until incorporated after each addition. Add the flour and whisk just until incorporated. Add the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate and stir just until combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in the pan and cut the brownies into the desired size. (You can tuck the brownies in a resealable plastic bag and freeze them for up to a few months. Let thaw at room temperature.)

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    Brownies for a Smaller Crowd Variation

    • To make brownies for a smaller crowd, simply halve the ingredients and scrape the batter into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. The baking time remains the same. (But shhhh, don’t tell author Ina Pinkney. We’re fairly certain she never, ever resorted to small-batch baking thanks to her eponymous restaurant that was a Chicago institution for more than two decades where she’s accustomed to making everything large scale. Perhaps it’s time you start thinking of her as the other Ina in your life.)

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    I was VERY skeptical of this brownies for a crowd recipe when I first read it. The technique seemed a bit cumbersome and strange for brownies. In my experience, great brownies are not rocket science, and the step of boiling water seemed strange…but they came out fantastic!

    The chocolate flavor was rich and intense but not overwhelming. Although they weren't as dense as brownies that are labeled fudgy, these were not exactly cake-like. Mine came out at about 1 1/2 inches thick, and I think of a cakey brownie being more like 2 or 3 inches high. The texture was great—nice and moist, not dry at all, and the top had a nice crackle to it like a bakery brownie, which I really liked.

    These are pretty sweet, though—not for the faint of heart. They'd be great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, although they stand up on their own just fine.

    When I poured the boiling water, sugar, and butter mixture over the chopped chocolate, it didn't melt all the way on its own. I had to put it into the microwave for about 45 seconds on high (2 rounds of about 20 seconds each) to melt all the chocolate. I baked my brownies for 40 to 45 minutes, which was a bit longer than indicated in the recipe. I checked it at 30 minutes (the center was obviously still unbaked), at 36 minutes (the toothpick came out with batter clinging to it), and then again at 42 minutes (the toothpick came out clean but not everywhere, as the chocolate chips left some chocolate on the toothpick). The top was a light brown with a few cracks in it. This was the best indication I could find that the brownies were done.

    I'm in both brownie camps. I'd even go as far as calling myself brownie-versatile. I love brownies and even their albino brothers, blondies. There aren't too many brownies I'd take a pass on, and with this recipe, I have another brownie that I just love. While they were cakey and each bite felt like I was eating a brownie, they also had a nice chewiness and rich fudgy chocolatiness. So satisfying.

    These took less than an hour to make, not including the cooling time at the end. I went with 35 minutes total baking time, rotating my pan 90° after 15 minutes to avoid any hot spots (my oven is horrible). When I inserted a toothpick at the 35-minute mark, the center was domed slightly, and the edges were firm and slightly crackly. My toothpick came out perfectly clean. I baked the brownies in a 12-by-18-inch cake pan, and I was worried that with my shallow sheet pan, the batter would bake right over the edge and cause a huge mess inside my oven. Not even close. The brownie batter was tame and set perfectly in the pan.

    I think the addition of the chocolate chips before baking is overkill. They don't melt into the brownie but rather firm up when cooled. So when you bite into a chip, it's pretty hard. Next time, I'll omit the chocolate chips. As I sit here writing, I'm trying my best not to get any of these moist delicious brownies for a crowd onto my keyboard. Now on my shirt, that's a different story.

    These brownies have a good flavor and weren't difficult to make. Mine turned out with a nice balance between a cake and a fudgy brownie.

    I made half the recipe and used a 9-by-13-inch pan and this size worked well. To simplify the recipe, you can melt the chocolate with the butter in the microwave. Then add the boiling water and sugar to the butter and chocolate mixture. You can prevent the potential curdling by keeping out some sugar and beating it into the eggs before adding the hot liquid. However, I didn't find the mixture too hot by the time I needed to add the eggs.

    There's nothing like a brownie. While I don't have a strong preference for or against cakey brownies, I do not enjoy a dry brownie. These brownies are cakey and dense and filled with incredible chocolate flavor.

    I found the recipe itself easy to follow and time-saving. By the time I finished stirring the hot water, sugar, butter, and chocolate together, the batter was cool enough for the addition of the eggs. I appreciate that the recipe yields 2 full 9-by-13-inch pans. The recipe gave me 48 good-size brownies which were quite addicting. My brownies took 43 minutes to bake. I knew they were finished baking when I jiggled the pan and the center of the brownie was set. The brownies had a lovely cracked top and were fudgy in the middle. Everyone loved them.

    Even though I prefer fudgy brownies over cakey brownies, these were still quite good and well worth making. I loved the chocolaty chips in this recipe, which sure satisfies a chocolate craving.

    I didn't have the pan size called for so I used a pair of 9-by-13-inch pans instead and they worked perfectly. The brownies were perfectly baked after 35 minutes when a toothpick came out clean. I used buttered aluminum foil to line my pans and this made removal of the brownies very easy after cutting them into squares. My squares were some big and some smaller and I got 40 brownies. This recipe makes plenty for sharing and I did with some co-workers and my daughter. I think these would be even better with some frosting on top and next time I think that's what I'll do.

    Be forewarned, the recipe makes enough brownies for a small army. My yield was 36 generous servings—luckily there are a lot of people who love brownies where my husband works! The brownies were met with rave reviews from the cakey brownie fans. They were easy to put together and would be a good addition to my volumes of brownie recipes. They are simple, unfussy, basic brownies. I made these in a half sheet pan and had enough that I could have opened a small bake shop on my driveway.

    Luckily, I discovered that they freeze quite well, as most brownies do. I lined my pan with parchment. I wondered if it was supposed to be the sides as well…but as it was not clear to me, I did the bottom only. The parchment stuck to the brownies a bit. I was able to peel it off but it annoyed me. I wondered if the same would have happened if I had used foil. Also, perhaps if i had chilled them prior to cutting them, the parchment would not have stuck. After adding the eggs, I did find that the mixture was a bit gritty at this point (I'm guilty of tasting batter as I go—always!) but perhaps I didn't let the sugar dissolve long enough. It didn't seem to affect the texture of the final product.

    The cake did not dome in the middle. Overall these are a winner if cakey brownies are your texture of choice. It is a huge commitment of chocolate (a total of 30 ounces) but I love the way the chips add some texture to the brownies and I can think up a ton of ways to serve these at a summer barbecue, which is a good thing since I still have some brownies in my freezer.

    I really love my brownies fudgy and dense. Cakey brownies are not really true brownies in my book. They are more like fudge cakes. With that mindset, I figured I'd give these a shot and see how they fair. Well, in all honesty, I can say that they deliver on what they promise perfectly and are utterly delicious. They are rich, full of dark chocolate flavor, and contain lovely molten chocolate bits here and there.

    Are they going to replace my go-to fudgy brownies? No. I still think this is a fudge cake, but a fantastic one and a dessert that was a hit with everyone. I do not have a 12-by-18-inch cake pan (I have baking sheets this size but figured these might be too shallow). I used a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and a 9-by-9-inch baking pan and split the batter between them.

    It's annoying when a recipe uses egg sizes other than large. I only buy large eggs. I went by weight and figured 6 extra large eggs (64 grams each) is a bit less than 7 large eggs. So I used 7 large eggs. I would think melting the chocolate separately over a double broiler then adding the butter and sugar would be a better idea. With the size pans I used, I ended up with 48 brownies. They were about an inch thick. The cake rises flat, with not much doming. The surface looks dull and a toothpick comes out clean.

    My testers loved these brownies because they were cakey and chocolatety and everything a brownie should be. I made half the recipe and am glad I did because it produced about 50 brownies. They're rich enough that you don't need a huge morsel. The recipe was easy enough. Next time I'll add nuts.

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