The easiest brownies ever! My one bowl cocoa brownies recipe makes brownies that are soft and fudgy on the inside, and chewy at the edges. Rich and indulgent, they are also absolutely fuss free and fool proof, with minimal hands-on time and barely any washing up.
Easy chocolate brownies recipe
Everyday baking should be easy, and this recipe is just that. Simple enough to throw together at short notice, but absolutely delicious, this one bowl brownies recipe is just what you need, whether you want to spoil your friends or your kid’s friends.
You can make these excellent everyday brownies without the need to melt chocolate and whisk eggs and sugar. This is the sort of recipe your grandmother whipped up in a trice with just a bowl and a fork or spoon.
This is how I like my baking to be. It’s easy, no-nonsense cooking that never leaves the kitchen in chaos, and the results still feel like a treat.
These one bowl brownies are a variation of my easy blondies recipe, where I swapped some of the flour for cocoa powder.
The brownies are melty and indulgent in the middle but easy to eat with your fingers, so they are ideal for serving with coffee.
Keep them classic or thrown in some personal touches. Either way, you’ll enjoy all the glory with none of the mess.
Small batch one bowl brownies
Many recipes for traybakes seem to be designed to feed a small army but that’s not how I cook. I enjoy baking for visitors but I never want to be left with a glut, as that can just lead to overeating.
This one bowl cocoa brownies recipe will neatly fill a regular 8″ / 20 cm square pan. This amounts to 12–16 servings that will store for up to a week.
That’s generally enough to serve a few guests but you can double the recipe for a bigger gathering or bake sale, using a standard 9″ x 13″ pan.
What are brownies?
A classic American tray bake, chocolate or cocoa brownies have a soft fudgy consistency on the inside but a papery crust. They lend themselves well to parties as they are indulgent but can be picked up and eaten without creating too much mess.
When they are still warm from the oven, they also lend themselves to serving as a dessert with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of warm chocolate sauce.
Why you will love this cocoa brownies recipe
- These cocoa brownies are so easy.
- Minimal equipment and hardly any mess.
- One bowl, and no mixer needed!
- Brownies keep well in a tin, so you can make them in advance.
- Scale the recipe for a party.
- Flour – I use plain with a pinch of baking powder but self-raising is fine if that’s what you prefer.
Pro Tip – Why Bake with Plain Flour?
I’m often asked why I bake with plain flour and add a raising agent rather than use self-raising.
First – I don’t bake that often, and the raising agent in the flour can go off. If you use a separate baking powder it is really easy to check that it is still fresh.
Secondly – My kitchen is tiny! If I keep both types of flour, it takes up more space.
- Soft brown sugar – This has more flavour than white sugar and helps to create that lovely fudgy effect.
- Butter – I use salted butter. If using unsalted, add a pinch of salt too, as it rounds out the flavour.
- Egg – One large free range egg
- Cocoa power – Regular supermarket brand cocoa powder is fine. Use whatever you have.
- Vanilla extract – Vanilla extract is natural vanilla while vanilla essence is generally synthetic. I like vanilla paste which contains the seeds from the vanilla pod but you can use a liquid extract instead. Different brands vary in strength so get to know what you have and use it cautiously. As always, you can add but not take away.
- Baking Powder – If you don’t bake that often or if your powder is past its expiry date, check your baking powder is fresh. It is usually just fine for months, even years after the expiry, but check before you bake.
- Optional extras – Chocolate Chips / Nuts / Dried Fruit – This cocoa brownies recipe doesn’t need anything else and I like the elegance of simplicity. You can, however, use it as a base to experiment if you like. Don’t be scared to play around.
How to make easy cocoa brownies – step by step
First, preheat your oven to 180°C / 160°C Fan / Gas 4. Prepare an 8″ / 20 cm square baking tin. Do this by lining it with baking parchment, and then greasing with butter, light flavourless oil, or a spritz of cake release spray.
I prefer to use foil backed parchment. It is more expensive, but it is so much easier to use because it stays in place when you fold it. You can use a couple of fold back clips to hold unruly baking parchment in place.
Step One – Melt your butter. You can do this either in a saucepan or in a large bowl. I like to use a jug in the microwave. Remember that the idea is to melt it, not heat it.
I find the easiest way to melt butter is in the microwave. Take it out before it has all liquefied and stir to dissolve the last lumps. This will help to avoid overheating.
Step Two – Next, add the sugar. Stir it in well.
Step Three – Add the egg and vanilla extract and stir in.
Step Four – Add the cocoa powder, sifting it through a sieve. While modern flour rarely has lumps, cocoa does. You don’t want lumps of cocoa in the final bake!
Step Five – Now add the flour, together with any other dry ingredients (baking powder and salt if using). Fold in to create a smooth, glossy batter.
Step Six – If you want to add chocolate chunks, nuts or fruit, you can do it now. Break or cut into even sized pieces and reserve some to scatter over the top of the batter in the baking tray. Stir in so that the pieces are well distributed in the batter.
Step Seven – Transfer the batter to the prepared baking tray. Then smooth out with the back of the spatula, pushing the batter into the corners of the pan.
Step Eight – Bake for 25–28 minutes, until a papery crust forms, and the edges have risen and are slightly wrinkled. The centre will still be soft, barely set, and will wobble slightly if you (gently) shake the pan.
If you don’t have a fan oven you may need to turn the pan halfway through cooking to compensate for any hot spots. Do this as quickly and as gently as you can.
Allow your easy cocoa brownies to cool and firm up for at least 20 minutes on a wire rack before cutting. The centre will carry on cooking as it cools.
Step Nine – Finally, when the bake is cool, cut your easy one bowl brownies into squares, ready to serve. I find a 4 x 4 grid of 16 pieces is perfect.
Your cocoa brownies will keep well for up to 5 days. I wrap them in the baking parchment, before sealing them in an airtight tin. For a just baked taste, pop into the microwave for 10 seconds to warm up. This will restore that delicious soft centre.
You can also wrap your brownies well and freeze for up to 3 months.
- These brownies are intensely chocolatey, which despite the sugar makes them not too sweet. If you prefer a lighter, milk chocolate style, remove a heaped dessert spoon of the cocoa and replace with the same volume of flour.
- For a delicious cocoa brownie dessert, microwave for ten seconds and then top with ice cream and warm chocolate sauce.
- This one bowl cocoa brownies recipe is very adaptable, so you can add chunks of chocolate, nuts or even your favourite sweets. Experiment!
Hints and tips
- If you want to double the recipe use a 13 x 9″ baking pan. Your one bowl cocoa brownies will be a bit deeper and take slightly longer to cook.
- Like any brownie recipe, this contains proportionally more fat compared to many bakes. It is important to take time to stir the flour in well to prevent any separation.
- Use real butter! Real butter has a much better flavour than its substitutes.
- Good vanilla makes a huge difference. Vanilla extract contains real vanilla, while essence is often synthetically made and contains little or no actual vanilla.
It’s all down to the butter. The higher fat to flour ratio (compared to ordinary cakes) is essential to the classic brownie texture. It’s also important to take the bake out of the oven while you still have that slightly wobbly centre.
Brownies are brownies! Really, where recipes fall between two categories, there’s no point in worrying about it as long as the recipe works. Unless you are the VAT man, who has apparently tried to argue that a brownie may also be a chocolate bar or a sports nutrition product…
Dutch processed cocoa powder has been treated to reduce the acidity of the cocoa. In the US, cocoa powders are marketed as Dutch style or natural.
We don’t hear much about this in the UK but the thinking goes that the treated cocoa gives a smoother much of hot chocolate while the untreated may have more antioxidants. If a recipe was designed for untreated cocoa and uses only baking soda as a raising agent, using treated cocoa could be an issue but it really doesn’t matter here.
More similar recipes
- Easy Blondies – classic simplicity
- Pumpkin Spice Blondies – a touch of autumnal spice
- Peanut Butter Blondies – an American classic
- Mini Egg Brownies – the perfect Easter treat
- Vanilla Traybake – easy and delicious
One Bowl Cocoa Brownies
- 115 g butter (melted)
- 210 g light soft brown sugar (or dark)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 45 g cocoa powder
- 55 g plain flour (or self raising)
- 1 tsp baking powder (leave it out if you use SR flour)
- 1 pinch salt (optional, if using unsalted butter)
- 1 cup chocolate chips / nuts / dried fruit
- Preheat your oven to 180°C / 160°C Fan / Gas 4 and line and grease an 8" / 20 cm square baking tin. Put the butter into a large bowl or jug. Melt it in the microwave in 10 seconds bursts. Continue until the butter is melted but not hot.115 g butter
- Add the soft brown sugar to the jug and stir it in.210 g light soft brown sugar
- Beat in the egg and vanilla.1 large egg, 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Sift the cocoa into the mix. Then add the flour, together with the baking powder and salt (if using). Fold in and mix until you have a thick glossy batter.45 g cocoa powder, 55 g plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 pinch salt
- Then add the flour, together with the baking powder and salt (if using). Fold in and mix until you have a thick glossy batter. (You can then add any additions like chocolate chips or nuts, reserving some to sprinkle over the top of the batter in the baking tray.)1 cup chocolate chips / nuts / dried fruit
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Give it a gentle shake to level it out.
- Bake for 25–28* minutes, until the brownies are set at the edges (which will have risen and become slightly wrinkled). There will be a shiny papery crust on top. The middle should be soft and still slightly wobbly. *If you don't have a fan oven you may need to turn the pan half way through cooking if your oven has hot spots. Do this as quickly and as gently as you can.
- Stand the tin on a wire rack and allow to cool for 10–15 minutes to firm up (the centre will continue to cook in the residual heat). Then gently lift out of the pan and cut into 16 squares (4 x 4 pattern).
- Store for up to 5 days. I find the best way is to wrap your brownies in the baking parchment you used for baking, before sealing them in an airtight tin. For that just baked taste pop into the microwave for 10 seconds to warm up and restore that delicious fudge centre.
- You can also wrap well and freeze for 3 months, but we never had any left over after a few days.
- For the a delicious brownie dessert, try serving the warmed brownies with ice cream.
- To double the recipe – use a 13 x 9″ baking pan. The brownies will be a bit thicker and take slightly longer to cook.
- This recipe has proportionally more fat in it compared to many bakes. Take time to stir the dry ingredients in properly to prevent any separation.
- Use proper butter!
- Good quality vanilla extract makes a massive difference. Vanilla extract contains real vanilla, while essence is often synthetically made and contains little or no actual vanilla.
- This recipe is 7 Weight Watchers Smart Points