Food You Can Eat: Buttermilk Brownies

Cousin Matt will love these.

Mrs. Butcher is killing it with her pictures.

First things first:  Yet another recipe of my grandmother’s.  It’s a little involved, because this is from scratch—no pre-made blasphemies here—but it is quite simple.  Leave your Betty Crocker brownie mixes on the grocery store shelf.

A caveat before we get started:  The recipe calls for baking for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, which seemed a little short to me and sure enough the brownies weren’t even remotely done.  So, I stuck them in for another 10 minutes and they were perfect.  I guess time and temperature in the 1950’s was different than it is today.  Also, these have more of a dense cake texture than a brownie texture—but they are still awesome.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Brownie Batter

1 Cup Butter

1 Cup Water

⅓ Cup Cocoa

2 Cups Flour

2 Cups Sugar

1 tsp. Baking Soda

½ tsp. Salt

½ Cup Buttermilk

2 Eggs, beaten

1 ½ tsp. Vanilla


4 Tbsp. Butter

¼ Cup Cocoa

¼ Cup Buttermilk

1 tsp. Vanilla

2 ¼ Cups Powdered Sugar

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, water and cocoa and cook until boiling.  Remove from heat and set aside.

It doesn’t take much for the liquid to boil so keep an eye on it.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  Mix in buttermilk, eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

It looks smooth once you stop the mixer. This mixed for about four minutes on medium speed.

Stir batter into hot cocoa mix and beat by hand use a mixer because this isn’t the Stone Age, beating until well combined.  Stop mixer, lower the bowl, and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to loosen up all the stubborn bits of the buttermilk batter which are still stuck to the bowl.  Lift the bowl and mix again until smooth.

I went the other way and poured the chocolate into the batter. Functionally, there is no difference.

Pour into a greased and floured 15” x 10” pan and bake in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

To flour a greased pan, just dump a 1/4 cup of flour in there and tap the pan vigorously while tilting until it’s coated. Dump the excess.

While brownies are baking, make the frosting.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook butter, cocoa and buttermilk until boiling.  It may appear curdled—that’s normal. 

The butter and milk fats aren’t completely incorporated, but in this case it’s a feature not a bug.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and powdered sugar and whisk vigorously until smooth. 

I toyed with the idea of just making two batches of frosting and eating this one straight out of the pot.

When brownies are removed from the oven, pour the frosting over the top.  Using a rubber spatula, gently spread the frosting over the top of the brownies.  The frosting will be thick when it lands on the brownies, but the heat of the brownies right out of the oven will thin the frosting enough to make it manageable.  Usually, the brownies will develop a “heat dome” in the oven.  This will settle as it cools, but in the meantime, while spreading the frosting, you’ll want to focus more on spreading the frosting that pools around the edges, rather than pulling from the middle because you won’t want it to be too thin in the middle and too thick around the edges.  Allow brownies to cool completely before cutting.

Why anyone makes brownies without frosting completely escapes me. Frosting is life itself.
I’m definitely making this recipe again.

While the brownies are cooling, lick the spatula and the whisk which you used for the frosting and make sure you don’t waste any of it because it is kick ass.

About butcherbakertoiletrymaker 580 Articles
When you can walk its length, and leave no trace, you will have learned.


  1. I cook from older cookbooks sometimes and I’ve noticed the same thing about oven timing. The stoves must have been much more powerful than the ones we have today. I have a high-end one that could split the atom, which is why I often add to my FYCE posts, “You might have to leave it in longer.” But it’s nothing compared to recipes like this, for example. If you can find old Julia Child recipes (which are only from the late 1950s, first book published in 1961 I think) if you do something where the meat is supposed to go in an oven the timing is off, and your inner French Chef has to form a symbiotic relationship to the stove and you will work together.

    If you go a little further back you’ll get helpful details like “Cook until done, and then remove to a warmed serving platter on a bed of fresh parsley–” Cook at what temp and for how long? This knowledge is so well-known that it’s not worth cluttering the recipe by repeating it. But alas I live in 2021 and not 1951 or 1921 so I have to think, “A 4-lb. roast should take…”

    • Yeah, my copy of the Artusi book is loaded with vague instructions like that because the author was writing it at a time when most people (read, women) had been cooking for years so putting that level of detail in there was seen as unnecessary.

      • It may also be the idea that something that is underdone can always go back in the oven, but overdone can’t be fixed.
        Old ovens often had a lot of play in those twist dials, and I am guessing people were often turning to 325 but really setting the temp to 400, or vice versa.

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