The brownie continuum

Today I ventured into our makeshift basement kitchen to bake for only the third or fourth time since we started on our remodel. I needed a dessert to take to a friend’s house (a wonderful friend who has been cooking for us at least once a week since we embarked on this project), so I decided to make one from a recent cookbook. Billed as a ‘nearly flourless’ chocolate cake, it required several steps and numerous bowls which made it a challenge because I have exactly two square feet of counter space, no stand mixer, and no dishwasher. But no effort was too much for this kind of decadence, I assured myself.

After whipping egg whites, grinding nuts, melting chocolate, and beating egg yolks with sugar, I assembled the batter and poured it into the cake pan. As I was pouring, I realized this batter reminded me of another chocolatey baked good. This became even more apparent when I unmolded the cake from its springform mooring – a thin, crisp shell covered a dense, soft interior. It was…a brownie. The ‘cake’ that I labored over for nearly an hour before putting it in the oven was, for all intents and purposes, a brownie.

I love brownies and the test nibble indicates that it will be delicious, but I was expecting something else so was a little miffed at the result. On further reflection, however, I wonder why I was so surprised. The boundary between fudgy brownie and a ‘nearly flourless’ chocolate cake is blurry at best. There are few hard and fast rules for foods, and many items exist on a continuum where the final definition comes down to regional differences or even personal preference.

When does a muffin turn into a cupcake? How thick does a soup need to become to be called a stew? Are tacos sandwiches? These questions can turn into heated arguments, but I have come to the conclusion that most of the time these semantics are far less important than answers to queries such as ‘what is the filling in those tacos?’ and ‘how many can I eat?’

This chocolate cake recipe was rich and satisfying, but not worth as much effort as I put into it. I will stick to an easier brownie recipe for a decadent chocolate hit, like the Outrageous brownies from Ina Garten pictured above. And I won’t worry about what to call them as I shove them into my mouth.

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  • racheljmorgan  on  March 27, 2022

    Had the same thought this week while making brownies, since the cocoa powder content was exactly equal to the flour content. It is like those flourless chocolate cakes! And sometimes what is billed as “gooey butter cake” here in the south is really just an undercooked blondie.

  • petbarladeanu  on  April 6, 2022

    In my country we hava a cake from leftover of other cakes named “potatto cake”. I make from leftovers and cacao and some milk, everything mixes and make with hands like a potatto. Kids love the cakes and when they eat it it will be all over the baby clothes.

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