It’s August, when berries, peaches, and plums are at their juicy peak. That means that fruity desserts reign supreme — and chocolate, otherwise so eternally popular, seems to take a backseat until the onset of fall. But while I can see the argument for a tart, jammy fruit crumble over a decadent chocolate layer cake when it’s 90 degrees outside, it doesn’t hold up when it’s applied to the classic brownie. Because brownies, it should go without saying, know no season.
In the past, chocolate was never my go-to flavor — unless a brownie was involved. I have fond memories of the two-bite brownies (the ones that come in the clear plastic box) I ate growing up, as well as the sublime peanut butter chip-studded brownies that my mom made (also from a box) when I was home on college breaks. In the ice cream aisle, I’m automatically drawn to any pint containing brownies in chunk, crumble, or batter form. I’ll also make a passionate case for the superiority of the middle piece to anyone who will listen (chewy edge lovers, we can agree to disagree).
My personal love of these treats aside, one of the biggest draws of brownies is that they’re always in style, a year-round crowd-pleaser for just about any occasion. So in an effort to make a good thing even better (and inspired by the Smitten Kitchen sunken black forest cake and Belgian brownie cakelets), I turned the iconic handheld dessert into a bowl-and-whisk cake recipe, because why not?
This playful, single-layer brownie cake is made with sweet rice flour, which creates a moist, fudgy texture similar to a flourless chocolate cake but with a bit more bite. The cake’s standalone richness is tempered by a malted milk whipped cream that I dreamt up after stumbling upon chocolate malted milk powder at the store. The swoops of sweet-but-mellow cream remind me of a chocolate milkshake, and the topping is the perfect way to complement and balance the more intensely chocolatey portion of the brownie cake (just make sure that the cake is completely cool before topping it with the cream to avoid a runny mess). To finish, I like to add a garnish of sprinkles (for fun and color) and chopped Oreos (for textural contrast and an edge of nostalgia). Altogether, this is basically a party in cake form, one whose only request is that you BYO big appetite.
Fudgy Brownie Cake With Chocolate Malted Milk Whipped Cream
Makes one 8-inch round cake
For the cake:
1 stick (113g) unsalted butter
½ cup (85g) semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons (100g) sweet rice flour, like Mochiko
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons (40g) Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (22g) chocolate malted milk powder, such as this one
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup (120g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
¼ cup chocolate malted milk powder
For the garnish:
Sprinkles and/or chopped Oreos
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease one 8-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottom with a parchment round, and grease the parchment.
Step 2: Bring a medium saucepan of water (1 to 2 inches deep is fine) to a simmer. Cut the butter into rough chunks and combine with the chocolate chips in a large, heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the pot of simmering water and gently melt the butter and chocolate together, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula.
Step 3: Remove the bowl from the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes. In the meantime, whisk together the sweet rice flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
Step 4: Add the sugar and malted milk powder to the melted butter-chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.
Step 5: Whisk in the egg and yolk, and then the vanilla extract. Finally, add the sour cream and whisk until the mixture is completely smooth.
Step 6: Gradually add in the dry ingredients and whisk until combined and no chunks remain.
Step 7: Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a small offset spatula. Set the pan on a baking sheet and bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the sheet tray halfway through, until the top looks set. (It’s okay if a toothpick doesn’t come out clean, since we want the cake to be slightly underdone, like a good brownie.)
Step 8: Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes, then gently run a small offset spatula around the edge to loosen. Carefully transfer the cake to a rack to cool completely.
Step 9: When ready to serve, make the whipped cream: In a large bowl, add the heavy cream and malted milk powder. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the ingredients until the cream comes together and medium-to-stiff peaks form.
Step 10: Top the cake with a generous amount of whipped cream and finish with sprinkles and/or chopped Oreos.
Joy Cho is a pastry chef and freelance writer based in Brooklyn. After losing her pastry cook job at the start of the pandemic, Joy launched Joy Cho Pastry, an Instagram business through which she sells her gem cakes to the New York City area. Celeste Noche is a Filipino American food, travel, and portrait photographer based between Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco.
Recipe tested by Deena Prichep