Cocoa brownies with coconut icing sweetly kick chocolate to the curb

Cocoa brownies with coconut icing

Gourmandistan has a long history of bringing our virtual world recipes from Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies. (We are not sorry, dear readers, because the recipes are so damn good.)  Today’s homage is to a batch of brownies that bypass chocolate for cocoa powder. As Medrich says, “the best brownies are not always made with a bar of chocolate,” asserting that cocoa gives brownies “divinely soft centers and slightly chewy, almost candylike tops.”

We must admit the idea of coconut icing came before the idea to adapt Alice’s brownies, because we had a can of opened coconut milk that needed to be dealt with and, for Michelle, frosting is quite often a very good way of dealing with things. Covering the “candylike” tops with coconutty cream cheese frosting turned out to be a very good idea, making an already delightful treat something sweet and sublime. We will not be banishing chocolate bars from our larder anytime soon—but for brownies, we may be sticking to cocoa for a while.


  • Servings: one 8-inch pan of brownies
  • Print

(brownies adapted, barely, from Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies/icing inspired by this)


  • 11 TB unsalted butter
  • 1-1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 cup Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 c. + 1 TB all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325° F. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Line an 8″ square pan with foil.

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Add sugar, cocoa and salt over very low heat. Stir until blended and mixture is hot. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Mix in vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing vigorously with a wooden spoon after each addition.

Add flour and stir until incorporated. Mix vigorously until shiny.

Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes or more, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out “slightly dirty looking” but not wet.

Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Lift edges of foil and place brownies on a cutting board. Cool completely.


  • 1/2 c. coconut milk
  • 4 TB butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. coconut flakes, lightly toasted and cooled

Place coconut milk in a small saucepan and cook until reduced by half. Refrigerate. (If you over-reduce, just add a little cream to make it equal 1/4 c.)

Cream butter and cream cheese in bowl of an electric stand mixer. Add confectioners’ sugar, reduced coconut milk and vanilla. Beat until sugar is incorporated and icing is smooth. If too thin, add a little more sugar. If too thick, add some cream or milk.

Frost top of brownies. Cover with coconut flakes. Store in refrigerator.


    • Thanks, Amanda. I’ve been trying to find the perfect use for that coconut icing. It’s good on cakes, but I think the dark brownies worked great. Happy spring!

  1. I agree: sometimes cocoa powder gives better, more intense results.Lately, for instance, I have been experimenting with a eggless&cocoa based chocolate icecream: it is very very good and the chocolate taste comes through amazingly well, without being hidden by other flavours and too much fat (the ice cream is cornstarch thickened).

  2. I only know Medrich from her book Flavor Flours, the recipes are reliable and delicious. Love your addition of coconut frosting, chocolate and coconut are beautiful together.

    • Sandra, her books are all fabulous. She finds the most interesting and easy ways of doing things—like often using melted butter instead of having to wait around for it to soften to room temperature.

  3. D’you know, I’ve never made brownies with chunks of chocolate? Always with cocoa but of course you’ve taken them to a whole new mountain top with the coconut snow. Egads! Fabulous!

    • You’re wise! Ages ago, I loved a recipe that was on the box of Droste cocoa powder. It’s not there anymore (at least not on the box I bought recently) and the one on their website doesn’t seem quite the same.

      • It wasn’t really wisdom – it was the recipe which may well have come from the Droste cocoa powder but it now lives in my old-fashioned recipe box on a chocolate spattered card.

  4. Your brownies looks very fudgey and perfect and I love the idea of pairing coconut with cocoa brownies! Also, Alice Medrich’s books are wonderful. Do you thick the coconut flakes would taste better toasted or untoasted on the brownies?

    • Her books are wonderful, aren’t they? Oh, with the coconut flakes, I think you could go either way. I just toasted them very, very lightly … mainly because I was at the end of the bag and was terrified of burning them and having to go out for more!

      • Yes, they are worth the investment. Not all cookbooks are created equal though. And about those coconut flakes… that is a genuine thing to be terrified about! I’ve found myself in such tight situations before. Never a happy ending. Glad yours was. Again, perfect looking brownie squares.

  5. I grew up loving Mounds candy bars, dark chocolate and coconut go so well together. I don’t think your brownies would last very long in my house…they look so very good.

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