"if you're afraid of butter, use cream." - Julia Child

Brownies with Carley’s Real Fudge Frosting

Brownies with Carley’s Real Fudge Frosting

The word “fudge” gets thrown around a lot these days. Advertisers have been leaning on the word as a general descriptor for anything chocolate for such a long time that I think we sometimes forget what the real thing tastes like. I know I do. Or at least I did, until I became acquainted with my mother-in-law’s frosted brownies some years ago. From the first taste, I remembered how impossibly rich and dense, smooth and decadent real fudge is. And it’s all because of this insanely good frosting, which (I realized upon stepping into the kitchen) is really just a layer of fudge that isn’t allowed to fully harden. And is, you know, spread over brownies*. And with sprinkles on top, because now we’re just drunk with power and we might as well lean into it, you know?

You might know this style of frosting better as a “boiled icing” or a “hard icing.” From what I understand, its origins are in the Southern United States as a topping for a classic yellow cake — which sounds delicious; but I don’t know how I could pass up the impossibly rich, sinful, chocolate-wasted version spread half an inch thick over dense, chewy brownies. Yes, I’ve considered seeing someone professionally about this, and maybe eventually I’ll get around to that but right now I have brownies in the oven.

But the truth is, these are special occasion brownies. You bring them to parties and family gatherings and watch your culinary reputation swell as people eat them. The frosting requires a fair amount of stirring, just like making real fudge, so I would recommend pulling out your electric hand mixer (which makes this part of the process a cinch). Once you pull the frosting from the heat and begin the Long Stir, make sure to look for the point the frosting starts to lose its shine — this is the point we’re looking for and the best visual cue that the mixture is cooling down and it’s time to switch off the mixer and frost those (completely cooled) brownies. Once you do, they’re ready to go as soon as you need them. Do you consider a certain Big Game this Sunday a special occasion? Are you somehow not bringing Buffalo Chicken Dip? Bring a tray of these — and in between commercial breaks you can lecture everyone about what real fudge is.

*A note about the brownie base: Feel free to use whatever homemade brownie recipe you’re fond of and comfortable with as the base for this magical frosting. I’ve tested a few, and included my favorite here. It uses all cocoa powder rather than melted chocolate, as does this frosting, and I think they have a nice, cohesive chocolate flavor when paired together. That being said, any brownie base you like will work just fine here. The only thing I beg of you is to resist using a boxed brownie for this. The end result is too light and flaky, and will fall apart while you’re trying to frost.

Brownies with Carley’s Real Fudge Frosting

For the Brownies:

Source: Smitten Kitchen, best cocoa brownies


10 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1/4 teaspoon salt, flaky or table salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour


Preheat your oven to 325 F. Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with parchment or foil and spray with nonstick spray. Leave a little overhang when lining — it makes them easier to remove later.

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt over medium low heat. Keep an eye on it, and stir frequently until the mixture is just melted and you’re able to stir it easily. Remove the pan from the heat and add the eggs one at a time, stirring between each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Ad the flour and stir until well combined and no white streaks remain. Transfer the batter to the baking dish and place it in the oven on a lower rack. Bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a trace amount of batter. Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

For the frosting:


1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

½ cup light brown sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, diced

¼ cup milk

½ cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Combine the milk, cocoa and sugars in your deepest saucepan over medium heat and whisk until well blended. Add the butter and continue whisking until the butter is melted. Turn up the heat slightly, and bring the mixture up to a rolling boil. Keep a close eye on it, and stir every so often to prevent sticking or scorching. Once it reaches a boil, set a timer for one minute and let it boil while you whisk constantly. When the timer goes off, remove the pan from the heat onto an oven mitt or a trivet. Add the vanilla, and with an electric hand mixer, mix on low speed until the mixture begins to cool and thicken to a nice, spreadable consistency, roughly 5-7 minutes. Spread onto brownies immediately, and add any sprinkles or toppings right away. Work quickly, it sets up fast!




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