Fancy up your favorite brownie mix by adding espresso powder and chocolate chips. Top it with espresso flavored buttercream frosting and you have mocha brownies, an irresistible dessert.
Why you’ll love it: Coffee and chocolate combined? Who wouldn’t love that?!
How long it takes: 35 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: mixing bowl, mixer, 9 x 13 inch baking pan
I seize any opportunity that I can to make a delicious dessert. A get together with friends is the perfect excuse to make a treat that I wouldn’t usually have in the house. Too much temptation, right?
This mocha brownie recipe has been on my mind ever since I saw a cappuccino brownie on my friend Jessica’s blog, How Sweet Eats. I love chocolate, I love coffee, and combined, they are even better!
So with friends coming over and the perfect recipe to make, I got busy. Of course, you know me. I never follow a recipe as written. By the time I ended up, my recipe didn’t look much like Jessica’s. Sorry, friend, but that’s just the way I bake.
Did my friends like the brownies? You betcha! My husband’s take? “These are better than I expected.” “I could eat the whole pan.” “I thought these would be too rich, but I can’t stop eating them.” He had lots of good things to say. I think they earn his approval (wink).
About this Recipe
True confession: I don’t often make brownies from scratch (although Kahlúa brownies are an exception). I love a few different brands of boxed mixes. Why make them from scratch when Ghirardelli does such a good job already?
You’ll love this brownie dessert: rich moist brownies, enriched with espresso powder and chocolate chips; thick chocolate buttercream frosting, also with espresso flavoring, piled on top; chocolate sprinkles just for fun! These brownies are so good with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top. Or with a cold glass of milk. Or a cup of coffee, of course. Or homemade hot chocolate.
Mocha brownies have a pretty mild coffee flavor but feel free to amp it up a little with more espresso powder if you want!
What Is Espresso Powder?
Espresso powder is simply instant coffee, espresso strength. It’s in powder form and sold in a jar or tin. You’ll usually find it in the coffee aisle of the grocery store, next to other instant coffee products.
What you’ll need
- Brownie Mix: Look for a good quality brownie mix that makes a 9 x 13 inch pan of brownies. Many brownie mixes make a smaller pan, 8 x 8 inches, so be sure you have the larger size. You’ll need plain brownies with no extras added.
- Eggs, Oil, Water: Follow the package directions on the brownie mix.
- Espresso Powder: As noted above, espresso powder is simply instant coffee. It’s added to the brownie mix and also flavors the frosting.
- Chocolate Chips: This recipe calls for semi-sweet chips but you can use extra dark, milk chocolate, or whatever you choose. Mini chips are fine, too.
- Unsalted Butter: You’ll need one stick or a half-cup of butter for the frosting. Make sure it’s at room temperature before you use it. Rock hard butter won’t blend well.
- Powdered Sugar/Confectioner’s Sugar: Whatever you call it, this very fine grained sugar is what you need for frosting.
- Cocoa Powder: Unsweetened cocoa powder is often used in baking. It’s found in the baking aisle of the grocery store.
- Pure Vanilla Extract: Please don’t use imitation vanilla. It’s just not the same!
- Milk: Any type of milk will do. It’s needed to thin the frosting to the proper consistency.
How To Make This Recipe
It’s pretty easy. Basically, you’re just making a brownie mix and adding a buttercream frosting, both of which are enhanced with espresso powder.
Make the brownies first. Blend the espresso powder into the dry mix before adding the egg, oil, and water. Fold in the chocolate chips and bake the brownies as directed. Don’t overbake them! They should be very moist in the center.
Cool the brownies in the pan on a wire rack. They need to be completely cool before adding the frosting. If they are still warm, the frosting will melt and become a gooey mess. That’s just a very sad scenario.
When the brownies are cool, make the buttercream frosting. Whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa, and espresso powder. If the cocoa has hard lumps, press them through a fine strainer or sifter.
Put the butter in a medium sized bowl, and beat it with an electric mixer until it’s light and creamy. Add the sugar mixture gradually, beating it in as you go. Add the vanilla and beat. Gradually add milk, until the frosting is the right consistency.
Frost the brownies and decorate the top with chocolate sprinkles (jimmies) or mini chocolate chips, if desired. Cut into 16 squares, or however many squares you want.
Instead of water, you can add leftover coffee or espresso to a brownie mix. It will give the brownies a very subtle mocha flavor. Espresso powder is more intensely flavored since it’s a concentrate and will flavor the brownies much more than plain coffee.
Brownies made with butter tend to have a more cake-like texture. For fudgy brownies, oil is usually a better choice.
Use a neutral flavored oil like vegetable, canola, or sunflower oil. A very mild tasting olive oil is okay; coconut oil may add a mild flavor to the brownies.
Make It Your Own
- Enjoy the brownies without frosting, if you prefer. Canned frosting can be substituted for homemade frosting.
- Prefer a caffeine-free brownie? Use decaffeinated instant coffee instead of espresso powder(make sure it’s powder, not granules) or omit the espresso powder.
- If you’d rather make brownies from scratch instead of using a boxed mix, that’s perfectly okay.
Store brownies in an airtight container. They’re best if you eat them within a day or two. I usually store frosted brownies in the refrigerator or freezer, especially if it’s a warm day, so the frosting doesn’t become too soft.
- 1 box brownie mix, prepared as directed (make sure you select a mix that makes a 9×13 inch pan)
- oil, egg, water as directed on package
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- ½ cup (one stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons milk (add in increments, as needed for right consistency)
- Preheat oven to 325°F (or as directed on box mix). Spray a 9×13 inch pan lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
- Prepare brownies as directed on box, except add espresso powder to dry mix. Fold chocolate chips into batter. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
- Bake for 25 minutes or as directed on box. Place pan on wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- To make frosting: Cream butter with electric mixer until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, cocoa, and espresso powder gradually. Mix in vanilla and milk in 1 tablespoon increments until the frosting is desired consistency.
- Spread frosting on completely cooled bars. Add sprinkles or mini chocolate chips, if desired. Cut into squares and serve.
- Brownies can be enjoyed without the frosting, if desired.
- To amp up the coffee flavor, add more espresso powder. If you prefer, the espresso powder can be omitted. You’ll have to give your brownies a different name though!
- Store brownies in an airtight container. They’re best if you eat them within a day or two. I usually store frosted brownies in the refrigerator or freezer.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
This recipe was originally posted February 2011. It was updated in March, 2020.