A Brownie Experiment

This past weekend, I for once had time to experiment with baking. I recently began making some baked goods with a sugar-free product. I have found success with cakes, but I ran into a problem when I made brownies. At first I thought perhaps it was due to the recipes I was trying. Then I thought the recipe needed to be doubled to provide more bulk. Eventually, I just realized that a sugar-free blend truly makes a difference in recipes, especially brownies, which rely more heavily on the sugar to give it flavor AND texture.

When I made the sugar-free brownies, they were flat, darker in appearance, and lacked the flakey thin crust that makes brownies so good. Adding 1 tsp baking soda for every 1 cup of sugar-free substitute would help with the flatness.

The paper thin, flakey crust is complex, and while I have read multiple articles on what creates this crust, I am still not entirely sure. I read a theory that this crust was created by whipping the eggs into the creamed sugar and melted butter mixture until very light and fluffy. The whipped air incorporated into the creamed mixture creates a sort of meringue. The more you whip the mixture, the more prominent the crust is.
Another theory I came across was the addition of chocolate chips, chocolate syrup, or corn syrup. All three of those do have one ingredient in common – some form of sugar. The theory bend this? I am not entirely sure. Sugar acts as a humectant which retains moisture. Perhaps it is in part due to this property.

My experiment proved the above sugar theory true. The ONLY change I encountered in my recipes was the sugar. In one recipe I used regular sugar, while the other I used a sugar-free substitute. I used cocoa powder in my recipes and flour. The end result was a delicious fudgey brownie with a tender, flakey crust. Regardless of what the true science is behind this phenomenon, I would advocate for full sugar brownies, and just watch my portion size. You can’t beat the real thing!


  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Heat oven to 350F and spray an 8×8 pan with cooking spray.
  2. Mix melted butter and sugar together in mixing bowl with spatula, or in a KitchenAid mixer with paddle attachment.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time and beat until well combined and light in color.
  4. Add vanilla extract and mix.
  5. Add flour and cocoa powder. Mix until just combined.
  6. Pour into 8×8 pan. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes.

Pictures below: darker brownie is the sugar-free brownie


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