We tasted a lot of brownies to find out.
Brownies, 3 Ways
Credit: Caitlin Bensel

So you want to make brownies from scratch. Amazing! We guarantee it's worth the extra effort (though if you are to go the boxed route, we've rounded up our favorites for you). But it's not as simple as baking the first recipe you see. First, you have to decide: do you want a chewy, fudgy, or cakey brownie?

The chewy brownie (center in the photo) is likely the one you know and love. It has—you guessed it—a thick and chewy outer crust with a rich chocolate center. A fudgy brownie (far left in the photo) is slightly underbaked, and is very gooey and dense. It is for true chocoholics. Cakey brownies (far right in the photo) may get a bad rap, but think of them as slices of fluffy chocolate cake, complete with an irresistible crackly shell on top.

As we were thinking about developing new brownie recipes, we got to wondering: what is it that creates the discrepancies between these types of brownies? Are the ingredients different, or just the way they're combined? After doing some research and testing multiple batches, we came to a few conclusions.

While butter is the only fat used in fudgy and cakey brownies, chewy brownies benefit from the addition of canola oil (which is also why this version may remind you of the boxed mixes). The addition of brown sugar is also crucial, because it speeds gluten formation, resulting in a chewier texture. Using cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate ensures they don't fall too deeply into the fudgy category.

Fudgy brownies benefit from less cocoa powder and the addition of chopped chocolate, which gets melted with the butter to create a thick, molten base. Pulling them out of the oven before a toothpick comes out clean also ensures the center stays fudge-like and gooey.

To create the airy texture of cakey brownies, we beat the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Instead of two large eggs and one large egg yolk (what you'll find in chewy and fudgy brownies), cakey brownies require two eggs and one white. That's because the egg white, when mixed with the sugar, creates the delicious, flaky crust on top of these brownies. You'll mix milk into this batter too, just like you would in a classic cake recipe. You'll also find that these have more flour, and require baking powder to help them rise.

Craving a brownie? We'd be concerned if you weren't. Check out our recipes for fudgy, chewy, and cakey brownies.