Three days without electricity was not going to stop me from getting my chocolate fix. 

By Melanie Mannarino
Updated March 20, 2018
Melanie Mannarino

The power had been out for three days, and I wanted brownies. Homemade brownies. As soon as possible. It was all I could think about (possibly a subconscious effort to distract myself from the 53-degree temperatures in my living room). If I could just have brownies, then the nor’easter wouldn’t have won. (Lack of electricity notwithstanding.)

The thing is, I have an electric wall oven. A double, in fact—which is doubly useless in a power outage. So I channeled my mother, who once baked a chocolate cake from scratch on our outdoor barbecue grill in the aftermath of a hurricane, and got thinking. What would Mom do? I had a gas cooktop—that had to be good for something. (My own grill, sadly, was in the back of the yard, buried in 10-inch deep snow drifts.)

I googled “cast iron skillet brownies.” Got a few results, but none looked appetizing, and nearly all were brownie hybrids. I wanted the real deal. Suddenly, I had a vague memory of reading about steamed English puddings—weren’t they basically cakes? And so, couldn’t I steam my brownies on the stovetop?

My husband thought I was crazy. He suggested brewing some Stress Relief tea to get my mind off brownies. My 8-year-old son doesn’t like brownies, so he wasn’t interested at all. But I was on a mission.

I searched for “stovetop cake” and found a Milk Street recipe. Yes! I felt like I was getting somewhere. The recipe called for rolling aluminum foil into a coil and setting it in the bottom of a dutch oven, adding an inch or two of water to the pot, then resting a cake pan filled with batter on top. Shut the lid, steam the cake—and eat it. Now, I know that brownies and chocolate cake have different textures, but I was willing to bet that the technique would work. (And worst case scenario? Semi-cooked chocolate brownie batter—still a pretty good outcome.)

So I mixed up my favorite recipe, made my foil coil, added water to bottom of my Le Creuset, and nestled a round cake pan filled with brownie batter right in there. Then I turned on the gas, covered my pot, and waited. For their stovetop cake recipe, Milk Street suggested keeping the same cook time as in the original recipe, so I did the same. And 30 or so minutes later, I opened the lid to…steam-cooked brownies!

Naturally I couldn’t wait for them to cool. Removing the pan from the dutch oven was tricky, so I used kitchen tongs on one side and a spatula on the other to life it from the hot pot. Then I grabbed a knife and dug in.

The first brownie—still very warm from the cooking—had a lighter, fluffier texture than my brownies usually do. I chalked it up to the extra moisture from steaming. Later, once they had a chance to cool, the brownies took on a much fudgier texture. Both ways were incredibly delicious and completely hit the spot.

Next nor’easter, I won’t be afraid of a power outage. Not as long as I have the necessary ingredients for steamed Blackout Brownies, and a match with which to light a gas burner on my range. Bring it, Mother Nature!