My family has refined this brownie recipe since, many soggy Victorian Easters ago, mum found it in a 1960s American children’s cookbook.

Couped up in a caravan that was at least a decade older than the book, tensions between my brothers and I were mounting. Mum suggested we chose a recipe in a bid to keep peace in the tin bunker. I’m sure she reasoned it would keep our hands busy for at least fifteen minutes, and, hopefully, our mouths full for a little longer.

The recipe has matured with us and we we add a secret ingredient: coffee (in the tattered notebook where mum has transcribed the recipe, she hasn’t even written this ingredient down, should someone steal it. Luckily, she doesn’t use computers, so will probably not uncover my treason.)

1/2 cup butter (~150g), melted
1/3 cup cocoa (pure cocoa, not drinking chocolate which has sugar added)
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp instant coffee (and a little water to dissolve it)
1/2 cup self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, slightly beaten


  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan (risk bubbling it in the microwave and feel my mum’s wrath!), add the cocoa, sugar and coffee (dissolved in a cup).
  2. Pour the mixture into a bigger bowl and add the flour, vanilla and eggs.
  3. Pour into a well-greased 30cm x 21cm (or smaller) lamington tray (a type of tray that is 3cm deep)
  4. Bake for 30 minutes in a pre-heated moderate oven (180°C, or about 20°C less in a fan forced oven), or until the sides draw a little away from the pan but the centre is still fudgy.

To make them even more exciting you can add 1/2 a cup of finely chopped walnuts (avoid the ‘cooking walnuts’ as they are terribly bitter) or macadamias (I suggest toasting these in a dry frypan — no oil — to make them even more flavoursome); or blueberries or raspberries and white chocolate chips.

But even plain, a plateful got snapped up at the Crikey office.