Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

We laid on the couch, bodies intertwined and covered with a heavy knit blanket that was a foot too short for our long bodies. The house was dark, but dimly lit from the glowing city just outside our window. A city that was alive and bustling with noisy people amidst the rain; they were honking their horns at bus drivers and shouting at the valet from the entrance of Kimbal Musk’s fancy eatery. It’s called The Kitchen and, although I dig their philosophy, I don’t subscribe to their version of fine dining because I don’t think a small bowl of bland ass quinoa served with a few roasted vegetables should cost $18. Let alone be considered a meal. But that’s not the point, the point is that there were noisy people outside my house and all I wanted to do was open the window and tell them to quiet down because I can count on three fingers the number of times I’ve been home to witness the sound of hundreds of millions of water molecules hitting the roof over my head. And you know what? I think that’s kind of unfortunate.

So the rain. It lightly spattered the tin roof and we listened intently, trying hard to block out the chatter from the masses of noisy people below. At one point, an obnoxious group of what was probably a bachelorette party spent five minutes too long standing at the intersection of 16th and Wazee. It wouldn’t have been an issue except one of the attendees had one of the loudest, most unpleasant laughs I’ve heard in the entirety of my life. I leapt from the couch with every intention of heckling her (it’s actually one of my favorite things to do, heckle people from our fourth story loft) (sometimes I’m an ass), but just as the window cracked open I caught the faintest scent of petrichor as it drifted through the humid night air. And then I forgot about the lady with the obnoxious laugh because I love that smell, but not as much as I love laying on his chest and listening to his heart as it pounds beneath his ribcage. Have you ever done that? Laid on your lover’s chest and just listened to the sound of the one thing that’s keeping their blood flowing and organs working and, essentially, making their entire world go ’round? So I went back over to the couch and placed my head over his perfectly rhythmic chest instrument. And I listened.

Buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum

Cake linersBrownie cake batterChocolate coconut frosting

Tell me a story, I said.
No, you tell me a story, he replied. I always tell you stories.
Tell me about Europe, I begged.

And so, without a moment of hesitation, he started rambling on about Europe. About climbing to the top of Ben Nevis, riding bikes around Amsterdam, and visiting all of our favorite places in Paris. Taking the lovers walk on the Italian Riviera and drinking hefeweizen from enormous steins at Oktoberfest in Munich. Hiking through the Šumava and spending long afternoons on the sandy beaches of Croatia, where Roman emperors used to retire. He went on and on, telling me about the history of each of the countries we’re visiting this summer. 19 of them total. Nineteen different countries and cultures and a dozen different languages over the course of four months, from July to November.

His infinite wisdom eventually put me to sleep. Not because I was disinterested, but because it’s so soothing to listen to someone pour the intellectual contents of their brain onto you. Like the rain on the tin roof, only better. Better than the petrichor or Matt Berninger’s voice or finding my favorite chocolate in the pocket of my jeans. Ok, maybe not better than finding chocolates hidden in my clothes, but you get the point. Right? So this summer, we’re heading to Europe for the adventure of a lifetime, and if you live there or have plans on being there, too, we’d love to get together. Seriously, let’s get together.

Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frostingBrownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

Also, I’ve got a little bonus for you before we get to the recipe. Our sweet new friend, Kathryn, came to photograph our place last weekend and the final shots are now up on her site. Please no remarks about my stringy hair, mom jeans, or the fact I spelled je t’aime all sorts of wrong. In my defense, I was in a hurry to write something on the jar before Kathryn snapped a photo. And. Well. French is not my first language. In hindsight, I should have just drawn a big heart. Or maybe boobs because that would be funny.

Notes: These cakes are dense – they’re literally a cross between a brownie and a cupcake; not as dense as a brownie, not as light as a cupcake. If you don’t have cacao powder, natural cocoa powder will work. They’re essentially the same thing as far as baking is concerned. Same goes for the spelt flour; unbleached flour or a gluten free flour blend substitute well. I do not recommend making a substitute for the coconut oil, as it gives the cakes a mild coconut flavor and pairs well with the frosting. Speaking of frosting, you can use any liquid sweetener you want – maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, etc. I’ve been finishing off a bottle of coconut nectar, or else I’d have probably used brown rice syrup. You’ll have to adjust the amount depending on how sweet your like your frosting.

Update: I recommend using a bar that’s at least 70% cacao. I’ve used bars from Lake Champlain, Chocolove, and Ikea. Although I’m not sure Ikea is considered good quality, it produced a damn good brownie cake.


Brownie cakes
1 1/4 cups whole spelt flour
1/2 cup cacao powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp unrefined coconut oil
3 oz good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup cane sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 flax eggs
1 1/4 cups boiling water

Chocolate coconut frosting
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
4-6 tbsp coconut nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp cacao powder
Pinch of fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cacao powder, sea salt, and baking powder; set aside. In a double boiler over medium heat, melt the coconut oil and chocolate, then stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the chocolate mixture, flax eggs, and boiling water; whisk vigorously to combine. Add a heaping 1/4 cup of batter to each muffin liner, then bake at 350˚F for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow cakes to rest in pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cakes will keep in an air tight container for up to three days.

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting by adding the shredded coconut and coconut milk to a food processor fitted with the S blade. Blend until mostly smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Once smooth, add 4 tablespoons of the coconut nectar and vanilla extract; pulse to combine. Sift in the cacao powder and sea salt then pulse until incorporated. Taste the frosting; if it needs to be a bit sweeter, add more nectar. If you want it to be thinner, add a bit more coconut milk (1-2 tablespoons). Once the cakes have cooled, generously frost them and serve immideately.

Yield: 1 dozen cakes


  • Reply Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar 28 February 2013 at 1:59 PM

    That frosting is totally calling my name! Awesome recipe!

  • Reply london bakes 28 February 2013 at 2:16 PM

    Oh you totally know the way to my heart with these little bits of goodness. And I’m totally jealous of your trip – you’re going to some of my very favourite places in the world and more that I want to visit one day.

  • Reply Elenore 28 February 2013 at 2:28 PM

    You are just tooo adorable and funny for words! LOVE ya babe!

  • Reply Laura 28 February 2013 at 2:44 PM

    Reference to petrichor, The National and brownies in one post! You know me, woman. Wishing I was European right about now. We would SO chill.

  • Reply Shanna Mallon 28 February 2013 at 2:49 PM

    Oh my goodness, you tell a good story. And PS the pictures of your place? LOVE them. You’re adorable.

  • Reply Ashley 28 February 2013 at 3:05 PM

    Goooorgeous. Love your photos, but that is nothing new. I could listen to you tell stories all day, but don’t worry, I won’t lay on your chest and listen to your heart thump. ;) But please, oh please, I need these brownie cakes! Also, I love your heckling nature. xo

  • Reply Megan 28 February 2013 at 3:09 PM

    You are my new favorite storyteller. And I just loved the pictures of your loft, I’m jealous of your light! These cakes look delicious, I’ll be sure to make them soon since I have recently tested a recipe of your and it was very well-received. Happy trip-daydreaming!

  • Reply Katerina 28 February 2013 at 3:26 PM

    sweet word and a mouthwatering cake! the best compination for a post is exactly this :)
    have a nice day!

  • Reply Kier 28 February 2013 at 3:40 PM

    The cake looks delicious, but the trip sounds even more amazing! My husband and I are contemplating doing the same thing this fall. We need a change, so why not quit our jobs and go?

  • Reply Little Kitchie 28 February 2013 at 3:44 PM

    Brownies + cupcakes = YES. I am also dying over the pics of your place. You’re both darling and your place is too!

  • Reply Liz B 28 February 2013 at 4:27 PM

    These look amazing!!
    If you come to Lisbon, Portugal – give me a shout!! Would love to meet in person!
    Two years ago, me and my boyfriend did a roadtrip from here to Poland, over two weeks. We did 11 countries, it was SO amazing and I loved your story of him telling it to you.. we do that alot too! Just imagine the memories you’re going to make! It will be awesome!!

    Liz B

  • Reply dana 28 February 2013 at 4:38 PM

    love love love. You and Kelsey are slaying me this week with your writing skillz. Brilliant recipe (MUST try), BEAUTIFUL photos (as always) and captivating narrative. Hoogs, Dana.

    P.S. nothing is better than sitting quiet, taking in a good rain storm (besides listening to your lover’s heart beat).

  • Reply Chef Amber Shea 28 February 2013 at 4:44 PM

    My husband Matt and I (if everything goes according to plan) should be in France/Italy/Germany in September. Can’t wait to hear your itinerary. :)
    These cakes look delicious, and I love that you used the word “petrichor.”

  • Reply Johanna 28 February 2013 at 5:36 PM

    okie dokie…they’re cooling right now. They seem to be okay, too, as I was concerned about how much batter there was for 12 cupcakes.

  • Reply Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough 28 February 2013 at 5:39 PM

    You’re the cutest and I LOVE your place and I totally have that Seinfood poster too and I want to eat all these brownie cakes and also pack me in your suitcase to Europe. Kthanks.

  • Reply Angry Asian 28 February 2013 at 6:02 PM

    yes to this post. i’m sometimes the biggest jerk but then my beloved will do something, say something that will reel me in and i’m back to his side and i beg him for a story about his childhood (i love stories about how white people grow up and his stories are the best) and the lovely cadence of his voice always soothes me.

  • Reply Soph 28 February 2013 at 6:15 PM

    You’re living my dreams, Ashlae. Re: Europe, all you need to know is that you have to go to Granada, it’s heaven.

  • Reply Katie L 28 February 2013 at 6:44 PM

    Hi Ashlae! I’m moving to Italy for a year in September, so if you’re around Florence anytime from then until you return to the states, I’d love to meet and share a meal with you! If not, I hope you have the most amazing trip. You’re such a delight to read! (Also, mom jeans rock.)

  • Reply Stacy 28 February 2013 at 6:49 PM

    Ah, your trip! How exciting. And you’re so right about the sound of a lover’s heartbeat: soothing, not to mention a helpful distraction from all of the chaos and noise of the streets below our windows, and of the world.

  • Reply Bake 28 February 2013 at 7:32 PM

    These look amazing! Trying to find something for our baby’s first birthday in a few weeks, these might just be perfect :) Oh, and we live in France at the moment but will probably be in the UK again by the time you go travelling, let us know if you need anything!! xoxo

  • Reply Mary Nickels 28 February 2013 at 8:18 PM

    am i the only one wondering what flax eggs are? can i sub with regular eggs? because if i can’t i may pass out from desire for these yum nuts!

    • Reply Ashlae 28 February 2013 at 8:21 PM

      Hi Mary! Sorry, I forgot to insert the link to the recipe (it’s there now). Flax eggs are a combination of flax meal + water. Most people do 1 tablespoon of fresh flax meal to 3 tablespoons of water, but I do 1 tablespoon of preground flax meal to 2 tablespoons of water. Do whatever works best for you! Enjoy :)

    • Reply Mary Nickels 8 March 2013 at 2:16 PM

      Thank you! News to me! Does your preferred proportion make for a different outcome in texture than the 3:1 ratio? Curious, cuz me thinks this is on my list-o today! And pin….you need a pin button….or do you have one and I am so blinded by love for your recipes and photos that I am not seeing it?

  • Reply Averie @ Averie Cooks 28 February 2013 at 9:03 PM

    I love the looks of the brownie cakes but the Chocolate coconut frosting is truly something I wouldn’t be able to stop taking tastes of :)

  • Reply vanilla bean blog 28 February 2013 at 9:53 PM

    I like you so much. (such beautiful photos!)

  • Reply Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe 28 February 2013 at 11:05 PM

    Oh my goodness, you guys are the cutest! Your European adventure sounds marvelous and these brownie cakes are dream-worthy. Love it all!

  • Reply Lindsey 1 March 2013 at 5:58 PM

    I made these this morning and took them into work. They were gone before lunch time =) Thanks for the recipe!

  • Reply Sonja 2 March 2013 at 2:36 AM

    You are hilarious! I can’t wait to live vicariously through your trip. And — sweet feature on Kathryn’s blog! Your hair was not stringy at all. :)

  • Reply 2 March 2013 at 1:07 PM

    As always you are an amazing storyteller as well as gorgeous photography!

    I know exactly what you mean about laying on your love’s chest and listening to him breathe and his heart beating. It’s one of the places I feel safest and most calm.

    These brownie cakes look amazing and I love the chocolate coconut frosting.

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  • Reply sweetmaddy 3 March 2013 at 3:50 PM

    I live in Paris! I’ll either be there or traveling this summer so I would love to meet you somewhere!!

  • Reply Ruthy (Omeletta) 4 March 2013 at 4:26 AM

    “rhythmic chest instrument” is now my most favorite phrase. And brownie cakes? Divine.

  • Reply Chelsea Shannon 4 March 2013 at 7:14 AM

    holy crap! this looks crazy amazing

  • Reply Kristy 7 March 2013 at 4:23 PM

    These sounds so friggin perfect right now! How did you know my problem with most cupcakes are that they aren’t brownie-ish enough? Love this!

    And your trip sounds absolutely fantastic! We are aiming to go to Europe in the fall, but one never can tell with our work schedules. Once we know for sure, I’ll definitely send you a message! :-)

  • Reply Erika 7 March 2013 at 9:17 PM

    Ahh. You are too funny. I demand (request) stories from my boyfriend all the time too, but he never delivers to quite the level your man does in terms of wordliness. Gotta get him to Europe! Speaking of, are you stopping by Greece? We may visit his classmate there…

  • Reply Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes 14 March 2013 at 1:55 PM

    You have such a way with words and you have a beautiful space to call home!

  • Reply Allison 15 March 2013 at 1:48 PM

    I loved drinking my coffee and reading your story, beautifully written. I can not wait to come home from work and try out the recipe! I have a question though, what liners did you use? Parchment paper? I am all about the presentation as much as the treat inside of it. Thanks!

    • Reply Ashlae 16 March 2013 at 12:14 AM

      They’re called tulip baking cups :) Enjoy, lady!

  • Reply Julianal Orozco 30 April 2013 at 6:35 AM

    These look divine. For the frosting do you use chilled/hardened coconut milk?

  • Reply Lisa 24 August 2013 at 10:29 PM

    Can we substitute the flax eggs?

    • Reply Ashlae 25 August 2013 at 1:11 AM

      Haven’t tried!

  • Reply Sonntagswerkeln oder bald ist WGT | Paisleystern 9 February 2014 at 12:53 PM

    […] habe mich für letztes entschieden, oh Wunder. Die Vorratsschublade gab noch alles hierfür her: Brownie Cakes. Ich habe die Zubereitung geringfügig geändert, statt Leinsamen”ei” […]

  • Reply Ramya 4 May 2014 at 7:27 AM

    Yummy Yummy brownies…really very tempting.Can’t wait to try them

  • Reply Mummy Made.It 2 July 2014 at 6:07 PM

    Yum! Love the frosting recipe….maybe I could just am entire bowl of that for lunch today!!

  • Reply jay 15 December 2014 at 5:43 AM

    i literally cried of happiness after eating these, (i suffer from a ton of allergies) thank you so much!!

  • Reply Rike 13 June 2015 at 7:14 AM

    This is awesome! God, I’m happy I found your blog. That was my third try baking vegan chocolate stuff and it worked out best (by far)! They’re so so delicious and I am so so grateful for that recipe. Thanks!

  • Reply Stephanie 25 September 2015 at 6:58 AM

    the best recipe I have tried so far!! I used whittaker’s 72% choc and they tasted perfect

  • Reply m.l. 10 May 2016 at 6:44 AM

    would it ruin the recipe to use eggs instead of flax eggs? i have been reading that flax seeds can be toxic, so i have been trying to avoid them, especially for my son.

    • Reply Ashlae 10 May 2016 at 10:26 AM

      Hello –

      I’d be interested in seeing the sources for such a claim. As far as I can tell, there is no scientific research that supports the notion that flax seeds are toxic (though, like apples, perhaps they are toxic when consumed in very large quantities). As for using eggs, I’m not sure.. but you certainly could give it a go.

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