Well, I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ve been getting lots of requests for gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan recipes. This is another one that came at the request of a friend. She asked if I could make something for her son’s birthday……the only kicker was that it had to be both gluten-free and vegan. And since I believe every kid (and really every adult) should have an awesome dessert on their birthday – I immediately accepted the challenge.
At first I thought I would make a cake, because cakes and birthdays pretty much go hand in hand. But every time I tried to make a cake that was vegan and gluten-free, I was less than impressed with the results. Actually, that’s a nice way of putting it. To put it in clearer terms – I legit spit out a bite of one of the cakes I made. Sooooo that meant I had to figure out something else that felt birthday-ey to me. Basically something I could frost and put sprinkles on…….which led me to brownies.
I mean who doesn’t love brownies??? Especially when they’re topped with a super fluffy vegan chocolate frosting. Since the brownies were for a kid’s birthday party, I had two requirements for the recipe. The first was I didn’t want it to rely too heavily on almond flour. While I adore almond flour for gluten-free baking, it just didn’t seem right for the occasion. I wanted something that more closely resembled the texture of non-GF brownies. So even though the recipe does contain almond flour, it plays more of a supporting role than a main one.
The other requirement was that it had to be super chocolaty, but nothing too dark or bittersweet. Mostly cause the majority of kids aren’t super stoked on intensely dark and bitter 88% chocolate (crazy…..I know). I settled on using a 55% chocolate from Equal Exchange that provided the perfect balance of sweetness and slight bitterness. However, if you like your brownies supppper dark – feel free to use whatever percentage you like! The recipe also calls for a bit of espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor, but it’s totally optional so you can leave it out if it’s not your jam. But I definitely recommend giving it a shot!
The technique to make the vegan chocolate frosting is slightly different from your basic frosting recipe. First you melt the vegan butter, chocolate chips and almond milk together. Then you let it cool until it resembles the texture of pudding and then add in the cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar and whip it at high speed. Trust me when I say I tested this recipe using every possible method and this ended up being both the easiest and most fool-proof way to get a light, fluffy and silky smooth vegan frosting.
One more thing to note, I like to use a mini-cheesecake pan with removable bottoms to make these. This is a trick I start doing after making countless cookie cups in a mini-muffin pan and trying to pry each one out with a knife. Basically, I ended up with a lot of sad looking cookie cups. The majority of them either had parts stuck to the pan or got smooshed in when I tried to get them out. Ever since then, I’ve used a mini-cheesecake pan and it makes life soooooo much easier. The removable bottoms pretty much guarantee the brownie bites will come out nicely. You can totally make these in a mini-muffin pan too – it will just take a bit more effort to finagle them out at the end. The other option is to bake them as a standard brownie in an 8×8-inch pan (I included instructions down in the notes for this).
Whichever way you decide to make them, they’re going to be awesome. And here’s my pro-tip for the day……don’t skimp on the frosting! Cause when it comes to frosting – you can never have too much!
Double Chocolate Frosted Brownie Bites (Vegan and Gluten-Free)
Brownie recipe adapted from Oh She Glows
- Yield: approximately 2 dozen
For the brownies:
• 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon flaxseed meal
• ½ cup arrowroot flour
• ⅔ cup almond flour
• 1 cup brown rice flour
• ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (if using regular salt – cut back to ½ teaspoon)
• ¼ teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
• ¼ teaspoon baking soda
• ½ cup coconut oil (I prefer to use refined in this recipe)
• ⅔ cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips
• 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
• 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon almond milk (my favorite is from Three Trees)
• ½ cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
For the Vegan Chocolate Frosting:
• ½ cup vegan butter
• ⅔ cup vegan chocolate chips (I use Equal Exchange 55% chips)
• ¼ cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
• ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a mini-cheesecake or mini-muffin pan with coconut oil and set aside.
To make the flaxseed egg, mix together the flaxseed meal with 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the brown rice flour, arrowroot flour, almond flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, kosher salt, and espresso powder (if using).
In a microwaveable bowl, add the coconut oil and ⅔ cup chocolate chips. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each, until the chocolate and coconut oil are smooth and melted. Then add in the sugar, almond milk, vanilla extract, and flaxseed egg and whisk until combined.
Add the chocolate mixture into your dry ingredients and stir until everything comes together in a thick batter. It will be thicker than a traditional brownie batter, but that’s okay! Then fold in the additional ½ cup of chocolate chips.
Evenly divide the batter among the mini-cheesecake pan, filling each about ¾ of the way full. Bake for 19 – 22 minutes or until the edges look just set. Let the brownie bites cool in the pan for at least 1 hour.
While the brownies are cooling, it’s time to make the frosting! In a microwaveable bowl, place the vegan butter, chocolate chips, vanilla extract and almond milk. Microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring between each, until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Set aside and let cool to room temperature or until it resembles the texture of pudding.
Once the chocolate mixture is cool enough, transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixture fitted with a paddle attachment. Add in the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder and beat at medium-low speed until the frosting just comes together (about 1 – 2 minutes). Then increase the speed to high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy (about 3 – 5 minutes).
Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with the tip of your choice (I used a Wilton 2D). Pipe a swirl or rosette or design of your choice on top of each brownie bite and finish with a little bit of sprinkles….just for that little something extra!
*These can also be made as regular brownies. To do so, line an 8×8-inch metal pan with foil and lightly grease with coconut oil. Follow directions as instructed and bake for 25 – 26 minutes or until the edges look just set. Let cool in the pan for at least 2 hours. The longer you let them cool and set – the easier they’ll be to cut!