Are Brownies Cake or Cookies? What Exactly Are They? 

Last updated on August 17th, 2022 at 07:09 am

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After a nice hearty dinner, sometimes an equally sweet dessert seems appropriate. What do you reach for at dessert? 

Are you a cookie and milk kind of person? Maybe you prefer cake and frosting? What about brownies or blondies for dessert? 

Whatever your choice of dessert is, there have been a few debates about the last one, the brownie. Is the brownie considered a cake dessert or a cookie? 

Brownies are bar cookies and are not considered cake. Like cookies, you eat brownies with your hands. However, like cake, you can add frosting to brownies and eat the best parts of both desserts. 

Some stories say that brownies were first created by the Palmer House Hotel kitchen staff. Bertha Palmer asked the staff for a dessert that can travel well. A cake-like sweet, but smaller and easier to handle dessert that could be packed in boxed lunches. 

The Palmer House brownie had walnuts and an apricot glaze. These brownies were served for decades at the Palmer House Hotel to patrons. 

The dessert did not get its name, brownie, until after 1893 and wasn’t published in cooking books until 1896. 

Why Are Brownies Not Considered A Cake? 

Cakes and brownies are both delicious treats. They both seem to have the same kind of consistency once baked. You can even put frosting on brownies for an extra bit of sweetness. 

So why are brownies not considered a part of the “cake” family? 

While there may not seem to be many differences between cakes and brownies, they are not the same. 

Cakes are soft and fluffy and brownies are gooey and dense. Brownies are not considered cakes due to the rising agent. Brownies either don’t call for a rising agent or have very little in them. 

The lack of rising agent is what causes the brownies to be dense and the cakes light and fluffy.

In order to see exactly why a brownie is not considered a cake, we need to look at the differences between cakes and brownies. 


Cakes and brownies share many of the same ingredients, however brownies are always going to have a cocoa base. You can change the flavor of cakes by adding ingredients or changing a few to create a different taste. 

For example, carrot cake sounds pretty great, but carrot brownies sound like food to trick kids into eating vegetables. 


While they are prepared very similarly by simply mixing ingredients, the difference comes in the type of pans used. If you plan on an elaborate cake, you will have multiple different pans and even several different shapes and sizes. 

Even if you decide to frost your brownies and make them elaborate, it’s still pretty much just a square pan you need to make the brownies. 


Cakes and brownies vary greatly when it comes to decorations. You can create some truly wonderful things with cakes. 

You can have multi-tiered cakes, animal shaped cakes, theme cakes, and pretty much any type of cake decoration you can think of. 

Brownies, you pretty much just get a sheet of them. You can decide to frost brownies and add sprinkles, but that still doesn’t compare to a multi-tiered cake.


A cake is a bit more intricate in its process of cutting and serving. You should use a special cake set of utensils for perfect slices of cake to serve. 

Whereas a brownie can be cut with pretty much any type of knife and served with any spatula.


Brownies are simple to eat and are considered finger food. Very rarely do you see someone eating a brownie with a fork. 

Cakes on the other hand are almost impossible to eat without a fork. However, both desserts do pair nicely with a glass of milk. 

What Makes Brownies Fudgy Vs. Cakey? 

Some people love the gooey, fudgy center of brownies and will even cut around the more cakey edges. Others tend to avoid the gooey center and reach for the cakey edges. What makes brownies sometimes fudgy and other times cakey? 

To get your brownies gooey and fudgy, all you need to do is add more fat. The higher the fat-to-flour ratio, the more gooey your brownies. If you prefer fudgy brownies then add some extra butter to your batter. 

If you want to avoid any gooey fudge taste in your brownies, then you would need to decrease the fat-to-flour ratio. Your batter should have more flour and baking powder. 

This will take away most of the fudgy taste and leave you with cakier-tasting brownies. 

Whichever taste you prefer for your brownies, the amount of sugar and eggs you need when making brownies does not change. 

Are Brownies Healthier Than Cake? 

Not all desserts are created calorically equal. If you are counting calories, carbs, macros, etc. you will find that the numbers between desserts vary greatly. 

While one day you might be able to eat a decent amount of ice cream, the next day’s dessert might just be two cookies and no milk. How about brownies and cakes? 

Since they contain mainly similar ingredients, is one healthier than the other? 

Brownies are made without a rising agent. This means that where cakes have an airiness about them, brownies are denser. Unfortunately, this does mean that cake may be on the healthier side. 

If you compare a plain 6-ounce brownie to a plain 6-ounce piece of cake, the cake is the “healthier” option. However, how many people eat a plain piece of cake? That 6-ounce piece of cake soon comes in for a close tie to the brownie once you add the frosting, sprinkles, and so on. 

If you are thinking of ordering a brownie as a healthier version of dessert in a restaurant, be aware that most restaurants serve brownies with a delicious scoop of vanilla ice cream and chocolate or caramel drizzle on top. 

That of course will add to the calories and sugar in the dessert. 

Final Thoughts 

Brownies are considered bar cookies as they are easy to eat while on the go. There may be a few differences between cakes, cookies, and brownies, but the ultimate decision for which one wins the best dessert is up to you. 

Hannah R.

Hey, I'm Hannah and I'm the founder of Get Eatin'.

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