Difference Between Brownies and Cake

Brownies have plenty of similarities, from ingredients to taste. However, they’re definitely not the same thing. Brownies tend to be denser and chewier due to a lack of baking soda and baking powder. They’re also easier to bake and (typically) don’t require any decorating.

Hi, there! My name is Michelle, and I’ve enjoyed baking for the past ten-plus years. While I’m a big fan of brownies and cakes, I have to say that brownies are my number one dessert. (They “take the cake, if you will” – har har.)

While munching on either dessert is bound to be a delectable experience, you might wonder – what’s the real difference between these two treats? If you’re curious about the difference between brownies and cake, keep reading. I’m sharing the top six differences!

Let’s find out why brownies and cakes are different. 

Six Reasons Why Brownies and Cake Are Different 

Brownies and cake are infinitely popular dessert options, but they can’t be used interchangeably. Brownies and cakes have significant differences that set them apart. Let’s dive in!

1. Ingredients

It all starts with the ingredients. Now, you will notice that cakes and brownies share a few mutual ingredients, such as sugar and flour. However, cakes have one key component that brownies don’t: a leavening agent, such as baking soda, baking powder, or both.

While some brownie recipes may include a leavening agent, it’s typically a very minimal amount. For example, my favorite brownie recipe of all-time includes ¼ teaspoon of baking powder, which is a tiny amount compared to 1 ¾ teaspoon in this classic white cake recipe

2. Flavors

Everyone will think of something different when they think of “cake.” Some stick to the traditional options, like chocolate cake, while others (like me) step out of the box and think of something unique like Tres Leches Cake.

The same isn’t true for brownies. Brownies are almost always chocolate-flavored. Sure, there might be a few mix-ins like walnuts or Oreo cookies. But the base brownie recipe and flavor tend to stay the same.

That said, a cake is far more versatile than brownies. There are endless flavor combinations and options for cake.

3. Texture

One key difference between brownies and cake is the texture. Cakes have that desirable fluffy and airy texture that feels like a pillow in your mouth. On the other hand, brownies have a denser and more rigid consistency. But why?

cake

It all comes down to the ingredients. The inclusion of a leavening agent in cake allows it to rise or puff up, allowing for a lighter texture. Brownies contain little to no leavening agents and extra fat, making them thicker and chewier. 

Brownie

Some even claim a brownie is a cross between a cake and a cookie, and that makes total sense.

4. Decoration

A cake is almost always decorated with some icing, whether thick buttercream frosting or a lighter whipped cream. Even cakes that don’t use icing are usually decorated with something, such as fresh fruit or candies. 

Brownies? Well, they’re rarely decorated. The chocolate typically speaks for itself, and the notorious crinkly appearance is enough to swoon our hearts and palettes. 

5. Complexity

Not everyone will agree with me on this, and that’s okay. But let me tell you this much – I find it 100% easier to whip up a batch of brownies than to put together an entire cake. Even the simplest cakes will require extra steps, and don’t forget the decorating once it’s cooled.

Cakes get further complicated when adding extra tiers, intricate fillings, or wild flavor combinations. Not only is this trickier, but it’s also significantly time-consuming. (It’s well worth it in the end, of course!).

Brownies are more of a one-and-done type of dessert. You mix the ingredients, bake them for 25 minutes, and let them cool. Then, they’re ready to serve – no extra steps required. 

If you’re looking for simplicity, whether you’re a brand new baker or short on time, I would highly suggest baking brownies rather than a cake. 

6. Serving

Last but not least, another big difference between brownies and cake is how they’re served. 

A cake will need to be cut using a long knife (preferably serrated) and served on a plate with a fork. You can cut brownies with a butter knife and eaten on the go.

To put it simply, a cake is a sit-down and enjoy kind of dessert, while a brownie tends to be more of a handheld treat you can eat anywhere. (Bonus: no extra dishes or utensils to clean after eating brownies!)

Bonus: Purpose

There is one more possible reason why brownies and cakes are different – their purpose. Most of the time, a cake is baked for a celebration such as a birthday, anniversary, or graduation.

Brownies are typically baked for bake sales at elementary schools or as a dessert for the family to enjoy at home. 

However, I don’t 100% agree with this. I have been to a few events that opted for desserts, especially if the venue didn’t have seating and arrangements for people to sit down and consume cake with a plate and fork. 

That said, it’s more likely to find cake at celebrations compared to brownies, but you can choose whichever dessert you want.

FAQs

Basically, brownies are an excellent dessert if you want something quick, chewy, and delicious. If you still have more questions about the difference between brownies and cake, check out these four frequently asked questions.

Is brownie batter and cake batter the same?

They are similar, but not entirely the same. However, you can turn brownie batter into cake batter by reducing most fat, adding a teaspoon of baking powder, and cracking one more egg into the mix. This will ensure the light and fluffy cake texture is achieved.

Are brownies considered cake?

Brownies are not considered cake. They differ far too much from traditional cakes and are classified as finger food and a bar cookie. Remember earlier when we said brownies are a cross between a cake and a cookie? 

Why do brownies turn into cakes?

They usually don’t, unless something went wrong with the ingredients and mixing. For one, make sure you’re not adding too much baking powder. Brownies typically have none or very little. Then, don’t overmix. Overmixing will aerate the batter and cause a fluffier texture.

Do brownies need baking powder?

Brownies do not need baking powder whatsoever. However, recipes tend to have at least a little bit of baking powder, so it’s not too dense. You can leave baking powder out entirely if you please and still get the same great results.

Final Thoughts

Brownies and cakes are both tremendously tasty, but not the same thing. Brownies are significantly denser than cake and typically have no decorations or added flavors or pizazz. Brownies are also much easier to make than a cake and don’t require as much time.

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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