Everyone Is “Upset” About the Way I Cut Brownies — I Must Defend My Honor

feature image photo by Vrinda Mahesh / 500px via Getty Images

I’m currently home alone, because my fiancé is away on a writing residency, and while she’s probably busy writing the next great dyke novel, I’m here at home doing equally vital work for the community: shitposting on Instagram.

It all started when I had a sudden craving for one of my favorite desserts: the humble brownie sundae. I marched to Publix, got my ingredients, and went through the motions of preparing boxed brownie mix, which is pretty much the limit of my baking skills. I’m a cook — not a baker. Apparently, I’m also a scourge of society, if my Instagram DMs are any indication. After baking my brownies, I posted what was easily my most controversial social media take of all time. No, it wasn’t about politics or the economy or anything like that. It was a photo of the way I had cut my brownies upon extracting them for the oven, a photo that displeased many, affirmed few. With it, I included my humble opinion that brownies should always be cut middle-first. Confused? Take a look:

a screenshot of Kayla Kumari's instagram story, showing a glass pan of brownies with a piece from the center cut out and removed. the text reads: "does anyone else do this with brownies so u can get the most medium rare piece"

Responses to this claim ranged from bewildered to aghast, with a handful of folks chiming in to say I was brave to take this bold and correct stance. “Unhinged,” one friend merely replied. “Kayla what,” said another. “Wait…..” said one, who seemingly could not process what she was looking at. “My dad does this, and everyone yells at him” a stranger said, and to this father out there, I say: Solidarity! I feel it’s imperative to note that the wife of one of the people who called my actions unhinged separately messaged me to say I was right. I hope #BrownieGate has not negatively affected their marriage!

The reactions streamed in, a lot of questions were asked, and I was forced to post a few follow ups defending and contextualizing my stance.

While there were many people who defended the edges and corners of brownies, claiming them to be chewy and delicious (imo, they are crumbly, dry, and too much like a cookie, and if I were in the mood for a cookie, I would have a cookie), even those who agreed with me a medium rare brownie is best were apparently still upset by my actions. They took offense not to the piece of brownie I favor but to the way I went about getting to it. It was my refusal to cut the entire brownie pan into rectangles before taking out the middle that was the problem. Why stab and remove the middle? How will one continue to eat the rest?

Well, the much needed context is that when I’m making brownies, it’s almost exclusively for a brownie sundae. I didn’t spend time cutting the entire pan of brownies, because I wanted a very smushy, hot, borderline raw piece of brownie to be the base of my sundae. A brownie sundae where the brownie is not warm enough to at least partially melt some of the ice cream and whipped cream atop it is not a brownie sundae for me!

One friend said my chaotic cutting method is excusable if I’m planning to eat the entire pan of brownies myself. It is not a cut conducive to sharing. To that, I say: Fair. These were brownies for one.

As to the questions asked about how I would continue to eat the rest of the brownie, my answer is simple. In the days since that fateful brownie night, every time I want a piece of brownie, I simply cut off a bite-sized or couple-bite-sized piece with a knife, not caring much for shape or exactitude, and squeeze some whipped cream on top and eat it. I will continue to do so until the brownies are gone, which they very nearly are. Again, I suppose this only works when I’m enjoying brownies solo.

A lot of people called for a retraction to my statement, but I held fast. As I persevered, I was also exposed to some brownie takes that seem even wilder than my own! More than one person claimed that not only must one cut the entire pan but that the middle piece must be “worked up to.” Almost a “saving the best for last” mentality or, as Autostraddle Editor in Chief Carmen put it, “edging by eating edges.”

I had to put it to a poll to determine overall consensus once and for all. In the end, 67% of my followers said I was unhinged, and 33% said I was correct. I can live with a one-third approval rating.

So, I bring this to you! Where do you stand on #BrownieGate?

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 814 articles for us.

49 Comments

  1. I agree that the middle part is the best part of a pan of brownies, but I cannot fathom not saving the best for last. After you eat the best part what is there to look forward to??
    But also if you save it for last it won’t be hot and gooey so might not the best part anymore.
    Someone should write their thesis about this ethical dilemma

    • The time element is crucial! That middle piece is at peak deliciousness in those first few minutes out of the oven. Once it’s cooled down, who even cares? Solution: eat the entire rest of the brownie pan really fast, then you can have the middle piece for last while it’s still hot

  2. imo a pan of brownies should be cut not into squares but instead as a narrow border all the way around, and all relationships should be comprised of a person who will eat that border with all the edges and another person who will eat the (clearly superior) edge-free inside part. this type of balance is more essential to me than ensuring all relationships have a person who doesn’t want the pickle that comes on their plate at a diner and another person who will eat each plate’s complimentary pickle.

  3. My solution is usually to (slightly) undercook the brownies altogether, so that the edge pieces are in that soft, medium-rare state when it comes out of the oven. And when I eat the middle later I’m likely to microwave it slightly to warm it up (unless I’m in the mood to just cut off a bite-size sliver whenever I walk past the brownie pan). Ngl, I haven’t made brownies in a long time and am now considering it…

  4. I’m of the opinion that the middle brownies are best, but they have to be worked up to. You have to snake your way through the pan, so that the minimum possible edges are exposed to the air, thus preserving the freshness as best you can. Even if I were planning on eating the whole pan by myself, I would snake my way through it so that I wouldn’t have to eat dry ones later

    Also imo a standard square pan yields 16 brownies, not 9. I like them small (but yes sometimes take two at a time)

    • I like smaller desserts that I just eat more of too! I like when something is bite sized lol. I even cut tollhouse cookies in half before baking them which for some reason is different to me than buying the tollhouse minis

  5. I’m glad we are bringing this to the proper authority, the whims of the people, so i can finally say that for once I got to wonder “is this a weird American thing?” which as a Canadian is all you can hope for some days. I will say, you have forced me to question everything i thought to be true about cutting up baked goods

  6. This is completely horrifying. I see your reasons for wanting the middle piece and that’s perfectly sensible but I can’t imagine how it would be quicker to mangle the poor brownie like that than lifting it out and cutting it into squares. But I use greaseproof paper when I bake brownie and clearly have inferior middle-piece-cutting skills so 🤷

  7. This is too “Funny” are you needy or clingy?? Eating, cutting, you’re Brown-eye!! Is you’re bussiness…..
    Have fun in life, not regret! GL and God speed

  8. The sundae logic makes sense to me! And I like the cutting-off-little-slivers approach, although I would be afraid it would dry out in the pan.

    I am also particular about the way I cut and eat my brownies, but in the opposite way – I only like them frozen. I only make the Smitten Kitchen cocoa brownie recipe (the perfect brownie in my opinion), and I cut them into small pieces as soon as they’re cooled and freeze them. I don’t like them warm or at room temperature but they’re perfect just out of the freezer or slightly thawed! I like a firm but fudgy brownie. I also don’t like the edge pieces and give them to my spouse. Yum, brownies!!

  9. Your breakfast pasta article permanently changed how I view and interact with breakfast, much to the confusion of the people in my life, but I’m afraid this is a food road I cannot follow you down. This is like taking the centers out of cinnamon rolls or eating a cheesecake with chocolate poured on by cutting circles from the center to get the most chocolate. Of course the center is the best part, but the days long conversation you have with the food doesn’t start with the brownie climax, but the crunchy introduction and rising action of the slightly cake-y outer brownie.

    …But also like, this is definitely harder than cutting the whole tray then stealing the innermost brownie. One sundae will have a bunch of brownie and the next will have too little brownie!

    • First you mention breakfast pasta, and then you double down with “the days long conversation you have with the food doesn’t start with the brownie climax, but the crunchy introduction and rising action of the slightly cake-y outer brownie.”…this is hands down the most erotica comment I have read on this whole site 🥵

  10. The picture makes me die a little inside until I remember they are just box brownies anyway, so it isn’t like they deserve much respect to begin with.

    See, The problem here is that your cutting method has evolved from subpar brownies. Box brownies are always too dry along the edges anyway but if the outside edges are dry and crumbly while the inside is moist and mushy, then they also have you baking it at WAY too high a temp.

    I know you say it is the limit of your baking, but I submit that box brownies are MORE work than a basic, but acceptable scratch brownies. 5 ingredients and 10 minutes will get you decent brownies into the oven. Best part is that you can tweak the end texture by simply adding or subtracting flour. Don’t even need to measure it, really.

    You can do it! I believe in you!

  11. this really is some agent of chaos brownie cutting, but i’m not mad at it. i think we can all agree that the true crime against desserts is serving a cold brownie with a brownie sundae.

  12. I really love fudge-style brownies so I don’t usually have this problem. All of the brownies I make have that gooey medium-rare consistency. :)

    Honestly I think how you cut out the center brownie is fine. You have nothing to apologize for. And it’s even easy for someone else to cut out their own square!

  13. My only take on this is why for the love of goodness have you baked a 9 x 9 pan of brownies and not a 9 x 13 pan because 9 x 13 = many more center brownies?!? (unequivocally the better brownies)

    I have been living in the land of centimetres for a couple decades now but unless I severely misremember my own suburban Atlanta childhood, box brownies are a 9 x 13 endeavour. So why 9 x 9? Why?

  14. If there is another person in the vicinity then it would be completely unacceptable, and if you’re making brownies to eat brownies then it seems like the most shortsighted cut — but what you’re really doing here isn’t making brownies, it’s making a sundae ingredient that happens to come with free brownie edges. In that context it works.

  15. My partner says: “Respect. Everyone else is just jealous of how wise she is.” They also favor middle pieces, so when we make brownies, I’ll take any edge pieces.

  16. Hate to be this person Kayla, but I do love the edges and corners of brownies. But listen I don’t care what you people do as long as it’s in the privacy of your own home

  17. My gut reaction is that this is darksided and genuinely unsettling, but upon further review and much soul searching, I’ve decided to respect anyone who refuses to ration their joy even if I would prefer to never view the dark and unhinged ways in which they pursue that particular joy.

  18. Speaking as an avid baker and lover of goo – my solution is lower the temperature for a more even bake AND slightly under cook the whole pan. I want it fudgy, but I also like the interesting chew that comes with an edge piece. Leave it to this bisexual to insist that a choice does not have to be made. ;)

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