A few months ago while visiting the library with the kids, I pulled The Night Circus off of the “librarian recommended” shelf. It looked interesting, and was easy to grab on my way out the door with my own little circus of children. I started reading that night and became enchanted by the story, the magic, and most of all, the descriptions of the incredible circus! These black and white brownies were inspired by the unexpected and playful sensory experience of the book. Sure, they’re cute, but the flavor is awesome and unexpected because of a couple secret ingredients.
Soon after I started reading, it was obvious that I had to volunteer to host the next meeting for my local book club. We rotate hosting, and the host has her choice of book for the group to read. Not only was I loving the book–the story is interesting, descriptive, and fascinating– but the food references in it were just mouth-watering! Lots of descriptions of fresh caramel corn, mulled warm cider, and petite chocolate mice. I thought it would be fun to play with one of my favorite brownie recipes, inspired by the rich and unexpected experience of the circus.
I got multiple compliments about these brownies, and the reactions were just what I was hoping “These are so good! What is that in there? There’s a little something different!” They are rich and sweet, and subtly spicy at the same time. Plus, a chance to dress them up in white and black stripes like the tents of The Night Circus could’t be missed. Click through for the full recipe below.
The Night Circus Brownies (adapted from this)
Makes one 8×8 inch pan or 16 brownies
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Place the rack in the bottom 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 60 seconds. Mix with a wire whisk until ingredients are combined.
Stir in the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, whisking until combined after each. Add the flour, nutmeg, and cayenne and stir well for about two minutes. Batter will be thick, shiny and a little grainy. Pour into prepared baking pan and flatten with a silicon spatula.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes, then let cool. I invert mine onto a cutting board, then place it in the freezer until cool.]
For Buttercream Icing
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 lb powdered sugar
1/4 c whipping cream
Place butter, sugar, and 1/8 cup cream in a bowl and mix on high until thick. Then add cream until you reach the desired consistency.
For the black stripes, I used a easy squeeze icing from the grocery store. Alternatively you could add black food dye to a section of the buttercream, then pipe on top.