What are Katherine Hepburn brownies?

Katherine Hepburn brownies are a delicious chocolate brownie recipe that was reportedly a favorite of the iconic actress Katherine Hepburn. Brownies are a classic American dessert, and Katherine Hepburn brownies put a unique spin on the traditional chocolate treat.

Quick Answers

Who was Katherine Hepburn?

Katherine Hepburn was an acclaimed American actress who had a remarkable career spanning over 60 years. She won a record four Academy Awards for Best Actress and is regarded as a cultural icon.

Where did the recipe originate?

The recipe for Katherine Hepburn brownies was first published in the 1981 book ‘The Famous Recipes of Katherine Hepburn’ by Philip B. Heller. It reportedly contains a brownie recipe that was one of Hepburn’s favorite treats.

What makes them unique?

Katherine Hepburn brownies stand out for their use of both chocolate and cocoa powder, resulting in an ultra chocolatey and fudgy brownie. They also contain coffee which enhances the chocolate flavor.

What are the ingredients?

The main ingredients in Katherine Hepburn brownies are butter, granulated sugar, eggs, all-purpose flour, unsweetened chocolate, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla extract, salt, and coffee. Optional extras include chocolate chips or nuts.

The Story Behind Katherine Hepburn Brownies

Katherine Hepburn was a legendary actress who starred in classics like ‘The Philadelphia Story’, ‘Adam’s Rib’, and ‘The African Queen’. She had a remarkable career spanning over 60 years and set a record by winning 4 Academy Awards for Best Actress.

In 1981, a book called ‘The Famous Recipes of Katherine Hepburn’ was published by Philip B. Heller. It contained recipes reportedly enjoyed by the iconic actress, including an ultra chocolatey brownie recipe attributed to Hepburn herself.

According to the book, Hepburn regularly baked these brownies for friends and they became a signature recipe associated with the actress. She apparently loved the combination of chocolate and coffee flavor in these brownies, which gives them an extra richness and depth.

While the exact origins of the recipe are unclear, food historians believe it likely originated in the 1930s or 40s during Hepburn’s Hollywood heyday. The blend of chocolate and cocoa powder results in a fudgy, dense brownie that would have been novel for the time.

Whatever their exact history, Katherine Hepburn brownies have endured as a cherished recipe tied to the legendary actress and her impeccable taste. They continue to be baked by fans who want to recreate a favorite treat of one of Hollywood’s greatest leading ladies.

Ingredients in Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies

Katherine Hepburn’s brownie recipe strikes a perfect balance between intense chocolate flavor and a fudgy, dense texture.

The main ingredients are:

  • Butter – For rich flavor and moisture
  • Granulated sugar – To sweeten the batter
  • Eggs – To provide structure and bind the batter
  • All-purpose flour – For body and stability
  • Unsweetened chocolate – Deep chocolate flavor
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder – Even more intense chocolate taste
  • Vanilla extract – A touch of warmth and depth
  • Salt – Enhances overall flavor
  • Coffee – Adds a subtle bitterness that complements the chocolate

The use of both chocolate and cocoa powder is a signature of this recipe, giving the brownies an extra chocolate punch. The coffee enhances the chocolate as well.

Optional mix-ins like chocolate chips or nuts can provide texture and variety. But the basic ingredients give you rich, fudgy brownies perfect for chocolate lovers.

How to Make Katherine Hepburn Brownies

Making Katherine Hepburn brownies is surprisingly easy, with just a few simple steps:


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8×8 inch baking pan.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan or microwave. Allow to slightly cool.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar until combined.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  5. In another bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, instant coffee and salt. Stir to blend.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Also add the melted chocolate and vanilla. Fold until just combined, do not overmix.
  7. Fold in chocolate chips or other mix-ins if desired.
  8. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out mostly clean.
  9. Allow brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares.

The key steps are thoroughly mixing the wet and dry ingredients, being careful not to overbeat the batter. Baking until just set but still fudgy in the middle is also important for brownie perfection.

Tips for Making Katherine Hepburn Brownies

Here are some top tips for successfully baking the best Katherine Hepburn brownies:

  • Use high quality chocolate – Splurge on the best quality unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder you can find, as this is key for intense flavor.
  • Melt the chocolate properly – Either finely chop and melt slowly over a double boiler, or melt in short bursts in the microwave.
  • Don’t overbake – These brownies are meant to be fudgy, so avoid baking them until completely set.
  • Test for doneness with a toothpick – Insert a toothpick to check for moist crumbs clinging to it when done.
  • Let brownies cool completely before cutting – This prevents crumbling and allows them to set up.
  • Store in an airtight container – Lock in moisture and keep brownies fudgy by storing in a tightly covered container.
  • Cut into small squares – Katherine Hepburn brownies are rich, so cut them into petite 1-2 inch squares.
  • Savor the flavor – Brew a cup of coffee and take your time enjoying these intensely chocolatey brownies!

Following these tips will help you achieve brownie success just as Katherine Hepburn would have made them.

The Best Qualities of Katherine Hepburn Brownies

What sets Katherine Hepburn’s brownies apart from other recipes is their:

Intense chocolate flavor – With a double dose of chocolate from cocoa powder and melted unsweetened chocolate, these brownies are intensely chocolatey.

Fudgy, dense texture – They have a moist, fudgy, almost chewy texture thanks to minimal flour and lots of chocolate.

Subtle coffee undertones – The coffee brings out and enhances the chocolate flavor while adding complexity.

Rich and buttery – Butter is the first ingredient, ensuring these brownies are decadently rich.

Complex, deep flavor – The interplay of chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and butter create complex flavor undertones.

Perfectly balanced sweetness – Not overly sweet, these brownies have a grown up, bittersweet flavor.

Petite, elegant squares – Cut into small, delicate squares, these rich brownies are the perfect sophisticated dessert.

It’s the combination of intense chocolate, deep coffee notes, and fudgy texture that set Katherine Hepburn brownies apart as a gourmet, sophisticated chocolate treat.

Common Questions About Katherine Hepburn Brownies

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about making and enjoying Katherine Hepburn’s famous brownies:

Should I use Dutch process cocoa powder?

Yes, Dutch process cocoa powder is ideal as it has a deeper, more complex chocolate flavor that really enhances these brownies. Look for brands like Ghirardelli or Valrhona.

Can I use milk chocolate instead of unsweetened?

It’s best to use unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate for the most intense flavor. Milk chocolate will make the brownies too sweet.

What’s the difference between melting chocolate on the stove vs. the microwave?

Melting slowly on the stove allows more control and prevents scorching. Microwaving in short 30 second bursts works too. Just avoid overheating.

How long do Katherine Hepburn brownies last?

Stored airtight at room temperature, they will keep for 3-4 days. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

What can I add to the brownie batter?

Nuts like walnuts or pecans make a nice crunchy addition. Chocolate chips or chunks are also popular mix-ins.

Should I grease the pan before baking?

Yes, it’s important to thoroughly grease or butter the baking pan to prevent sticking, especially with such a dense fudgy batter.

Can I make substitutions for food allergies/intolerances?

Yes! You can substitute the flour, use olive oil instead of butter, and replace the eggs with flax or chia eggs. Just adjust amounts as needed.

Enjoying Katherine Hepburn Brownies

Katherine Hepburn brownies are the ultimate treat for chocolate lovers and old Hollywood glamor fans. Here are ways to make the experience truly special:

  • Host an elegant tea party and serve petite squares on vintage saucers and plates.
  • Bring a tin as a gift to a movie night when watching a Katherine Hepburn classic.
  • Arrange squares beautifully on a platter for a sophisticated dessert presentation.
  • Pair with coffee, hot tea, or a tall glass of cold milk.
  • Savor each rich, chocolatey bite and imagine you’re dining with Kate herself!
  • Indulge in a brownie while wearing your most stylish outfit or Hollywood-inspired glam makeup.
  • Read about Katherine Hepburn’s life and career as you bake and sample the brownies.
  • Reminisce about trips to Old Hollywood landmark restaurants like Musso & Frank while you eat.
  • Feel like a true Hollywood starlet and enjoy every decadent bite.

Baking and eating Katherine Hepburn brownies is the ultimate way to indulge while celebrating one of Hollywood’s greatest legends.

Katherine Hepburn Brownies Recipe Variations

While the original recipe is perfect as is, there are ways to put a unique spin on Katherine Hepburn’s brownies:

Mocha brownies – Add 1/4 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee to the batter.

Mint chocolate brownies – Fold 1/2 cup chopped Andes mints into the batter.

Salted caramel brownies – Swirl caramel sauce and sprinkle flaky sea salt on top before baking.

Coconut chocolate brownies – Fold 1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes into the batter.

Chocolate peanut butter brownies – Swirl peanut butter into the batter or top with chopped peanut butter cups.

Rocky road brownies – Add 1/2 cup mini marshmallows and chopped walnuts to the batter.

White chocolate brownies – Use white chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet chocolate.

You can also top baked brownies with chocolate ganache, buttercream frosting, or chocolate glaze for extra decadence!


Katherine Hepburn brownies are a cherished chocolate recipe with old Hollywood origins. Perfectly balancing rich chocolate and coffee flavors with a fudgy texture, they make an elegant dessert to enjoy while reminiscing about the stylish Ms. Hepburn. With a few high quality ingredients and some simple baking tips, you can recreate a little bit of Hollywood magic right in your own kitchen. So channel your inner leading lady and whip up a batch of these delicious brownies that are befitting of a movie star.

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