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Chocolate Robins (Brownies Without Baking Soda)

My grandmother’s nutty chocolate robins are not your regular brownies, but they’re akin to brownies without baking soda. Sure to satisfy your sweet tooth, this depression-era-style brownie is a great treat for young and old alike. Go ahead, try something new…that’s old. 🙂

Chocolate Robins (Brownies without Baking Soda)

An Unusual Recipe Find

When this blog was just a tumbling idea, I went digging through my grandmother’s recipe box with her. I had all her recipe cards spreads out on the floor and took pictures of each one.

Recipe Cards galore

This Chocolate Robins recipe is one of the more interesting finds from that day. I’d personally never heard of them before. The recipe uses no baking soda or baking powder; eggs are the only rising agent in the mix.

Grandma's Recipe Card for Chocolate Robins

The closest comparison we could come up with from the list of ingredients and instructions was a brownie without baking soda. I even searched the internet for similar recipes and the closest I could get was the brownie without baking soda, but even those aren’t exactly like these chocolate robins.

I wish I knew more about this recipe and where it originated, but with my grandmother’s memory being what it is, that’s the best I can do considering she can’t recall where the recipe came from or the last time she made them. She just remembers she liked them. 🙂

I called upon my sister to make these for one of our family Thanksgivings. Jeanna is a superb baker and makes all kinds of sweet creations, so all of the pictures of the actual chocolate treat are courtesy of her.

Personally, I think she did a fantastic job. Thanks, sissy!

So, without further ado, here’s what you’ll need for these scrumptious chocolate robins.

Chocolate Robins (aka Brownies without baking soda) Ingredients

Below you’ll find a full printable recipe card, but here’s a quick list of the simple ingredients you’ll need to make this nutty dessert.

  • All-purpose flour
  • salt
  • shortening
  • chopped nuts
  • white sugar
  • vanilla
  • semi-sweet chocolate baking squares, melted
  • Eggs
  • Mixing bowls
  • 8×8 baking pan
Chocolate Robins (Brownies without Baking Soda) Ingredients

How to Make Nutty Chocolate Robins

Let’s get down to business and make some Chocolate Robins (brownie batter). According to my sister, these are real easy to make.

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease an 8×8 baking dish. You may wish to line your pan with parchment paper for easier removal and clean up.

Now, you’ll need separate bowls for the next steps. In a large bowl, melt the semisweet chocolate baking squares, then add in the shortening to the melted chocolate and blend them together. Set aside.

(If you choose to melt your chocolate on the stove, instead of in the microwave, the best way to do so is in a double boiler over medium heat. Stirring often.)

Next, using a medium bowl, beat eggs until very light and fluffy. My sister opted to use an electric whisk, but you can use a regular whisk, stand mixer, or hand mixer, if you prefer.

Add sugar to the eggs in small increments, beating after each addition. Once combined, add egg mixture into the chocolate mixture and stir until just blended.

Next, sift together the flour and salt (you can do this in a separate bowl if you wish or straight into the chocolate-filled bowl) and fold the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture.

After that, fold in the nuts and vanilla. My sister opted to use pecans and real Mexican vanilla, but you could also use walnuts and vanilla extract. If you want some extra chocolatey flavor, substitute half of the nuts with semisweet or milk chocolate chips.

Once mixed, pour the brownie batter into your oiled square pan, using a spoon or rubber spatula to spread all the way to the edges.

Bake this classic brownie at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes or until the brownie starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick poked in the center of the crackly top comes out clean.

My sister used a dark metal pan, which may account for the slightly less cooking time compared to Grandma’s recipe card, which said 25-30 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly, and cut into squares with a sharp knife.

Serve ’em Up

Plate of stacked Chocolate Robins (Brownies without Baking Soda)

Satisfy your sweet tooth with this easy brownie recipe without baking soda. Chocolate robins are great served warm or at room temperature.

Another great way is to dish up these yummy treats in a small bowl with ice cream. You could also top them with chocolate frosting. Your choice!

Questions Regarding These Delicious Brownies Without Baking Soda

“How do I store leftover chocolate robins?”

Store your leftover chocolate robins (aka brownies without baking soda) in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Placing them in the fridge or freezer will make them last longer.

“How long will Chocolate Robins last?”

Chocolate Robins will keep 3 to 4 days at room temperature. In a sealed container in the refrigerator, they’ll last up to a week. In the freezer, they’ll keep at least 3 months, but if you freeze them longer, the taste and quality may start to degrade.

“I love chocolate. How can I make this classic brownie extra chocolatey?”

For extra chocolate flavor, add another 0.5 oz of semi-sweet chocolate cooking squares, or substitute half of the nuts with chocolate chips.

“I don’t have shortening. What can I substitute for shortening in this great recipe?”

Melted butter is a great replacement. I’d suggest using unsalted butter or removing the salt from the recipe if you use salted butter. You could also use vegetable oil, olive oil, or coconut oil in the brownie mix.

“I don’t have any baking chocolate squares on hand. What else can I use?”

You can substitute semi-sweet chocolate morsels for the baker’s chocolate. You can still use the same weight – 1 oz.

My sister said that you could also use cocoa powder and that you’ll probably need about 1/4 cup of it. You may also need just a little extra water.

I hope you enjoy this blast from the past. Those who tried these at our family Thanksgiving enjoyed them as well as one of my husband’s coworkers.

I dare say every dessert is better when shared with a friend. So please, share with us how you like these Chocolate Robins (brownies without baking soda) by leaving a comment below.

I plan to share another fudgy brownie recipe (with baking soda) in the future—they’re super easy to make and taste totally awesome—so be sure to check back.

Happy Trails.

Yield: 16 squares

Chocolate Robins (Brownies without Baking Soda)

Chocolate Robins (Brownies without Baking Soda)

These nutty Chocolate Robins, akin to brownies without baking soda, are a depression-era-style treat. Go ahead, try something new...that's old.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 oz semi-sweet chocolate cooking squares, melted
  • 2 eggs


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Grease an 8x8 baking dish.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, melt chocolate baking squares then add shortening and blend together. 
  4. In a medium-size bowl, beat eggs until very light and fluffy. Add sugar a small amount at a time to the eggs, beating after each addition.
  5. Add egg mixture to chocolate mixture.
  6. Sift in flour and salt (in a separate bowl, if desired), and fold into chocolate mixture. 
  7. Fold in nuts and vanilla.
  8. Pour into prepared baking dish and smooth to edges. 
  9. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes (dark pan) or 25-30 minutes (glass dish) or until toothpick poked in center comes out clean and brownies have begun to pull away from the sides.
  10. Allow to cool, and cut into squares.

Need a few more dessert ideas…

How about some mini peach cobblers or crunchy fudge sandwiches?

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