Tonka Bean Brownies.

I’m the kind of baker who knows just how to irritate myself. As organised as I’d like to think I am, I’m also very ditzy. I tend to plan my time a bit ahead of schedule for this very reason.

I’ve had quite a few orders of late for little children. Last week, I made these Number Block cakes, each a different flavour and all piped with buttercream since my customer didn’t want fondant.


The Blue ‘1’ was with Blueberries, Pink ‘2’ was with Strawberries and Orange ‘3’ was with Mandarin Oranges. I could have sworn I checked but still, I managed to mix ‘2’ and ‘3’ up where ‘2’ was meant to be with orange, and ‘3’ with strawberries. At times like these, I’m thankful for understanding customers but at the same time, I owe myself a kick up my own arse. I was so sure of myself, but even after double checking the order, I still mixed things up!


I’m also the kind of baker who happily makes the batter perfectly, puts it into the oven, allows the cake to rise up nice and proud, checks that it is springy to the touch and a beautiful golden brown before removing it out of the oven. Spot any missing step?

Yesterday, while preparing for the Hungry Caterpillar Cake below, I baked the banana cake as requested but failed to check the cake with a skewer to see if it was completely cooked through. I have to admit that this is a step I usually forgo, taking for granted that springiness and a golden hue ensures me a fully baked cake. Not true. So as I cut into my two wonderful rounds of 6″ banana goodness to prepare them for assembly, my heart fell as my serrated knife informed me that they were still awesomely uncooked on the inside. And no, the two cakes didn’t sink at all after being removed from the oven. Talk about cheating my feelings.


Flo and I had a lunch to get to so it was only after returning home mid-afternoon that I could bake up another 2 6″ cakes and yes, I made sure to check, check and double check that they was completely ready to be taken out of the oven.


This Hungry Caterpillar Cake was asked for by a little 3-year-old girl who was adamant about having a caterpillar on her cake, but not without the butterflies. Hungry Caterpillar actually dropped and broke just after I’d finished putting the cake together so I had to quickly make another one.

Thank God things came together and I managed to have the cake delivered first thing this morning completely intact and happily received by the sweet birthday girl. Not long after, her dear mother sent me a photo of her devouring Hungry Caterpillar’s head.

This afternoon, I was running around the kitchen baking for a cafe order. I happily threw in my cakes to bake only to realise after that I’d made a recipe for one, when I should have doubled it, and divided the batter between two tins! I did this for two cakes and actually stood there scratching my head in wonderment as to why they looked a little low in quantity.

They say that when you’re pregnant, you get pregnancy brain. I’m NOT pregnant but I think my brain’s a lot more confuzzled than any woman blessed with a baby. Sometimes, it amazes me how I think, or don’t think rather, especially when baking is something I do on a daily basis. It irks me because every time I fail to produce a good cake, it’s material wasted. So yes, it’s extremely frustrating and something I have to just be more mindful of.

Speaking of being a scatterbrain, Flo bought me some Tonka Beans from Germany a few trips ago. I kept telling myself I wanted to use them but obviously kept forgetting. I finally got them out the other day, determined to use them in making these Spelt Hazelnut Brownies. 


The sweet, spicy scent of Tonka Bean tasted so foreign yet so familiar. It had accents of Vanilla, Cinnamon and Cherry that I fell in love with. Few would be able to put their finger on the culprit of this beautiful umami flavour weaving its magic within the brownies. I certainly wouldn’t have if not for being the one grating them into the batter.



It’s a real pity that Tonka Beans are not permitted in so many countries. Same with Poppyseeds. I was doing some reading up on tonka and learned that it’s not anywhere near as harmful as it’s been claimed to be. It is supposedly its naturally-occurring coumarin that has caused its ban far and wide. But just as with many other every day spices, including nutmeg, a crazy load would have to be eaten in order for tonka to be toxic – about 30 entire tonka beans. And let me assure you, an entire bean isn’t something you’d particularly crave for. It’s the flavour, the essence of it that you want, but the bean itself is dry and I can imagine, hardly something that would induce in you the desire to eat whole.

If you cannot get your hands on tonka, don’t worry, you can use vanilla as a substitute.


Tonka Bean Mascarpone Brownies (Makes 1 8×8″ Square)

235g Butter
85g Dark Chocolate
200g Coconut Sugar
120g Mascarpone Cheese
3 Eggs
60g Spelt Flour
60g Hazelnut Flour
120g Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 Tonka Bean, Grated (or 1/2 pod Vanilla Bean)

  1. Preheat oven to 170 deg C and prepare an 8×8″ baking tin.
  2. Over a bain marie, melt butter together with dark chocolate, gently stirring until both have melted and are combined. Remove from heat and whisk in coconut sugar.
  3. Whisk in mascarpone cheese until mixture becomes smooth.
  4. Stir in eggs.
  5. Incorporate spelt flour, hazelnut flour, cocoa powder, salt and grated tonka bean into the wet mixture until just combined.
  6. Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 25-30min until batter looks dry and is set. Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing.


I enjoyed the gentle nuances of the tonka bean in these brownies together with the deep darkness of the chocolate and toasty, nutty hazelnut flour which imparted some texture to each bite. These brownies definitely rank amongst my top 5 favourite brownie recipes so far. It’s a snap to make but also incredibly addictive. Perhaps the ban on tonka beans is because it’s just so damn awesome since that makes more sense to me. Lol. 

P.S. I’m also the kind of baker who happily sets my timer only to forget to press ‘Start’. I just did that but thankfully realised it a couple of minutes into the baking. Phew!

One thought on “Tonka Bean Brownies.

  1. Pingback: Peppermint Brownies. – Butterfingrrs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s