At the end of the last academic year, a clever mom showed up at school with a decadent treat for all her son’s teachers to thank them for a great year. Guess who was in the right place at the right time? Yep! Me! And, oh wow, what a treat! I have waited and waited to make these amazing brownies, and now thanks to some leftover candy and a cake mix, I am going all in! 

Besides how delicious these brownies are, they make a delicious treat for the kids in the kitchen when they offer to help. Somebody has to unwrap all that candy! If you fundamentally oppose using a box cake mix, you’ll get over it the second you taste these brownies. Dump the mix into the bowl – cut the box top off first, of course – and quickly throw the box in the trash. See how fast that was? Next, mix in the evaporated milk and don’t freak out that it’s dry. Adding the butter will cure that. Don’t over mix. Stir just until they come together.

Take half the chocolate mixture and using an offset spatula, flatten it into the bottom of an 8-by-8-inch baking pan. The first time I made these, I fretted over the fact that these were made in such a small pan. I thought, “How can this even be eight servings?” The answer is they are so rich, you will want to cut them in small squares, even the instructed 1 1/2 inch squares seem to satisfy the sweetest of sweet tooths!

Next, let the kids unwrap! Nine whole peanut butter cups are laid on top of the dough in a grid like tic-tac-toe. Then place the Rolos in the empty spaces. Sprinkle with chopped nuts. (I used walnuts because it’s what I had.) Next fill all the remaining nooks and crannies with M&M’s. (I used Reese’s Pieces, because there are never leftover M&M’s at my house.) I sprinkled the top of the candy with sea salt because I love the texture and the balance in sweetness, but I can also imagine these made with crushed pretzels and no nuts for those who have an aversion to tree nuts.

Press the second half of dough into a square the approximate size of the pan. The dough is sturdy enough to do this in your hands, thus avoiding having to dirty the cutting board. Layer this on top of all that crazy candy and smooth it out. Bake. Follow the cooling instructions; you’ll be thrilled with the results when cutting. When you turn these out of the pan, flip them upright and add the powdered sugar before cutting. At our house, we never get to the powdered sugar. They are decadent without it and the family enjoyed every last morsel.

I plan to bring these to every gathering this holiday season. They will be center stage for the gingerbread decorating party with the kids and will quite possibly be offered to the carolers that come knocking. I plan to stack them in mason jars and gift them this holiday season, too. I will dust them with powdered sugar, layer them on a pretty little platter and give to hostesses this season as well.

If you change up the ingredients, the possibilities are endless! Enjoy!

Crazy Brownies

  • one 18- to 20-ounce box chocolate cake mix
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 9 whole peanut butter cups (regular size, with the paper pulled off)
  • 16 whole Rolo candies, unwrapped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup M&M’s
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • powdered sugar (for sprinkling)

Heat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 8-by-8-inch baking pan.

Using a large bowl, dump the dry cake mix and stir in the evaporated milk. (Mixture will still be dry.) Next, pour in the melted butter, stirring gently until the mix just comes together (don’t overmix.)

Divide the mixture in half and press half of it into the bottom of a greased baking pan. Lay the peanut butter cups over the top. Peel the wrappers off of the Rolos and place them in the spaces between the peanut butter cups. Sprinkle nuts into the cracks, followed by M&M’s. Finally, sprinkle the salt all over. 

Put the other half of the batter on a cutting board and press it into a square a little smaller than the pan. (It will be very sticky.) Transfer it to the pan and lightly press it to cover all the ingredients. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the batter is fully baked. Allow brownies to cool completely before placing the pan in the fridge, covered in foil, for a couple of hours. 

Remove the brownies from the pan in one piece. Sprinkle plenty of powdered sugar. With a sharp serrated knife, cut the square into 1 1/2 inch squares. 

(Recipe adapted from May 2014 post on