Lunch Lady Brownies – Chocolate for Joan


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Lunch Lady Brownies Recipe - thick, chewy, fudgy brownies with generous chocolate icing. #chocolateforjoan

Thick, chewy, fudgy brownies with generous chocolate icing are enticing enough to have me eating these Lunch Lady Brownies for dinner. (My chocolate-loving friend Joan would most definitely approve of that plan!) This recipe is one of hers that I have wanted to make for a while now.

Joan passed away unexpectedly last week and while crying and grieving at 2am, I decided to bake in memory of her. I spent the weekend making many of her favorites and then shared the sweets with friends.

Joan was passionate about her desserts and I imagine that she would have gotten a kick out of being remembered with an abundance of chocolate.

In a heart-wrenching coincidence, today is National Chocolate Day and the blogging world is reeling from the loss of our amazing friend. To know Joan was to love her and laugh with her, she impacted countless lives every single day. In her memory, you will see much chocolate shared around the internet today.

My friends, surround yourself with people who bring you joy. Hug them tight. And eat some chocolate today too, #chocolateforjoan.

Lunch Lady Brownies Recipe - thick, chewy, fudgy brownies with generous chocolate icing. #chocolateforjoan

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Lunch Lady Brownies – Chocolate for Joan

Recipe adapted from and with loving thanks to Chocolate, Chocolate and More
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Servings: 16 -24 servings


  • 1 cup butter melted
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour *
  • * Gluten Free Alternative:
  • 1 1/3 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/3 cup potato starch
  • Frosting Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup butter softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup milk


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13 baking pan or line with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the butter, cocoa, brown sugar, and white sugar. Add the eggs and the vanilla. Whisk again until smooth. Add the flour and stir until combined. Pour into the prepared pan and use a spatula to spread the thick batter to the corners. Bake for 22-24 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs.
  • While the brownies are baking, make the frosting. In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, the powdered sugar, the cocoa, and the salt. Beat with an electric mixer for 1-2 minutes, until combined. It will be mostly dry crumbs. Add the milk and beat again for 1-2 minutes, until smooth and creamy.
  • Remove the brownies from the oven and let cool for just a few minutes. Gently spread the frosting over the brownies while they are still quite warm. Let cool before slicing. Enjoy!


Frost the brownies while they are still warm. The frosting will melt down a bit into the brownies creating an irresistible crust.
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Leave the world a better place #chocolateforjoan

It hurts, friends. It hurts so much. Losing a friend is never easy. It shouldn’t be. Friends impact our lives in countless ways, and really great friends take a piece of our heart with them when they are gone. I’m a better person for having known Joan Hayes. She was a wonderful friend and she will not be forgotten.

Remembering Joan Hayes of Chocolate, Chocolate and More #chocolateforjoan

There are so many memories. The time Joan ordered ALL THE FOODS on the Snooze menu because she couldn’t narrow it down and wanted to at least taste everything. The times she refused to eat a subpar dessert because it wasn’t worth the calories.

The countless times she laughed and said that fruit isn’t dessert, chocolate is the only real dessert. Laughing as she confidently asked a chef if he was sure there wasn’t something fabulous hiding in the kitchen that wasn’t on the menu and then watching in amazement at the tray of chocolate desserts that were magically provided.

The night she said, “we should just stay up all night, we’re halfway there already.” Seven hours later, with blurry eyes and an aching side from hours and hours of laughter, we dropped her off at the airport. She was a master at making every moment of life the best it could possibly be.

Remembering Joan Hayes of Chocolate, Chocolate and More #chocolateforjoan

We walked up and down the beach in St. Thomas, talking about our kids, and dreams for the next few years, and the crazy world of blogging. Joan called this past year her “year of travel.” She met online friends in person and made countless new friends and memories. I’m happy that so many of us were able to hug the neck of our sweet friend and get to know her in person this year, as well as online.

The last time I saw her was in Georgia while I was visiting my family there. She drove up to Augusta, over 3 hours each way, just so that we could spend a few hours together. Not because “I” was important, but because relationships were important to her. Joan loved spending time with friends and family and she lived her life to the fullest. She was one of the least pretentious, friendliest, and absolutely real people I’ve ever known.

Wandering around Augusta, GA together, we browsed antique stores looking for old silverware. Later we found a bakery to try. She sweet talked the staff into pulling cakes out of the cold case so she could photograph them by the window and remember them to re-create the recipes at home. Ordering a slice of every single dessert in that bakery, so she could taste each one. Laughing as we packed and took home two shopping bags full of the remaining desserts to share with my family.

Remembering Joan Hayes of Chocolate, Chocolate and More #chocolateforjoan

Joan was an indescribably generous person. She achieved great success professionally and she shared her knowledge, her phenomenal social media reach, her blog’s traffic, every aspect of her success was shared with others. She believed with every bit of her heart that blogging should be part of a community and never a competition. She helped everyone she met and made everyone’s life better just for knowing her.

Joan was the most prepared for death person I have ever known. She wanted to know that her children would be taken care of no matter what. She told everyone to “put it in writing” and “make sure everyone knows your intentions.” It breaks my heart that her message to BE PREPARED turned out to be such practical advice instead of the hypothetical wisdom I would much rather it have been.

Her family was her world and she loved her kids so much that I ache for them right now. Joan’s love of life, family, and chocolate was evident through her blog, Chocolate, Chocolate, and More. She created a chocolate filled legacy for her family and they plan to carry out her dreams and plans. Her dream was that her blog would help support her family over the coming years.


Sweets and treats from Chocolate, Chocolate and More #chocolateforjoan


While you are baking this holiday season, please think of Joan’s blog. There are hundreds of recipes for wonderful sweets on her blog; cakes, cookies, candy, and so much more. Bloggers earn their income from the number of people that visit their websites. The more we visit her blog, the more income we can help send to her family in the end.

Joan died of a massive heart attack in the middle of the night. She was only 49 years old. She mentioned a stomach ache before going to sleep, not recognizing that this is one of the signs of a possible impending event. (Many women think they are getting the flu prior to a heart attack.) Please read through these Heart Attack Symptoms and always get checked out if you experience any of these and share them with your friends and family.

In Memory of Joan Hayes founder of Chocolate, Chocolate and More #chocolateforjoan - Photo Credit: Shanna Schad
Joan Hayes 1966-2015, Photo Credit: Shanna Schad

Most importantly, go now and hug someone special to you, kids, spouse, friend, anyone. No matter what, just do it. Wake them up, pick them up, get their attention, and tell them you love them. I’m heartsick for the loss of my friend and reminded once again that life is short.

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

A full list of blog posts dedicated to Joan can be found here

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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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  1. Melissa says

    Such a wonderful tribute to Joan and oh so true. You gather yourself well Mary. Joan was indeed one in a million and lived life boldly. She will be forever missed. ♥

  2. Karyn Granrud says

    Such a wonderful tribute and message. Be Prepared. Hug a loved one. Laugh with friends. Take the time to foster friendships. Just beautiful.
    (oh, and those brownies look amazing too!)

  3. Trish - Mom On Timeout says

    Gosh darnit Mary! Now I'm crying AGAIN! You so perfectly captured the spirit of Joan in your post and all those photos were are such a wonderful tribute to her – you can see her love of life just shining through.
    On a side note, these brownies are happening ASAP.

  4. Carolyn Ketchum says

    I don't know what to say. I just don't. I know this hurts you so much, I am so sorry for your loss. For the world's loss. The next time I see you, let's have a big hug and some chocolate. For Joan.

  5. Lisa Longley says

    This is maybe the most beautiful tribute I have ever read. You absolutely brought Joan's spirit to life with your words. Thank you for being such a dear friend to her. Thank you for knowing her so well. And thank you for sharing that with us. I'm so so sorry for your loss.

  6. JulieN says

    What a beautiful tribute! I lost my beautiful sister in law to breast cancer when she had just turned 50. She was also my best friend. They say that only the good die young. I have proof now.
    I love your posts and blogs about food and life. Keep up the good work!

  7. Teri Giese says

    Fighting back tears for the loss of your phenomenal friend. Joans'blog is 1of my faves. You were so blessed to count her as a friend.Such a fun-loving spirit coming through in your photos. Sending all my love and support to all feeling the loss of clearly a rare gem. Her spirit will shine on through her recipes and her legacy of love that remains alive!

  8. Kelly LifemadeSweeter says

    This is such a beautiful tribute. I could feel the love through the screen as I was reading this. So powerful and heartwarming. Joan was so generous and shared so many of our recipes with her following and hopefully it warms her heart to know that we all appreciated it and will be sharing her recipes for years to come. Thank you for sharing these amazing memories and photos with us.

  9. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts says

    Oh Mary!! I am SLOWLY making my way through all of these amazing tributes. I just can't do it all at once. Joan was one amazing lady, I wish I had the chance to hang out with her more! These brownies and all the other treats you made over the weekend were the perfect way to pay tribute to her!

  10. Anonymous says

    What a beautiful tribute to your friend. I am going to check out her blog. I would love to make these brownies. They look fabulous. I am wondering how they differ from that cold chocolate snacking cake of yours? Is that cake more dense than the brownies?

    • Mary says

      Thanks for the sweet words. I hope you love Joan's blog as much as we do. The snacking cake is a little bit more dense with a richer ganache style frosting. This is a more traditional chewy brownie with a slightly crisp frosting. All the best, Mary

  11. Lynne Feifer says

    There was a reason I waited a few days to start reading all of these posts, especially this one, because I knew it would be so extremely difficult to type a comment through all the tears.
    I don't even know where to begin and don't know if I even can. Your words are beautiful and I know how difficult the past week has been.
    Mary, I've said it to you in person and I've said it to you in texts, I love you and am so very grateful for our friendship, your support and your love. I also thank you for bringing all of us together so that we could create such wonderful memories we'll fondly remember for a lifetime. Those are truly, truly precious.
    Joan loved you and I know looked forward to spending more time with you. In Seattle, we laughed about that weekend and were so very grateful for it (but not the dolls 😉 ).
    I love you and from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

  12. Lulu Kariuki says

    wow, Joanne surely sounds like she was a lovely person inside and out. Even in the photos, looks like she was indeed full of life and laughter. I pray to God Almighty that her soul rest in perfect peace and as she is in heaven, may all the other Angles including my dad among other loved ones enjoy her baked good and total character. I wish I had known her earlier, would have loved to meet her as well since my family and I had visited family in Atlanta,GA in August and early September, as we are from Kenya. I have visited her webpage a few times before and I love to bake, its a passion. I'm sure I will visit it more often to gather more inspiration as well as indulge in my chocolate weakness. She will be really missed and totally loved. Prayers and Blessings of comfort, Grace and Mercy to her family and very close friends.

  13. Anonymous says

    I'm sorry, but… Do you mean cocoa powder? Baking cocoa? chocolate syrup? Cocoa from a chocolate bar? It may seem obvious to you, but just saying "cocoa" is actually very confusing if people don't understand what kind of cocoa you're referring to.

  14. Unknown says

    Joan deserved all the love she received from family and friends. If everyone in the world were loved as Joan was, and is, this would not be earth, but instead, Heaven. She is missed.

  15. Flan's Wondorous Blog says

    What an Eloquent tribute to your passed friend. I am so sorry for the loss, though I barely know Joan myself. I am just 16 years old, but my mother herself lived through a (thankfully not that big) heart attack and survived. It was relatively minor, but my Mom lived through it. I'm so sorry that Joan didn't make it. Wished she did. *Sigh* Life can be unfair at times, can't it.

  16. Laura Borick says

    What a loving memory! I cannot wait to bake these brownies later today for my husband for no special reason❣️

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