THE BLADE/ILLUSTRATION BY WES BOOHER
AKRON — When Shakespeare’s Juliet said, “What’s in a name?” she clearly wasn’t talking about Killer Brownies.
The past few weeks have been tense ones in local bakery cases over the use of that name. Most locals will associate Killer Brownies with Akron’s West Point Market, which sells the brownies in a variety of flavors from its bakery.
Recently, however, Buehler’s Fresh Food stores in the area began selling a version of “Killer Brownies” and claiming to be the exclusive local distributor of the original Killer Brownies.
To understand the situation, you have to understand the history of the Killer Brownie.
It was West Point’s retired owner Russ Vernon who originated the brownie in Akron. He got the recipe for the caramel-laced turtle brownies from a friend and fellow grocer, Larry Ehlers of Larry’s Market in Brown Deer, Wis.
The original recipe actually came from the back of a Betty Crocker cake mix box; Ehlers had converted it for his own store. He called it a “killer brownie” and invited Vernon to use it at his own Ohio store. Over the years, the Killer Brownie has become the West Point Market’s trademark.
Similar to the way Ehlers shared the recipe with him, Vernon shared the recipe with the Mayne family, who operate the Dorothy Lane Markets in Dayton, according to Larry Uhl, who now co-owns West Point Market with Vernon’s son Rick Vernon.
A few years ago, the Mayne family approached West Point about trying to market the brownies nationally, Uhl said. Because West Point had no interest in selling the brownies beyond its own store, Uhl said the market gave the Maynes its blessing, provided they did not sell them in Northeast Ohio under the name Killer Brownies.
So when Buehler’s began its media blitz over the brownies, Uhl and Vernon were surprised.
In a news release issued this week by Buehler’s, the company stated, “Killer Brownies are being made available to Buehler’s through an exclusive, special licensing agreement.” The company’s Web site and Facebook page were boasting Killer Brownies.
But not anymore.
“We made a terrible, terrible mistake and it’s 100 percent my fault,” said Norman Mayne, CEO of Dorothy Lane Markets.
Mayne said when his staff told him about the deal with Buehler’s, he did not realize that the grocery stores were in the Akron area. When he realized the mistake, Mayne said he contacted both stores to apologize and explain.
“It was an honest mistake. Because of that, we will not be selling the Killer Brownies,” said Bob Buehler, vice president of marketing and merchandising for Buehler’s.
Buehler said his staff has removed all references to Killer Brownies from its website and Facebook pages, but he hopes to have a version of the brownies back in his store eventually.
“We’ve been trying to get it for a number of years,” he said. “We may adjust the recipe a little bit and we’ll sell them under another name.”
Buehler said he thinks the stores will hold a contest and ask customers to submit a name for the brownies. “We need to make lemonade out of lemons and we are committed to doing that,” he said.
West Point Market’s Original Killer Brownies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-by-9-inch baking pan.
Whip ¼ pound plus 4 tablespoons of the butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Blend the cake mix, evaporated milk, water and ½ cup of the walnut pieces with the whipped butter to make a smooth, thick batter.
Spoon half the batter into the baking pan. Bake until the top appears dry and firm, 25 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cover the remaining batter and set it aside in the refrigerator.
Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.
Spread ¾ cup of the caramel topping evenly over the brownies. Sprinkle ⅓ cup of the chocolate chips evenly over the caramel. Cover the baking pan with foil and put it in the freezer until the caramel becomes firm.
Reheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the remaining brownie batter from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
Remove the baking pan from the freezer and spoon the remaining brownie batter evenly over the caramel. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of the walnut pieces evenly over the batter.
Return the brownie pan to the oven and bake it until the top appears dry and firm, an additional 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let the brownies cool.
Melt the remaining ⅓ cup of chocolate chips in a saucepan. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter until smooth. Drizzle the chocolate over the cooled brownies. Heat the remaining ¼ cup of caramel topping in the microwave until it can be easily poured, about 20 seconds. Drizzle it over the brownies. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Dust the brownies generously with confectioners’ sugar. To serve, cut into pieces and remove from the pan.
Makes 9 or 16 brownies.