Monday, May 08, 2006

The Eating: Mexican Chocolate Cake

I'm heading out shortly to have dinner at a friend's house; she's cooking for us, but I offered to contribute dessert. Most people who know me know that I love to cook but am not much of a baker. I'm competent with the simple stuff, but I lack the patience (and equipment) for really fine or complicated pastries. One standby dessert that I like to make, though, is a Mexican chocolate cake adapted from a recipe published in Real Simple magazine a few years ago. It has an unusual, spicy flavor, is completely vegan (if there are such concerns in your gathering), and only takes about an hour from start to finish. The recipe with a few notes and variations is below.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or ground Mexican chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
6 tablespoons water
10 small fresh strawberries

Heat oven to 350° F. Lightly coat an 8-inch round cake pan with vegetable cooking spray.

Combine all the cake ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until smooth. Pour into the pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely. When the cake has cooled, whisk together the first three glaze ingredients. Dip each strawberry into the glaze and set aside. Pour the remaining glaze over the cake and arrange the strawberries on top. Set aside to dry, about 30 minutes.

This is the recipe as published. First, ignore the chili powder suggestion and just use plain cayenne powder. Chili powder has ingredients like garlic, salt, and cumin that would taste pretty weird in a cake. For the glaze, I prefer a little less sugar (scant half-cup). Also, 6T of water makes the glaze really runny; I only use 4T plus a few drops of vanilla extract, and you can see in the photo above how runny it still is (though a little pooling is decorative). I've used different fruits like sliced kiwi, dried apricots, dried cranberries and cherries, whatever is on hand or suits the rest of the meal.


Anonymous Dad said...

Have to jump in on this one. If you buy a single ingredient chilie powder, you don't have all of the other additives. McCormick makes an Ancho chilie pepper (powder) which is just that. You can also buy Chipotle chilie powder which again is the pure chipotle(smoked jalapeno) peppers ground up. My favorite way with chilie powders is to get the dried chilies, roast them for 10 minutes in the oven and then take the seeds and veins out and put them in the blender and make my own chilie powder for all sorts of recipes. I made some pasilla powder that way that would be perfect for this recipe - sort of a chocolate/coffe flavor.

9:16 PM

Blogger Red Squirrel said...

Valid point, but the recipe doesn't specify that, and I think a lot of people might just pluck the usual blended "chili powder" out of their spice racks and get an unwelcome surprise. Also, cayenne is spicier, which I think is necessary when used in such a small quantity. Maybe it should be more like 1/2 t if going with a milder pepper.

7:46 AM

Blogger willenvelope said...

The cake was excellent.

8:21 AM

Blogger Jeniece said...

Mmmmm....Now that looks good!

5:39 PM

Blogger Red Squirrel said...

Thanks! It was quite a hit.

6:42 PM


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