It’s hard to imagine a world without chocolate or chile. We can thank the New World for giving us cocao pods, from which chocolate is made, as well as chiles of all kinds. This cake, so easy to make that even a baking novice would have success, is rich with chocolate and flavored with a subtle kick of ancho chile powder.
Ancho chiles are the dried form of fresh poblano chiles, the large, mild chile commonly used for chiles rellenos and chiles en nogada. Once dried, they take on a deep burgundy color and a complex, fruity flavor. I have become so enamored with ancho chile powder lately, that I’m adding it to to my morning cup of Pero, Russ’es glass of whipped dalgona coffee (which is having its moment), and a cream sauce tinted with light peach hues from the chile powder.
I know not everyone is a fan of chiles’ heat, but take my word that the pairing of chocolate and chile is a natural. If you are one of those who can’t handle chile, this still makes an excellent chocolate cake with the chile omitted, albeit, in my opinion, not the cake it would be with chile.
Use a very good quality cocoa powder. It makes a difference, as I finally learned when I gave Hershey’s the heave-ho after reading it was made with cocao beans harvested by child slave labor. Cocoa powder and other chocolate products labeled organic or fair trade indicate child slave labor was not used. Cocoa products so labeled are also a better quality, delivering a richer chocolate flavor. La Comer and Mega supermarkets in Mexico offer a good selection of organic products, including organic cocoa powder produced in Mexico.
New World Chocolate Cake
- 1 1/2 cups/180 grams whole wheat flour or all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup/50 grams cocoa powder, unsweetened
- 2/3 cup/145 grams sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup room temperature coffee, or water
- 5 tablespoons melted coconut oil, or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Pre-heat oven to 350 F/180C. Grease and flour sides of 9″/22 cm round cake pan. Line bottom with parchment paper.
- Sift or whisk dry ingredients in large bowl.
- In a separate bowl whisk together wet ingredients.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry, and quickly stir until no lumps remain.
- Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes. The top should spring back when lightly pressed. If the gently pressure of your finger in the center leaves an indentation, bake a few minutes more.
- Cool in pan until slightly warm. Run a thin knife around sides of pan, and invert cake onto a plate, then invert again right side up on serving plate.
- Serve when completely cool with lightly sweetened whipped cream dusted with cinnamon, ice cream, or crème fraîche (aka crema in Mexico).
For a coconut version, omit the chile powder and cinnamon. Generously coat the inside of the cake pan with coconut oil or butter, then coat the pan with dry, unsweetened coconut. Add 1/2 cup dry, unsweetened coconut to cake batter.
To slice cleanly, use the thinnest knife you have, sawing it slightly as you slice through the cake.
So what’s the deal with all the variations of how to spell chile? Chili is the bean and meat concoction, sometimes spelled chilli. Chile with an “e” is how the fruit (yes, botanically it’s a fruit) is spelled in the Spanish language, and since it originated in Latin America, that’s the accepted spelling.
Variations of this recipe have existed at least since WWII, when bakers made do with what was available. Without eggs and butter, this cake is vegan.
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