New World Chocolate Cake

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
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F/180C. Grease and flour sides of 9″/22 cm round cake pan. Line bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Sift or whisk dry ingredients in large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together wet ingredients.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry, and quickly stir until no lumps remain.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Serve when completely cool with lightly sweetened whipped cream dusted with cinnamon, ice cream, or crème fraîche (aka crema in Mexico).

Notes ~

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.


Wild guacamole and pantry salsa for cinco de mayo

Cinco de Mayo, the low key holiday in Mexico, is barely celebrated, unless you are in the U.S., where it is one of the best days for tequila and beer sales. On May 5, 1862, invading French forces were defeated at the battle of Puebla, Mexico. You would think this victory would be a celebrated throughout Mexico, but only Puebla commemorates the day with speeches and parades. Canada and a handful of other countries mark the day, some with more imagination than others, with an air guitar competition on the Cayman Islands, and a sky diving event in Vancouver, BC.

During these days (now months) of quarantine, we aren’t always stocked up with the usual items for making fiesta fare. No fresh roma tomatoes or ciliantro, not even a chile, are in our cocina today. But guacamole and salsa can still make an appearance to help us celebrate this almost non-existent holiday.

I found a few wild tomato plants growing on our property, and luckily, wild tomato season is happening during quarantine season. Tomatoes originated in the New World, and I like to think that these are close to the original tomato. The size of blueberries, and very flavorful, they add a pop to our salads. But there aren’t a lot, so a small amount was set aside for guacalmole, and canned tomatoes had to make do for salsa.

Russ gave both guacamole and salsa his seal of approval, pronouncing them “very good”, even with canned tomatoes, parsely from the garden taking the place of cilantro, and bottled hot sauce and garlic adding zip in the absence of chiles. These days, substitutions are in order, and have become the hallmark of a quarantine kitchen. Viva México!

Wild Guacamole

  • 1 large, ripe avocado
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • handful of wild tomatoes, or one roma tomato, diced
  • handful of chopped cilantro, or parsely if you don’t have cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 small lime
  • hot sauce, or minced serrano or jalapeño chile to taste
  1. Cut avocado in half, remove seed, scoop out flesh, and mash with a fork.
  2. Mix in remaining ingredients. Salt to taste. Serve with tortilla chips.

Pantry Salsa

  • 1 15-oz./411 grams can cubed or crushed tomato, drained
  • 1/2 medium onion chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • a handful of chopped parsely or cilantro
  • bottled hot sauce to taste, or 1-2 minced serrano or jalapeño chiles, seeded or not, depending on heat level
  • a squeeze of lime juice
  1. Blend tomatoes, if cubed, in food processor until roughly chopped.
  2. Spoon tomatoes into a bowl, and add remaining ingredients. Salt to taste.
  3. Serve with tortilla chips.

New World black bean brownies

It seems like every baker has joined the effort to turn out more bread, cookies, and muffins during these days of quarantine, and I’m doing my part. Black bean brownies have been on the horizon for some time. Beans? I was skeptical. I finally made them, and now I’m a believer. They are so good that I don’t see any reason to make traditional brownies any more.

Maybe it’s the richness and meatiness of black beans. Maybe it’s just the dark color. But they blend well with the chocolate. So well, they become lost in the mix, and can no longer be detected. My Chief Taster couldn’t tell the secret ingredient, and he can generally detect any flavor I throw at him.

Continuing the New World theme (see the recent recipe for New World Truffles), I added ancho chile powder and ground cinnamon. Black beans, cocoa powder and vanilla have their origins in the New World, as well. If you don’t like a little kick in your brownies, omit the chile. They will still be as rich and chocolatey as any brownie, plus they are gluten-free. If you can’t get black beans or ancho chile powder, see the substitution suggestions under notes at the end.


  • 1 15-oz./425 grams can of black beans, or 1 1/2 cups cooked beans, drained
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoon/40 grams melted coconut oil, or other mild tasting vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cups/75 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup/115 grams sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon if using unsalted beans)
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts for topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/176 C. Oil 8″/23 cm square baking pan, and cut parchment paper to fit bottom of pan.
  2. Puree beans in a food processor until smooth, adding a few tablespoons of bean liquid if necessary to make a smooth paste.
  3. Add eggs, oil, and vanilla, and blend until smooth.
  4. Combine dry ingredients in small bowl. Add to wet ingredients in food processor and blend well. The batter will be very thick.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle chopped nuts over top, pressing nuts lightly into batter.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, or until brownies test dry with a toothpick. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan and cutting into squares.

Notes ~

~ Substitutions: if black beans aren’t in your part of the world, try dark kidney beans instead. Even a lighter colored bean would be OK, if you didn’t mind lighter colored brownies. Substitute any chile powder for ancho chile powder. Use less than called for if you are using cayenne. For a chile flavor without the heat, try paprika.

~ Ancho chiles are dried poblano chiles, and one of the most commonly used dried chile in Mexico. A little fruity and sweet, they impart mild, flavorful heat.

~ When purchasing cocoa powder, look for the labels “Fair Trade” or “Organic” to be assured that child slave labor was not used in harvesting the cocao pods. The ubiquitous Hershey’s cocoa powder does not have these labels, and Hershey’s will not/can not say they don’t use child slave labor.