This Mexican-style chocolate cake ticks all the boxes | Tucson Restaurant News

Robin Mather Special to the Arizona Daily Star

Sometimes you just need something quick, simple, and sweet.

This Mexican-style chocolate cake ticks the boxes. And, if it’s important to you, it’s a vegan cake with a vegan icing option.

Two of my favorite neighbors did a kindness for me the other day, and I wanted to bake a little something to thank them. She’s a vegan, he’s not and neither am I. But I certainly wanted to give them something they could both enjoy.

Chances are that you have everything you need for the cake in your pantry. Most of us keep flour, sugar, a few basic spices, and vegetable oil on hand, after all.

The cake relies on the simple chemical reaction of baking soda plus vinegar for its leavening. You won’t taste the vinegar, I promise. As leavenings go, however, this one isn’t the most stable so it’s important to get the batter into the prepared pan and into the oven quickly. It’s also important to allow the cake to cool completely before you goof around with it β€” its crumb is surprisingly delicate, especially when still warm.

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Bake it in a traditional square or round pan, and it looks like a regular cake. I often bake mine in a loaf pan, so it looks more like a tea loaf β€” not too tall, with nice rectangular slices.

While I don’t typically keep margarine in the house β€” I prefer grass-fed butter in my kitchen β€” I was happy to pick some up for this cake’s icing. Knowing that I’m likely to bake for these neighbors again, the remainder of the package went into the freezer for another day.

I like this cake with chile powder and unabashedly cinnamon-y because I find it’s like chocolate gingerbread this way. If you’d prefer a more subtle flavor, back off on the chile powder.

By the way, in the name of clarity, you’ll want to use chile powder β€” simply ground chiles β€” not chili powder, which has cumin, oregano and several other ingredients. If you don’t have chile powder, substitute cayenne pepper.

If keeping the cake vegan isn’t important to you, use butter in the icing. I generally do that. Sometimes I use molasses or sorghum syrup instead of agave syrup or maple syrup, just to vary the flavor some.

But just as often as not, if I’m baking for myself, I skip the icing entirely and dust the cooled cake with drifts of confectioner’s sugar. The cake alone is sweet enough that it doesn’t need much in the way of additional sugar.

If you’d like to bake this cake to have on hand in the future, it freezes well once it’s cooled. Wrap it well in wax paper and then put it in a big zip-top bag or overwrap it with freezer wrap. Save the final touches until you thaw it β€” it’ll take about 24 hours in the refrigerator to thaw completely. But because it’s so quick and easy to bake, I don’t generally fool around with freezing it.

All in all, this is a flexible, easy cake to bake for a quick treat. Whether it’s for you or for gifting is up to you.

Mexican chocolate cake with chocolate icing

This cake is vegan if you use margarine in the icing. If that doesn’t concern you, use the recommended butter. Or, if you’re lazy, as I sometimes am, just dust the finished cake with confectioner’s sugar when it’s fully cooled.

1Β½ cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground chile powder

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon of cider or white vinegar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

ΒΎ cup butter, softened (vegan option: stick margarine)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup agave or maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9-inch square or round cake pan, or a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, and chile powder and stir. Add the cold water, vegetable oil, white vinegar, and vanilla and stir until just combined.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean. A loaf pan may take a little longer, up to 45 minutes.

While the cake bakes, combine all the icing ingredients in a food processor or blender and whiz until well-blended. Pour the icing into a bowl and refrigerate for later use.

When the cake tests done, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a rack. Frost with the icing or skip the icing and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

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