Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting inspired by David Lebovitz

Layers of rich chocolate cake are flavored with cinnamon and spicy chilies then frosted with dark chocolate ganache! Like Mexican Hot Chocolate only better!

Sometimes, a girl can get a little blue. Home alone on a rainy Friday night with a lingering cold, I found myself falling squarely into this category. Rather than moping about the house, I did what I always do. I went through the list of things I wanted to cook. I’ve got notes on my fridge, a Google doc on my computer, and the list in my little brain. On this particular night, I didn’t have to go far.

The level of melancholy I was facing called for something serious. Lately, I’ve been dreaming of a deep dark chocolate cake that tastes like Mexican hot chocolate. Specifically, I’ve dreamt of one that is reminiscent of the Aztec Drinking Chocolate from Vosges- which is a rich dark drinking chocolate flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, & chilies. The grocer near my house was out of decent baking chocolate for my ganache, so I went to my lovely corner store and splurged on Dagoba 70%. I used pure cocoa powder for the cake- not Dutch process.

Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon & Chilies

I started with a lovely devil’s food cake recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, David Lebovitz, and I went from there. Baking is still sort of magic to me. I’m amazed every time something works, and making this beautiful chocolately layer cake was no exception. Watching the ganache go from liquid to an actual frosting made me nothing short of giddy.  And between frosting the cake, listening to Noah Levine on my itunes, and bringing a big slice of the finished cake to Omar at my corner store, I was feeling pretty good by night’s end. Oh, and it tasted pretty delicious too!

Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon & Chilies

  • 9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1½ cups minus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (optional, you might choose to use less if you don’t like hot food)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ cup whole milk


  • 10 ounces 67-72% chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter


  • Place rack in center of oven & preheat oven to 350º
  • Grease two 9″ springform pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper.
  • Sift flour, corn starch, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, baking powder cinnamon, and chili powder in a bowl.
  • In the bowl your standing mixer, (or by hand), cream butter and sugar until smooth- about five minutes then add your eggs one at a time.
  • Mix together the water and milk. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter, egg, sugar mixture and incorporate well, the add the water and milk. Next add the last of the flour mixture and stir until it looks like cake batter.
  • Pour the batter into the two pans and bake for 17-23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
  • To make the ganache,melt the chocolate and water in a heat proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Stirring gently until completely melted. Remove from heat.
  • Whisk small pieces of butter into the chocolate until it becomes totally smooth. Allow the ganache to cool and thicken up before frosting the cake. This will take a while. I was impatient and sped things up by sticking the bowl in the fridge for about an hour.
  • To frost the cake, remove layers from pans and place a nice thick layer of frosting on top of the bottom layer then place the top layer atop that one. Then frost the top of the cake first and finish with sides. I used my cake stand to frost the cake as I don’t have a fancy cake spinner thing.

Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon & Chilies

What helps you beat the winter blues? I’d love to know. Leave a comment and help a blogger out!


    • sabrinamodel says

      Oh, baking cures all. Try blasting some Ruth Brown or Wanda Jackson while you're doing it, and you're totally set!

  1. says

    Sabrina, I totally missed your comment on my blog and only came across it today. Thanks for checking out the end results using the coconut flour. Love that you used hot chili powder in the chocolate cake. Your cake looks really delicious. It motivates me to be more adventurous with ingredients we don't usually associate with baking.

    • sabrinamodel says

      Thanks Anna, I love your coconut cake. I just made another coconut cake for my dear friends' wedding. It was a coconut layer cake with passionfruit curd, lemon whipped cream, and coconut buttercream. It was a lot of work, but it made my friends so happy oh, and it was delicious. I didn't have the courage to try the coconut flour with that recipe. Too much riding on that one!

    • sabrinamodel says

      There are lots of spicy chocolate bars on the market now. Vosges has an especially delicious one. I highly recommend adding a little heat to fine chocolate. It\’s pretty delicious!

  2. says

    Ive been super down lately. Maybe I should add this to the list of things to cook because if all else fails – it looks like it will taste awesome.

    • says

      Kita, sorry to hear you’ve been blue. The holidays can be so rough. Adding this to the list is a good thing because both chocolate and hot chilies can up your endorphins, so you might just get a double boost from this cake. I hope you’re feeling sunshiney soon.
      Take Care,

  3. Alex says

    Hi! I was wondering what would happen if I were to replace the whole milk with skim ( whole doesn't really work with my stomach :/). Would that totally throw off the recipe?

    • says

      Hi Alex,
      I might try coconut milk if the whole milk won\’t work. The fat content would be closer and the flavor would be lovely. My husband doesn\’t do milk at all anymore. He\’s not lactose intolerant but mildly allergic and I\’m loving alternative milks for baking, these days. If you give it a try, please let me know.

  4. Laine says

    Just made this for a Spanish project and I am so excited to taste it?! It looks and smells amazing though!!

  5. Ariela says

    Just made this recipe and it was a disaster. The cake is way, way too spicy and impossible to eat. The heat burns the back of your throat-completely unenjoyable. Will have to throw it away.
    Also, the ganache was extremely bitter and did not thicken, even after an hour and a half.
    Overall, I would avoid this recipe entirely. If you're convinced to try it, add 1 teaspoon (or less) of pepper instead of 1 tbs., and find a different frosting somewhere else.

    • says

      I would love to help you troubleshoot this. I made the cake twice before posting and have also made it once since then using a gluten free flour blend. I\’m sorry the spiciness was too much for you- it was perfect for my family and friends.
      Please let me know your process for the ganache. It should not take very long at all.

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