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Chocolate Cake with Candied Ancho and Pepitas

Scott Phillips

Servings: 8

This cake has long been a favorite of mine; the sugar and pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) on top conspire to make a slightly crackly topping while the cake itself is packed full of chocolate. Adding ancho chiles cooked in simple syrup adds a subtle fruity warmth.


  • 2 cups plus 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 4 medium ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and slightly softened; more for the pan
  • 1-3/4 cups toasted, salted pepitas
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 oz. (1/3 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. tequila
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 oz. Mexican chocolate, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 570
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 260
  • Fat (g): 29
  • Saturated Fat (g): 12
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 7
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 9
  • Cholesterol (mg): 100
  • Sodium (mg): 115
  • Carbohydrates (g): 70
  • Fiber (g): 2
  • Protein (g): 12


  • Combine 1 cup of the sugar and 1 cup water in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar, about 2 minutes. Add the chiles and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain through a medium-mesh strainer over a bowl and set aside. (Reserve the syrup for another use, such as the Spicy Bourbon Sidecar, if you like.) When cool, finely chop the chiles.
  • Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with a parchment round, and butter the parchment. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the pepitas evenly over the bottom of the pan, and then sprinkle with 2 Tbs. of the sugar. Set aside.
  • Combine the remaining 1-1/4 cups pepitas and the remaining 1 cup sugar in a food processor. Pulse until the pepitas are pulverized and resemble damp sand. Add the eggs and butter, and pulse until the mixture is well-combined. Add the flour, tequila, and baking powder and pulse until the mixture is just combined. Add the chocolate and pulse until combined. Add the ancho chiles and pulse until combined.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes for a 9-inch pan and 45 to 50 minutes for an 8-inch pan. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a platter and remove the parchment. Let cool until just warm or room temperature, then slice with a serrated knife to serve. The cake will keep, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to 3 days.


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Reviews (2 reviews)

  • fredruth | 03/15/2016

    After the candied anchos were cool, I chopped them finely in the food processor and there were no problems with ancho pieces sticking in your teeth.

  • User avater
    Pielove | 01/18/2016

    This is delicious, with a moist texture reminiscent of a European chocolate-nut torte, but a great crunch from the pepitas. The one thing I would change is adding the ancho chile earlier in the mixing-- even though I finely chopped it, I still found bits sticking in my teeth. Putting the peppers in with the pepitas would spread their flavor more uniformly.

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