Spiced hot chocolate cake

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Spiced hot chocolate cake: a decadent twist on a classic, with dark chocolate buttermilk frosting.

Spiced hot chocolate cake: a decadent twist on a classic, with dark chocolate buttermilk frosting.

Spiced hot chocolate cake: a decadent twist on a classic, with dark chocolate buttermilk frosting.

Spiced hot chocolate cake: a decadent twist on a classic, with dark chocolate buttermilk frosting.

Spiced hot chocolate cake: a decadent twist on a classic, with dark chocolate buttermilk frosting.

Spiced hot chocolate cake: a decadent twist on a classic, with dark chocolate buttermilk frosting.

Spiced hot chocolate cake: a decadent twist on a classic, with dark chocolate buttermilk frosting.

Spiced hot chocolate cake: a decadent twist on a classic, with dark chocolate buttermilk frosting.

Spiced hot chocolate cake: a decadent twist on a classic, with dark chocolate buttermilk frosting.

Spiced hot chocolate cake: a decadent twist on a classic, with dark chocolate buttermilk frosting.

Spiced hot chocolate cake: a decadent twist on a classic, with dark chocolate buttermilk frosting.

Spiced hot chocolate cake: a decadent twist on a classic, with dark chocolate buttermilk frosting.

It’s a funny thing: even though I’ve been writing, styling, and taking photos here for almost three years, it still feels a little strange to think of myself as a food blogger. For a long time, I thought that maybe this was because this isn’t my day job (i.e. I’m not blogging professionally), that meant it couldn’t be more than a little side project, one that I rarely brought up outside of my immediate circle of friends and family. I’d think about the nature of this particular type of blogging all the time, and I had so many questions — questions about tone and audience, props and styling, promotion, scheduling, sponsorship, but I was too nervous to reach out to anyone about it.

And then I stumbled across a group of fellow Canadian food bloggers (hi, FBC!) and through this group, I came across Julia and her gorgeous blog, Imagelicious. I always felt like you could really get a sense of who she was through her writing, and her recipe photos were so gorgeous, I began (wisely) to avoid looking at her site before lunchtime! And then one day, I mustered up the courage to send her an email to see if she’d be willing to collaborate on a post together.

I was thrilled when she agreed, but I knew I’d made a new friend when she typed back: “Sweets are also my favourite to photograph.” And so we did! I had such a great time baking together at Julia’s place. There is something so nice about being able to share baking — something I normally do alone — with someone who really loves it the same way I do! It was great to have someone else to bounce around ideas with, and to work toward a common goal. And since I’m the most forgetful baker on the planet, I must admit that it was also very nice to have someone double-check the ingredients and realize that we’d forgotten to add vanilla!

We made an absolutely spectacular mess together trying to assemble this cake: little exploding clouds of sugar and spice, chocolate cake batter on every surface, using a thousand times more dishes than necessary — and it was a blast. And the best part was the generous slices of cake we cut for ourselves as a reward for a ‘hard’ day’s work.

This spiced hot chocolate cake is the perfect treat for when the weather begins to cool. It’s a take on those intense shots of Mexican(ish) spiced hot chocolate, and I love the twist that the spice lends to an otherwise classic chocolate cake. The cake is unbelievably tender, and the buttermilk chocolate frosting lends a little sweetness and balances the flavours of the cake perfectly. It would pair beautifully with some hot tea or coffee, or perhaps even a hot toddy if you’re really feeling the chill. 😉

Julia’s got some of her own gorgeous photos from this adventure on her site, so please check them out here and say hello!

Are you baking up some cool-weather dessert favourites, Dear Readers? Let me know in the comments!

Spiced hot chocolate cake

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 hours

Yield: 10-14 servings

A gorgeous chocolate cake with a slightly spicy twist -- like a Mexican hot chocolate shot in cake form. Adapted from Sweetapolita and Nicole Spiridakis' Flourless


    For the cake:
  • 1.5 cups flour (190g)
  • 1.5 cups sugar (300g)
  • 2/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed) 80g
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne powder*
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup hot water
  • 3/4 cup vegetable/canola/sunflower oil
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • For the frosting:
  • 1/2 cup (115g) softened butter
  • 60g semi-sweet or dark chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne powder*
  • 1 cup (100g) confectioner's sugar
  • 2-3 Tbs buttermilk


    For the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C). Spray the bottom of two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line bottoms with parchment rounds. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne.
  3. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, water, oil, and vanilla, and then mix in eggs.
  4. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Divide batter equally among the two cake pans or weigh for accuracy--each pan should weigh about 385 grams.
  5. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out with a only a few crumbs, about 23 minutes. Try not to over-bake. Let cakes cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then turn onto rack to cool completely.
  6. For the frosting:
  7. Place butter in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla, and cayenne, and beat to incorporate. Sift in the icing sugar, stir. Add the buttermilk 1 Tbs at a time, until the frosting reaches your desired consistency.
  8. Assembly
  9. Set one of your cooled cake layers on a cake stand or serving platter. Cover with just less than half the total frosting, and swirl to the edges with a spoon. Top with the second cake layer, and repeat the frosting swirls with the remaining frosting.

*Please note: the amount of cayenne in this recipe is based off of the one I use in my kitchen, which is getting on a little in age, and not especially strong. If you have a very potent cayenne -- or if you're averse to spice in general -- I suggest halving the amount called for here.




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37 Responses to “Spiced hot chocolate cake”

  1. Bex July 27, 2020 at 4:30 PM #

    This is my absolute favorite chocolate cake recipe but I was wondering If I replace the cocoa with more flour will it be the same fantastic cake but vanilla?

  2. Laura January 27, 2020 at 1:31 AM #

    I didn’t have an 8” pan so I did cupcakes. They were great! Super moist with just the perfect hit of heat. For those who have asked about timing, I did them for 21 minutes and they turned out well. I got 20 cupcakes.

  3. Di December 17, 2018 at 12:54 PM #

    Hi, just wanted to let you know of an error in your recipe for Spiced Hot Cake
    In the total time area you have written 35 hours, I believe this should be minutes. Thank you for a very informative and visually exciting blog.

  4. Emily October 22, 2018 at 8:06 PM #

    This cake looks delicious! I am interested in making this for an upcoming party, but would like to do cupcakes to make serving easier. What is your advice for adjusting the baking time? Also, how many cupcakes do you think this recipe might make?

  5. G September 21, 2018 at 8:29 AM #

    Hi there! This looks amazing! I cannot wait to try! I was wondering what brand of cocoa powder you used please. Hershey’s specially dark by chance? Thanks in advance.

  6. Anessa August 15, 2018 at 6:54 PM #

    This is my favorite cake! So decadent…almmost sinfully delicious.

    However, have you experimented with making it gluten-free? What kind of flour would you recommend?

  7. Gail February 27, 2018 at 8:10 PM #

    I will make this cake for my Son,for his birthday.

  8. Nini November 25, 2017 at 11:28 PM #

    I made this cake and absolutely LOVED it! Was a big hit with the whole family! It’s complex and interesting, not too sweet and the kick from the cayenne is great and not too overpowering. I did find that it got a bit spicier the older the cake was (spicier on day 2 after baking than day 1) so heads up on that- but honestly, it won’t sit around for very long- that’s how good it is. Thanks!

  9. Annette September 17, 2017 at 2:21 PM #

    I made this yesterday but made cupcakes instead. The texture was moist and flavourful. Just enough cayenne to get a bit of heat after the bit but it balanced very well with the sweet icing. I made 3 types of cupcakes yesterday and these were definitely the best. Thanks for a great recipe.

    • toughcookie November 14, 2017 at 10:23 AM #

      I’m so glad you liked the recipe, Annette!

  10. Tao Tao Wang January 25, 2016 at 1:38 AM #

    hi there. is it possible to make this via cupcake form? would the only adjustment be a shorter cook time? thanks!

  11. Kimberlie Robert October 26, 2015 at 1:29 PM #

    Alanna, I really enjoyed meeting you this weekend, and good to chat it up at W. Your website is beautiful, as is this post! Gorgeous work. I hope to keep in touch. You’re an inspired photographer. You can find me at http://www.thefinercookie.com. Please come if you have a moment. Best, Kim

    • toughcookie October 28, 2015 at 12:58 PM #

      Thanks Kim. It was lovely to meet you too!

  12. Amaryllis @ thetastyother.com October 18, 2015 at 2:03 PM #

    I’m so happy you decided to share your ‘absolutely spectacular mess’! It is spectacular indeed- but not at all a mess! Thanks for this beautiful cake, Alanna!

    • toughcookie October 28, 2015 at 12:57 PM #

      And thank YOU for the kind words, Amaryllis!

  13. Claudia | The Brick Kitchen October 17, 2015 at 10:31 PM #

    LOVE your dark lighting photos here – absolutely gorgeous (as is the cake!). Cool to see the photos of you taking photos too! (if that makes sense haha?!). The cake looks incredible too – have never put spices with chocolate before but sounds like I need to give it a go! 🙂

    • toughcookie October 18, 2015 at 9:43 AM #

      Thanks for the kind words, Claudia! The photos are, in fact, of Julia while she shoots away, but there are some photos of me over on her site!

  14. Rae October 17, 2015 at 6:00 PM #

    This cake looks absolutely amazing and what I love about blogging are the friendships that come out of it. It’s so cool that you both were able to connect off of the computer screens and also that Julia was able to share some of her talent and tips for photographing food with you!

    Rae | Love from Berlin

  15. Kathryn @ The Scratch Artist October 16, 2015 at 10:24 PM #

    Hi Alanna,
    I just found your beautiful blog on foodgawker. These photos are outrageous. So, so beautiful. I want to eat my screen! I loved hearing and seeing some behind the scenes action. I just started my blog and like you it is not a “professional” endeavor. However, I spend enough time on it for it to qualify as a full-time job 😉
    I’m happy to have found you tonight. I love the name of your site! Enjoy your weekend.

    • toughcookie October 16, 2015 at 11:51 PM #

      Kathryn, thank you for saying hello! I absolutely know what you mean about it sometimes feeling like a full-time job, but hey — at least there’s cake at the end of it!

  16. Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut October 16, 2015 at 7:46 PM #

    Holy moly I just found you through foodgawker and I love your photography! The cake also sounds amazing..I’ve never tried a spicy chocolate cake. Pinning this for sure! 🙂

    • toughcookie October 16, 2015 at 11:50 PM #

      Thank you for stopping by, Amanda, and for the kind words! 🙂

  17. sophie October 16, 2015 at 7:25 PM #

    Do you think kefir/yogurt could work in place of the buttermilk?
    They’re each acidic…

    • toughcookie October 16, 2015 at 11:49 PM #

      Hi Sophie,

      Yes, I think that kefir would be a perfect substitution! Yoghurt could also work, but I’d either try to find the kind that’s naturally a bit runny, or you could thin it out a little with some milk. Best of luck!

  18. Shanna | Kiss My Bowl October 16, 2015 at 5:21 PM #

    BAH!! This is so great! I wish there weren’t so many provinces between us, I love bake-date-collabs.

    • toughcookie October 16, 2015 at 11:48 PM #

      I love them too! They remind me of the good old days when all my college roommates loved to bake and there was always a house filled with cookies! I’ve been meaning to visit Alberta, though, so perhaps a bake date isn’t out of the question!

  19. janet @ the taste space October 9, 2015 at 4:52 PM #

    What a wonderful way to collaborate with other bloggers. I usually only chat when I meet others, but this takes it to the next level. Kudos to you both!

    • toughcookie October 16, 2015 at 11:46 PM #

      Thank you for the kind words, Janet! It was a lot of fun!

  20. Elsa October 8, 2015 at 3:42 PM #

    We were in Europe, so missed your Challah stuffed with Apple Butter. Looks great! For sure I’ll try that! And..your spiced hot Chocolate Cake….that one comes first! Elsa.

    • toughcookie October 16, 2015 at 11:45 PM #

      Cake must always come first, no? 😉

  21. Olivia @ livforcake October 8, 2015 at 12:04 PM #

    This cake looks amazing!! I’m super jealous and wish I was there to share in the baking, cake making, and eating (of course). Stunning pics, as usual!

    • toughcookie October 16, 2015 at 11:45 PM #

      Thank you, Olivia! Haha, it takes two of us to even try to match your own mastery of cakes! Are you coming to FBC2015? I’d love to meet up in person someday!

  22. Sofia | From the Land we Live on October 8, 2015 at 10:47 AM #

    Love this, you guys! So nice to see your photographs side by side and all the behind the scenes action. Spiced chocolate cake…mmmm. You don’t happen to have an extra slice in the freezer that you can bring to the FBC meetup, do you?

    • toughcookie October 16, 2015 at 11:42 PM #

      Haha, Sofia, I wish! I’m so excited to meet you this weekend! Perhaps we could plan a baking date in the future — after all, there’s really no such thing as too much cake. 😉

  23. Julia (@Imagelicious) October 8, 2015 at 10:20 AM #

    Wow – such wonderful words. You made me blush! Thank you!

    It was so much fun baking together and photographing! And I love how we captured the same images in different and unique ways. It was a pleasure!

    • toughcookie October 16, 2015 at 11:41 PM #

      I had such a great time too Julia! I absolutely love your take on the photos, and the video was spectacular! My grandmother even called me to tell me how much she enjoyed it! xoxoxo