Chile-Spiked Chocolate Cakes

These chike-spiked chocolate cakes get their kick from chipotle peppers and are served with either a cinnamon custard or a tomatillo sauce.

Seven white ramekins filled with chile-spiked chocolate cakes

I thank my friend Fany Gerson for creating this recipe for me. The cakes are spectacular served with the Cinnamon Custard Sauce or the Sweet Tomatillo Sauce, or both, but they’re delicious on their own or with unsweetened whipped cream.–Roberto Santibañez

Chile-Spiked Chocolate Cakes

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • 3 H, 30 M
  • Makes 8 servings
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  • For the cinnamon custard sauce
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • One 5-inch Mexican cinnamon stick
  • Three 1-inch strips lime zest (removed with a vegetable peeler)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • For the sweet tomatillo sauce
  • 1/2 pound small tomatillos, husked, washed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup shaved piloncillo (see notes), or 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise in half
  • One 3-inch piece Mexican cinnamon bark (see notes)
  • For the cakes
  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the ramekins, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more for coating the ramekins
  • 6 medium chipotles mecos chiles, wiped clean, stemmed, seeded, lightly toasted, and soaked (see notes)
  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, strained
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Cinnamon Custard Sauce or Sweet Tomatillo Sauce, or 3/4 cup of each


  • Make the cinnamon custard sauce
  • 1. Combine the heavy cream, cinnamon, and zest in a small heavy saucepan and bring just to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat.
  • 2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a mixing bowl until thoroughly blended. Whisking constantly, slowly add the hot cream to the egg mixture. Return to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, just until thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.
  • 3. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve into a bowl. Cover the sauce with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly against the surface and cool to room temperature. Then chill for at least 2 hours before serving. The sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 days.
  • Make the sweet tomatillo sauce
  • 4. Put the tomatillos, piloncillo, sugar, and water into a small saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean with a paring knife (reserve the pod) and add the seeds to the saucepan.
  • 5. Cut a 6-inch square from a double thickness of cheesecloth. Crumble the cinnamon stick onto the square, add the vanilla pod, and tie the cheesecloth into a neat bundle. Add the spice bundle to the pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatillos are very soft, about 15 minutes.
  • 6. Pick out the spice bundle, and transfer the mixture to a blender jar. Blend the sauce on low speed, using quick on/off pulses, just until smooth; the tomatillo seeds should still be whole. Cool to room temperature, then chill for at least 2 hours before serving. The sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 days.
  • Make the cakes
  • 7. With a rack in the center position, preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Butter eight 4-ounce ramekins (see notes) and coat with an even layer of sugar. Tap out the excess sugar. Bring a kettle of water to a boil and remove it from the heat.
  • 8. Drain the chiles and put them in a blender jar. Blend with just enough water (about 2 to 3 tablespoons) to make a thick, smooth purée. Pass the purée through a fine sieve and measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons of the sieved purée. Reserve the rest for another use.
  • 9. Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Bring the orange juice and the 1 cup sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
  • 10. Pour the sugar syrup over the chocolate and whisk gently just until the chocolate is melted. Add the butter and stir until blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Whisk in the chile paste, then stir in the flour and salt just until no streaks of white remain.
  • 11. Divide the batter among the prepared ramekins and put them in a baking dish large enough to hold them comfortably (a 13-by-9-inch dish works well). Pull out the rack, put the baking dish on it, and pour enough hot water from the kettle into the dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the tops form an even, smooth, firm crust, 30 to 35 minutes.
  • 12. Serve hot or at room temperature. In either case, unmold the cakes onto serving plates and garnish each with a ribbon of custard and/or tomatillo sauce, if desired.


  • These cakes were baked in 4-ounce ramekins that measured 2 3/4 inches wide by 2 inches high. Other 4-ounce ramekins or custard cups can be used. Depending on their measurements, you may have to use more than one baking dish and/or adjust the cooking time.
  • A type of unrefined brown sugar with a pronounced flavor of molasses, piloncillo is usually sold in small cones that range from under an ounce to about 10 ounces. Piloncillo is available at Latin supermarkets and online. In most recipes where it is called for, I have suggested a mixture of regular brown sugar and molasses as a substitute.
  • Mexican cinnamon, which is actually from Sri Lanka, is flakier, softer, and lighter in color than the more common cassia-type cinnamon. Both are part of the bark of trees. Do make an effort to track down true Mexican or Sri Lankan cinnamon in specialty or Latin markets, or order it online.
  • Chipotles are jalapenos that are left on the vine until ripened and then dried and smoked. In addition to intense heat, they add a wonderful smoky flavor to many dishes. Chipotles mecos, which are larger than most other types, have a brown-beige exterior and a very red interior.


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