Pepita-Mexican Chocolate Cake with Candied Ancho Chile

Servings: 8


  • 2cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar (divided use)
  • 2largeancho chiles, (about 2 ounces) stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/4- inch squares
  • 8tablespoons (4 ounces, 1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into 1/2- inch pieces, plus another tablespoon or two for greasing the pan
  • 1 3/4 cups (about 8 ounces) toasted salted pumpkin seeds (divided use)
  • 1cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (divided use)
  • 3large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/3cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1tablespoon mezcal or tequila
  • 1/2 cupMexican chocolate (about 3 ounces), chopped into pea-sized pieces
  • Cocoa powder for dusting


In a small (1/2 quart) saucepan, add 1 cup of the sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Add the chiles and simmer for 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chiles to a parchment-lined plate.  (The simple syrup can be used for adding heat to a cocktail.)

Turn the oven on to 350 degrees and position the rack in the lower third.  Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan, then lay in a round of parchment paper cut to fit the pan and slather it generously with more butter (about a tablespoon). Sprinkle ½ cup of the pumpkin seeds in an even layer over the parchment, then sprinkle the seeds evenly with 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar. Set aside.

Measure the remaining 1 ¼ cups of pumpkin seeds and 1 cup granulated sugar into a food processor. Pulse the machine until the seeds are pulverized and resemble damp sand. Add the eggs and butter and pulse until incorporated.  Add the flour, baking powder and mezcal and continue to pulse, just until you have a smooth batter.

Add the chocolate and chiles to the batter and pulse until it's mixed in - two or three times should do it.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a cooling rack, then upend it onto a serving platter and remove the parchment paper.  The cake will have a crunchy layer of candied pepitas on top, which looks even more beautiful with a sprinkling of cocoa powder.



  1. “2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (divided use)” > 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (divided use)

    I can’t wait to try the recipe, thanks!

  2. Actually, 1st ingredient is sugar I believe. 1 cup for the simple syrup, one cup for the batter and 2 TBSP for the bottom of the cake pan. The sugar listed later in the list appears to be a repeat and only 1 cup of water is used for the syrup.

    I’m going to make this tonight, looking forward to it!

  3. Well, it is far from dry, it is more moist-brownie like. Making it according to recipe, with no modifications. As mentioned above, I have even added time to the recommended baking time, as my bake is between 50-55 minutes.

  4. How about sharing the recipe for Plantain cake I devoured at Rick’s RED O in La jolla! The best cake ever and I usually don’t enjoy cakes that are not chocolate. This was a “knock-your-socks-off cake. I love the side pepita crunch. YUM

    Thank you!

  5. This is the best cake ever. The Plantain Cake served at Red O’s in La jolla. Can you please tell me how I can obtain this recipe? Is it included in one of Mr. Bayless’ cook books that I can purchase?
    Thank you,
    A.C Gates

  6. Very tasty. Had my eye on this recipe for a long time. Rich. Might consider reducing the sugar somewhat. Not spicy but my chiles are pretty old. I weighed them and found that 2 ounces was closer to 4 chiles. Pulverized the chiles along with the sugar as a commenter on another site said incorporating them at the later instruction left them too chewy in their larger state.

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