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Published May 20, 2009, 12:00 AM

Halgrimson: Chili, chocolate make sweet, spicy desserts

In the late 1980s when Tejas restaurant was still in downtown Minneapolis, I often went there while visiting friends in the Twin Cities. I remember the food was fine, but the Chocolate Chili Cake was supreme.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

In the late 1980s when Tejas restaurant was still in downtown Minneapolis, I often went there while visiting friends in the Twin Cities. I remember the food was fine, but the Chocolate Chili Cake was supreme. And I was always going to make that cake, but until recently I never did. After finding a recipe I liked, I couldn’t wait any longer.

Some recipes call for either ancho or pasilla chili powder, and others call for six whole, dried chilies.

A dried ancho is about 3 to 4 inches long and reddish-brown in color. It ranges in flavor from mild to sharp and is the sweetest of the dried chilies. When fresh, it is called a poblano chili.

I once bought a ristra – a string of dried chilies popular in the Southwest – and brought it home in a small suitcase. The suitcase smelled deliciously of chilies for years afterward.

The pasilla chili is about 6 to 8 inches long and blackish-brown in color and is sometimes called chili negro. Its flavor is medium-hot.

I chose the recipe using ancho chili powder, which I had on hand. I get it from Penzy’s Spices in St. Paul. They have a huge business, and their turnover assures that the spices are fresh.

There is no flour in the cake. In my book flour is for bread, not for cakes.

Since most of the cakes I make are chocolate and have no flour, it is necessary to make a kind of meringue to give the cake depth. I have two bowls for my electric mixer so I have a clean one for the egg whites after I’ve beaten the yolks in the first one. A bowl with anything oily in it will not allow the whites to rise properly.

However, I do not have two beaters, so those must be thoroughly washed and dried.

Chocolate with chilies is not an unusual combination. A Mexican mole sauce for chicken or turkey combines the two ingredients. And I always put a handful of semisweet chocolate chips in my Chili Con Carne recipe.

Chocolate Chili Cake Recipe

16 ounces unsalted butter

Butter for greasing pan

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or chopped chunks

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Cocoa powder for dusting pan

3 tablespoons ancho or pasilla chili powder

¼ teaspoon salt

6 large eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pulverized instant coffee

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line bottom with parchment paper. Butter paper. Set aside.

In a heavy pan, melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa, chili powder and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks with ½ cup of sugar until thick and creamy. Gently fold chocolate mixture into yolks until well combined.

Using an electric mixer and a clean bowl, beat egg whites until thick. While beating, add remaining ½ cup sugar gradually and continue beating to form soft but firm peaks. Fold carefully into chocolate mixture, in several additions, being sure not to deflate meringue. Lightly pour into prepared pan and bake about 45 minutes until edges are set but center is still trembly and a few crumbs stick to a toothpick

Remove from oven and cool completely in pan set on a wire rack.

Run sharp knife around edge of cake. Remove pan sides and carefully lift away cake. Invert onto a plate. Remove bottom and peel away parchment. Makes 2 to 10 servings. Cake may be served with chocolate sauce, whipped cream or ice cream.

Note: If you do not have a heavy pan for melting the chocolate, use a double boiler.

Red Chili Powder

16 dried red chili pods, stems removed

Place 2-3 pods in a blender or processor and finely grind them into a powder. Add a few for pods and grind together. Empty the container and finish grinding remaining pods. Makes about 1 cup.

Michael Guerard’s Chocolate Sauce

¾ cup Dutch process cocoa powder

¾ cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 cup water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Mix cocoa, sugar, salt and water in a heavy pan using a wire whisk. Over medium low, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add butter and cook, stirring for 3 more minutes.



Readers can reach columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at