Recipe: Vegan Chilli & Chocolate Cake

Chilli de arbol is a fiery hot Mexican chilli. ‘Arbol’ is the Spanish word for ‘tree’, but the long, elegant de arbol chillies actually hang from the branches of a wiry shrub only a few feet off the ground. The chillies turn a brilliant red colour when ripe and are sun-dried to intensify the spicy hot flavours. In Mexico, the chillies are used to increase the heat of soups and sauces. Add the de arbol powder to slow-cooked stews and Mexican bean soups for a chilli kick. To really embrace the heat of de arbol chillies, simmer a small pinch of the powder in your milk for a steaming mug of Mexican hot chocolate.

Pasilla chilli powder is made from dried chilaca peppers that are used in Latin American cooking. Literally translating as ‘little raisin’, pasilla chillies have grape-like, liquorice flavours and mild heat. Traditionally, pasillas are used in Mexican mole and enchilada sauces or meat marinades. Looking for a way to revamp rich chocolate desserts? Pasilla chilli powder is your key to new layers of flavour in chocolate cakes.

Ancho chilli powder is made from Mexican ancho poblano chillies. They’re known for their fruity, smoky flavour and mild heat. Ancho chillies are one of the most popular Mexican varieties – and often form the base flavour of chilli sauces or a basic mole, along with guajillo chillies. Sprinkle the powder straight into a sauce, stew or even soup during cooking. Mix the ancho powder with salt, pepper, sugar, and dried herbs to make a Mexican spice rub for meat and poultry before roasting or popping on the barbecue.


This vegan moist and tender cake is rich but light, and has a gentle, warming heat with notes of raisin and fruity smokiness.




  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan and grease and line the base of a 23cm/9-inch springform cake tin with sunflower oil.
  2. Sift together self-raising flourbaking powderbicarbonate of soda, cocoa, chilli de Arbol powderancho chilli powder and pasilla chilli powder into a large bowl.
  3. Stir in a good pinch of fine sea salt and caster sugar, then make a well in the middle. In a jug, whisk together sunflower oilcoconut milk and vanilla extract.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and thoroughly mix with a balloon whisk until smooth, then pour the batter into your prepared cake tin.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in its tin on top of a wire rack.
  6. In the meantime, make the icing. Put golden syrupcoconut milk and dark chocolate, broken into pieces, in a saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until the chocolate has melted. Leave to cool.
  7. Upturn the cold cake on to a cake plate and spoon over the cold icing (you might need to give it an extra whisk before using).
  8. Use the back of the spoon to tease the icing to the edge of the cake; if a little drips off the sides, all the better.


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