Let Them Eat (Mexican Chocolate Spice) Cake

Dark Cake, Wayne Thiebaud

Somebody has been compared to Marie Antoinette recently for announcing she would remodel the White House Rose Garden during a national crisis. And that reminds me of cakes….

When I was working and single mothering, I would make cakes to relax. Sometimes I would make 6 or 7 cakes a week. I took them to work, delivered them to gatherings of my favorite poker group, and donated them to bake sales. Gabe and a couple of his friends would eat a whole one in front of the TV.

The cake I made most often was a Mexican Chocolate Spice Cake. It was dense, with deep flavors and a bite of cayenne. Because it was a single layer and not frosted, it was easy to transport and eat with a napkin.

Camellia Cake, Wayne Thiebaud, 1920

The cake came up in conversation with Corinne recently. Corinne lives downstairs from me. When I described the cake, she asked me to make one for her birthday. Of course! How exciting to feel useful! I couldn’t remember the recipe, so I looked for it online. But everything called a Mexican Chocolate Spice Cake involved a few tablespoons of cocoa, white flour, and a little oil. My recipe had a half a pound of dark chocolate, almond meal, and a lot of butter. So I looked for a recipe that was similar.

Chocolate Cake, Wayne Thiebaud

It turns out my Mexican Chocolate Spice Cake is a Torta Caprese with a Mexican twist. The Torta Caprese is from the Island of Capri in Italy. The Italians believe the recipe was created when a local baker forgot to add the flour to the batter. “Uno dei pasticci più fortunati della storia” – one of history’s most fortunate mistakes!

So I used the recipe for the Torta Caprese and made it “Mexican” by adding 1-1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne.

And voila. Happy Birthday to Corinne!

The cake was amazing. It was richer and moister than the original. We ate it with blackberries and whipped cream laced with Cointreau, surely making it the best cake ever.

Here is the recipe I used. https://www.rachaelrayshow.com/recipes/giadas-torta-caprese-italian-chocolate-almond-cake

And here is more about Wayne Thiebaud’s wonderful cake paintings, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/books/review/Boxer-t.html


  1. Your Mexican Chocolate Spice Cake was always the most delightful treat… so now you absolutely must make another one and give me half and Gabe half. Gimme!!! Gimme!!! Gimme!!! Pretty please???

  2. Your Torta Caprese is perfect for us. My husband is severely Gluten Intolerant. I love baking with Almond flour and will make this cake for his 81st birthday on August 19! I think he’ll be a happy guy! Thanks for sharing the paintings by Wayne Thiebaud. I remember studying his work in a college painting course—I especially liked his paintings of multiples of edibles, like cut pieces of pie!

    Love your posts, Kim! Glad to see you’re eating well during this extraordinary time. I love to bake, too!


    1. You will love this cake! And yes, I have been eating too well. I am officially dieting this past month and it looks like I’ll need another four months. But once a week, cake!

  3. Wonderful, Querida Kim! (Too bad I can’t eat chocolate.) Yes, many of the best recipes in the world’s culinary repertoire started out as “mistakes.” Take the Tarte Tatin, for example, which I write about in my forthcoming book. Stay tuned… — xx

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