One Spiced Hot Chocolate Cake through two camera lenses

Two weeks ago I had a blind date. With a girl. This is what my best friend told me when I described to her my meeting with lovely Alanna from One Tough Cookie blog.

Back in August I got a surprising email from Alanna Lipson, my fellow Torontonian food blogger, whose recipes call my name and photographs make my fingers reach for the camera. She suggested teaming up and collaborating on something. Without any hesitation I responded yes and we started planning our meeting. We both preferred making a dessert rather than a savoury dish just because it's more fun to photograph (let alone eat).

And just like that, I had my "blind date" with a talented photographer. We had a really fun day of cooking, photographing, eating the cake we just made and gossiping. Alanna's presence made me look at the baking process in a different and forgotten over the past few years way. I noticed the details that I usually ignore: white puffy clouds of flour sifted into a bowl; tiny granules of Costa Rican cinnamon spilled out of the measuring dish; glistening droplets of chocolate batter rich with buttermilk and cocoa on the work surface, begging to be tasted.

We moved all the baking supplies and ingredients into my studio where the morning light, bright and soft, shone on the bowls and spoons and spices and powders with such seduction that I could not help myself but photograph. Looking for shapes, shades and shadows, it is the pictures that were the focal point of the day for me, not the cake.

But still, the cake cannot (and should not) be dismissed. It is moist, airy, intensely chocolatey with a slight buttermilk tang that cuts through the richness of the frosting and makes the cake taste light. It has a hint of cinnamon and a faint aftertaste of spicy and comforting cayenne pepper (oh, how I wished for it to be a bit spicier, a bit bolder).

I then spent a few days editing photographs and tasting the cake again in my memories. Every photographer is different, and so it was really fun seeing what Alanna did with her dark and beautiful pictures. You can see hers and mine photo styles below (my pictures have Imagelicious watermark), and please check out Alanna's blog post about this cake too.

Oh, and I also decided to try something totally new - I created a cooking video! I made a rookie mistake and held my iPhone vertically instead of horizontally, though, but I'm quite happy with the result.

Note: this is a very photo heavy post. Recipe is at the bottom.

Spiced Hot Chocolate Cake

This recipe was adapted from Sweetapolita and flourless. cookbook by Nicole Spiridakis

1.5 cups flour (190g)

Cake batter:
Flour - 1.5 cups 1.5 cups (190 g)
Sugar - 1.5 cups (300 g)
Dark unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed) - 2/3 cup (80 g)
Baking soda - 2 teaspoons
Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
Salt - 3/4 teaspoon
Cinnamon - 1 tablespoon
Cayenne - 1/4 teaspoon *see note
Buttermilk, room temperature - 3/4 cup
Hot water - 2/3 cup
Vegetable/canola/sunflower oil - 3/4 cup
Vanilla - 1.5 teaspoon
Eggs - 2 large

Softened butter - 1/2 cup (115 g)
Milk chocolate, melted - 60 g
Vanilla - 1/2 teaspoon
Confectioner's (Icing) sugar - 1 cup (100 g)
Buttermilk - 2-3 tablespoons

  • Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C).
  • Spray the bottom of two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line bottoms with parchment rounds. Set aside. 
  • In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne. 
  • In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, water, oil, and vanilla, and then mix in eggs. 
  • Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute.
  • Divide batter equally among the two cake pans or weigh for accuracy--each pan should weigh about 385 grams. 
  • Bake until a wooden pick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out with a only a few crumbs, about 23 minutes (see note). Try not to over-bake.
  • Let cakes cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then turn onto rack to cool completely.
  • For the frosting, place butter in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy.
  • Add the melted chocolate and vanilla, and beat to incorporate.
  • Sift in the icing sugar, stir.
  • Add the buttermilk 1 Tbs at a time, until desired consistency.
  • Use half of the frosting between two cakes and the other half on top of the cake.


- I would use at least 1/2 teaspoon if not 3/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper next time in the batter.

- I also think that frosting would benefit from 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne to really make the cake taste like Spiced Hot Chocolate.

- My oven took about 28-30 minutes to bake the cakes. They was quite under baked after 23 minutes.

- Don't forget to check out my Video!!!

Spiced Hot Chocolate Cake - moist, chocolatey and a bit spicy, perfect for any special occasion
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Posted on October 8, 2015 and filed under Recipe.