A few years ago, I learned about the Dia de los Muertos celebration in Mexico. Prior to that, I always assumed it was just a different name for Halloween in Mexico, but was otherwise pretty identical, with more skeletons. I’d like to thank the public school system for that gap in cultural knowledge, thankyouverymuch.
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is actually a three day celebration to honor and remember loved ones lost. It involves gatherings over meals, prayer, and celebration with family and friends. The first day, October 31st, is All Hallows Eve, and is when they say the souls of lost children come back to visit friends and relatives. The next day, November 1, is All Saints Day, and the adult souls come back to visit. Finally, November 2nd is All Souls Day, a day where families head to the cemeteries and burial sites to decorate tombstones with flowers, gifts, and candy, and reminisce about their loved ones. I like the idea of a dedicated celebration, not always somber, to remember those who have passed, and this was the inspiration for today’s Mexican Chocolate Cake recipe.
Mexican chocolate is a grainy, unsweetened chocolate, usually spiced with cinnamon, orange, and/or chilies depending on the region. It’s often melted down and turned into a delicious warm drink like hot chocolate, but today, we are enjoying cake instead.
To try and mimic the very deep chocolate flavor in Mexican chocolate, I used dark chocolate both in the cake and ganache frosting, and a rich unsweetened organic cocoa powder (this is the brand I’ve used for the past few years). I then added cinnamon and fresh orange zest to the cake batter to give that “Mexican chocolate” flavor. I was going to add a little chili powder to the ganache for some heat, but the cake was going to be served at a get together with children, and I know not everyone likes heat. I’ve added measurements for a spiced dark chocolate ganache if you’d like a little kick.
If you’d like to frost the cake in a piped pattern, whip the cooled chocolate ganache until it’s light and fluffy and then use a piping bag to pipe your design on to the cake. Since this cake was to be part of a super-fabulous Halloween ideas round-up (look below the recipe), I chose to decorate this in the Dia de los Muertos style. The skull and flowers are made from modeling chocolate, and the piped lines are royal icing. Smooth chocolate ganache provides a wonderful base for fondant, or looks stunning on its own or decorated with a simple ribbon around the base, so get creative!
I hope you enjoy this recipe and the other wonderful Halloween ideas shared by some of my favorite blogger friends!
- 2.5 oz/70g melted dark chocolate
- 2 c granulated sugar
- 2 c flour
- 1/2 c cocoa powder
- zest of 1 orange
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 c neutral-flavored oil (canola, vegetable, avocado work best)
- 2 c buttermilk
Ganache Filling and frosting
- 12 oz dark chocolate
- 8 oz heavy cream
- Optional: 1/2 tsp chipotle pepper
Making the Ganache Filling and Frosting:
- Make your ganache by combining the chocolate and heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave at 50% power for 2 minutes, then stir. Continue to microwave at 50% power for 30 second intervals until all the chocolate has melted and you have a smooth ganache. Stir after each interval to break up any hot spots and avoid burning the chocolate. Set aside to firm.
Baking the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour (or use parchment paper to line) 2 8"x2" cake rounds.
- Melt the 2.5 oz dark chocolate and set aside.
- In a bowl. combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, orange zest, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, oil, and buttermilk. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.
- Stir in the melted (but not hot anymore) chocolate.
- Evenly distribute the batter between the cake pans and bake 35-40 minutes until the center of the cake bounces back when touched or a cake tester comes out clean.
- Allow to rest in the pan 10 minutes before inverting to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Putting it All Together:
- By the time the cake is cool, your ganache should have set to a nice spreadable consistency similar to peanut butter.
- Level the cakes. Place the first layer of the cake on your cake board or serving platter and spread a layer of ganache on top. Cover with the second layer. Tip: Place the second layer bottom side up so you have fewer crumbs to worry about.
- Spread a base layer of ganache all over the cake and refrigerate the cake for 15-20 minutes until the crumb coat is set. Add the remaining ganache and smooth if desired, or whip the ganache and pipe on your desired design. If you are covering with fondant, allow the smoothed ganache to set fully before adding the fondant.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Be sure to check out these other Halloween ideas!
9 Awesome Halloween Costumes, No Bohns About it
5 Halloween Ideas for When You’re Totally Over It, Little Blog on the Homestead
Caramel Applesauce, An Aiming High Wife
Mexican Chocolate Cake, Goodie Godmother
Candy Corn Citrus Bars, Cook. Craft. Love.
This post can be found with other great ideas at the Momma Told Me Link Party!