Mexican chocolate cupcakes: Can you handle the heat?

Cayenne pepper.

Just typing that made a little bonfire ignite in my mouth.

I’ve never been one to dive into spicy foods, though I do fancy myself an eclectic, open-minded omnivore. There aren’t too many things — especially desserts — I won’t try, and I find myself getting more and more adventurous with my culinary habits as I get older. And braver.

So when I stumbled across this recipe for Mexican chocolate cupcakes months ago, the instructions immediately went in my “to be baked” file — and Tuesday night seemed as good a time as any to indulge in a little baking experiment.

I had no idea how these would turn out, honestly. I mean, we’re talking cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cocoa . . . and all in a cupcake. But life is nothing if we can’t be daring, so I started gathering my ingredients and went in for the kill.

And these? These are delicious. My sister proudly pronounced them “the best thing I’ve ever baked,” which made my little cupcake-loving heart burst with pride. Her boyfriend, a serious spicy-food eater, also loved them, and I brought a dozen into work on Wednesday to share with my dessert-hungry coworkers. They were gobbled up quickly.

“They’re so good,” said Josh, “but the spice makes me feel like a man.”

I’ll take that ringing endorsement, friends. Definitely.


A note on the recipe: Strawberry Pepper is a vegan cooking blog so, by proxy, this recipe is vegan, too. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, no worries — it’s easily adapted. For the frosting, I used regular ol’ butter in place of the vegan butter sticks and skim milk for the soy. It all came out delicious!

Also, I didn’t want to go too bold for my first attempt at these — I used one heaping teaspoon of cayenne pepper instead of the two called for here. Heed my warning: these do have a kick. If you don’t like things too spicy but these still appeal to you, go easy on the cayenne. A little does go a long way.

Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes

Recipe from Strawberry Pepper

3 cups all-purpose white flour (or 1/2 whole wheat pastry, 1/2 white)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cayenne pepper (or less if you’re very sensitive to spice)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups water
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp apple cider or white vinegar

preheat oven to 350 ºF and place liners into a muffin pan
1. In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon and cayenne pepper together.
2. Add the vegetable oil, water, vanilla, and vinegar to the dry ingredients and stir. Do not over mix; a few clumps are okay.
3. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way, bake for 15-20 minutes or until a knife pulls out clean. Yields 24 cupcakes.

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 to 2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup vegan butter sticks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup soy milk

1. In a medium bowl, mix the cinnamon into the powdered sugar.
2. Add the shortening, butter sticks, vanilla, and soy milk and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
3. Spread over cupcakes (once they are fully cooled) and enjoy!

Spicy pumpkin cookies are heavy, delicious — and sure to please

Friends, family and occasional visitors of write meg! will know that I’ve become a bit of a nut about pumpkin. I can’t tell you quite when my obsession with the gourd began, but I do know that I’ve become known in some circles for my devotion to all things pertaining to that bright orange vegetable.

And, you know, I have a reputation to uphold.

Months after I began my search, I finally found cans of pumpkin — not pumpkin pie mix, friends, but just plain ol’ pumpkin — at my local Safeway this week. I have this booklet filled with cookie recipes and, since it’s officially fall, I knew it was time to try my hand at these little babies.

Though cupcake-baking has lately superseded any of my other culinary attempts, I’m trying to branch out and make/bake other things. So I won’t weigh 600 pounds in the near future, for one, but also so my family can have a well-balanced meal every now and then. Cookies and cupcakes do not a dinner make. (Um, most of the time.)

For the moment, though, I just can’t shake my fascination with dessert — and my excitement at the prospect of actually being able to make something like this on my own. My latest batch of goodies come in the form of Spicy Pumpkin Cookies, a recipe I pulled from a tiny Betty Crocker booklet, “Great Cookies,” I’ve kept in my purse for weeks. Yes, I seriously walk around with cookie recipes on my person at all times . . . just in case, you know, I get the urge to bake.

And I do get that urge. I do.

And now you can, too.

Spicy Pumpkin Cookies

From Betty Crocker’s “Great Cookies booklet” (2010)

Prep time: One hour

Start to finish: One hour and 30 minutes

Yield: About 30 cookies


1 box (1 lb. 2.25 oz.) yellow cake mix with pudding in the mix
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup raisins, if desired
1 cup vanilla creamy ready-to-spread frosting
Ground nutmeg or cinnamon for garnish, if desired


1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheet with shortening. In large bowl, mix cake mix and pumpkin pie spice. Stir in pumpkin and butter until well blended. Stir in raisins, if desired.

2. Drop dough by generous tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet.

3. Bake 11 to 12 minutes or until set and light golden brown around edges. Cool 1 to 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Frost with frosting. Sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon.

Meg’s notes:

Delicious! This is a heavy cookie — not light and fluffy — but I think that works well for the autumn-infused pumpkin flavor. The recipe was very simple and I left out the raisins, since no one in my house is a fan. I was a little generous with the frosting, but can anyone ever be too generous with frosting? And I think the creamy vanilla was a great complement to the cookie. Overall, very tasty — and I’d wager a crowd pleaser. Mine took longer to bake than 11-12 minutes — it was probably more like 15 — but keep an eye on them . . . the bottoms brown quickly.