Chocolate Chile Pound Cakes


Tweaking a Daniel Boulud recipe is a little bit like rewriting the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song. It’s a brazen thing to do.

But when I made that Smoky Beef Chili for Diana’s birthday (and, by the way, not enough of you liked that recipe on Facebook and Twitter; I think it’s because chili is hard to make beautiful…a fact confirmed to me by a food stylist I met the other day) I had leftover homemade chili powder. So the dessert recipe I meant to make–Daniel Boulud’s Chocolate-Ginger Pound Cake–instantly became Daniel Boulud’s Chocolate Chile Pound Cake. Don’t tell Daniel Boulud.

This recipe’s pretty much a cinch to make only it makes three pound cakes so you have to either divide by three if you want just one or suck it up and make three pound cakes. I opted to make three because three pound cakes are better than one. One’s in my freezer, one went home with Diana and one’s in my belly.


The original recipe calls for candied ginger and a vanilla bean; I replaced those with about a tablespoon of the homemade chili powder and a teaspoon of cinnamon (to go for a Mexican Hot Chocolate kind of thing, similar to these cookies). Otherwise, the recipe is just eggs and buttermilk and butter. And cocoa powder. And coffee.


Truth time: this makes a huge mess. Especially if you add the dry ingredients and turn the mixer on and let them fly everywhere. For the first time in my life, I actually had to take the whole Kitchenaid mixer and put it into the sink to clean it when I was done. If I make this again (and I just might), I’ll be sure to cover everything with a kitchen towel before switching it on.


More truth time: these cakes are hard to get out of their pans. The one I had the most success with was the one all the way on the right and that’s my favorite loaf pan so now you know why. The least successful was the glass pan; I ended up losing 1/5th of the cake because it stuck on the surface. Not to worry: I used my hands and scooped up the stuck bits and ate them. Our little secret.

The finished cakes are surprisingly light but flavorful from the cocoa and the chile. It’s absolutely necessary to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you’re serving this for dessert; by itself it might be a little sad. With the ice cream, though, this birthday girl was very happy.


Even Bob Dylan would’ve finished his slice.

Recipe: Chocolate Chile Pound Cakes

Summary: From Daniel Boulud’s cookbook “Daniel’s Dish.” Makes 3 cakes.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon homemade chili powder (see Smoky Beef Chili recipe)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup espresso or strong brewed coffee
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Vanilla ice cream for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 325.
  2. Coat three loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray (dusting with cocoa powder might not be a bad idea after my experience getting them out). Place on a baking sheet.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, chili powder, and cinnamon. Stir together the buttermilk, espresso, and 1/4 cup room temperature water in a liquid measure.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. On low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk mixture, in three batches, ending with the liquid.
  5. Divide the batter among the prepared loaf pans, smoothing each surface with a rubber spatula. Bake about 70 minutes until a small paring knife inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging. Rotate the pans halfway through baking (I didn’t do that).
  6. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the wire rack, remove the pans, re-invert and cool completely. Dust the cakes with confectioners sugar (if you want) and serve with vanilla ice cream.


If you want to make Daniel Boulud’s original recipe do away with the chili powder, the cinnamon and the vanilla extract. Instead, add the seeds of a vanilla bean to the butter sugar mixture when creaming. Then, after you incorporate the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, stir in 3/4 cup chopped candied ginger. The rest is the same.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 10 minute(s)