Chocolate Cakes need Chocolate!

Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate

Where do all the thousands of recipes for chocolate cake originate? And surely there are a limited number of ways in which one can make a chocolate cake? People learn from one another; where do the recipes originate? Perhaps I should start with chocolate itself? (Photograph above.)

It is said that Christopher Columbus introduced the Spanish Court to chocolate in 1492, but it was a bitter drink which was not liked. The Mayans drink was described as ‘..a finely ground, reddish, bitter, vanilla, wild bee honey, chilli watered and foamy drink..’.

Hernan Cortes de Monroy y Pisarro

Hernan Cortes de Monroy y Pisarro

Hernan Cortés de Monroy y Pisarro was the conqueror of Mexico, in expeditions which destroyed the Mayan Empire and decimated the native American population. He was introduced to xocolatl by Montezuma and took the drink back to Spain in 1528. 

Cortés succeeded in the Spanish Court because the drink he added sugar and milk, and flavoured the drink with spices including vanilla and cinnamon, although no chili as in Mexico.

This blog provides our first recipe ‘..for a chocolate drink [which] was published in Spain in 1644 by Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma in his book, A Curious Treatise of the Nature and Quality of Chocolate. The spices included hot chilis, and the recipe goes as follows:

  • 100 cacao beans
  • 2 chilis (black pepper may be substituted)
  • A handful of anise
  • “Ear flower”  *
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 ounces cinnamon
  • 12 almonds or hazelnuts
  • pound sugar
  • Achiote (annatto seeds) to taste –

All of these ingredients were boiled together and then frothed with a molinillo, the traditional Aztec carved wooden tool. The achiote was used to redden the color of the drink. From Chilis and Chocolate..’.

So what can I learn from this? I need to look at Mexican recipes, and Spanish recipes; vanilla and cinnamon were associated with cocoa; chilis and black pepper gave cocoa a ‘kick’; and almonds and hazelnuts were traditional partners. But then there were anise, ‘ear flower’, and annatto, and I have no idea about these tastes!

Is this relevant? Helge Rubinstein gives a recipe for Hot Drinking Chocolate which sounds like an up-to-date version of the above

You may be interested in

Lots of recipes for hot chocolate drinks, including Helge Rubinstein
Chocolate in Jane Austen’s world

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