My kitchen has been overflowing with pepitas – a.k.a. pumpkin seeds – for the past few weeks and I’ve enjoyed experimenting with new ways to enjoy these tasty seeds. It’s easy to incorporate them into a bread or a batch of cookies, but Rick Bayless’s Pepita-Mexican Chocolate Cake grinds them into a fine flour for use in a unique and delicious cake recipe. I first saw this recipe while watching an episode of Mexico – One Plate at a Time and mentally bookmarked the recipe for the next time I had a bag of pepitas to use up.
The recipe calls for toasted, hulled pumpkin seeds. You can find these in many grocery stores and I highly recommend buying them, rather than husking whole pumpkin seeds, because it will save you a lot of time. If your pepitas are untoasted, you can give them a nice toast by putting them in a 325F oven for about 15 minutes. The original recipe also calls for Mexican chocolate and, while discs of spicy Mexican chocolate are available at many grocery stores, I didn’t have any on hand. Instead, I used dark chocolate chunks and added a hint of cinnamon to the cake. The cinnamon was subtle enough to add some spice without taking away from the almost pistachio-like sweetness of the pumpkin seeds. I also dusted the finished cake with a bit of cinnamon to ensure that you got a hint of spice with each bite, but without overwhelming the cake. It could also be finished with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.
This cake is delicious when it is served slightly warm. It has a sugary topping with plenty of crunch from whole pumpkin seeds that provides a great contrast to the rich, tender cake. The cake has a slightly green-yellow hue from all the ground pepitas that go into the cake batter, which will make it stand out from other desserts. Guests might initially mistake it for pistachio, but it has a more subtle flavor. The chocolate goes well with the cake, but it can be omitted if you simply aren’t in the mood for chocolate with this particular recipe because it is good both ways.
While the cake is good warm, it is also excellent at room temperature and will keep well for several days after baking, though the sugary top may lose a little of its crispness when the cake is stored in an airtight container.
Rick Bayless’s Pepita Mexican Chocolate Cake
2 tbsp coarse sugar
1 3/4 cups roasted and hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate or Mexican chocolate
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds over the bottom of the pan, then sprinkle with sugar. Set aside.
In a food processor, whiz pumpkin seeds until they are finely ground. Add in sugar and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse to combine. Using the pulse button, incorporate the eggs and vanilla extract. Add in flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and pulse again, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure the batter is uniform. Remove the blade from the food processor and stir in chopped chocolate.
Carefully pour batter over the layer of pumpkin seeds and sugar in the pan.
Bake for 35-39 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the cake and invert onto a cooling rack or a serving plate. Peel off parchment paper. Cake can be served warm or at room temperature.
Sprinkle cake with a bit of cinnamon before serving.