Judging by the expression on people's faces at the DC Hotluck, the dessert I invented for this event had just the desired effect...

Chocolate Cake with Lucifer's Nuts

I used the chocolate cake and chocolate frosting recipes in Lindsey Shere's "Chez Panisse Desserts," substituting Lindt Excellence for her combination of semisweet and bitter chocolates. (By the way, "Chez Panisse Desserts" is an awesome cookbook, now back in print and even in paperback!) You could use any chocolate cake recipe you like; a very rich and buttery substrate is a good idea at this heat level.

I then added the following to the batter (reserving a dozen for garnishing the top of the iced cake).

Lucifer's Nuts

1 cup pecan halves (or subsitute the nut of your choice)
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon dried habenero powder (use your judgment on this!)
1/4 teaspoon salt.

Over a medium-high heat, stir the water and sugar in a small teflon skillet until the sugar is disolved. Add the nuts, and stir constantly until the water is mostly evaporated (about 3-4 minutes). Add the chile and salt to coat well, and stir constantly until the water is gone. Remove the nuts to a piece of wax paper, separating the pecan halves from each other with a fork if necessary. Let cool, and incorporate them into the cake batter just before pouring it into the pan.

To make the habenero powder, I just put 4 dried habs in the spice grinder, and ground until very fine. Let the grinder settle for a couple of minutes before trying to remove the powder :-) Using finely powdered dried hot peppers of a lesser burn level would be appropriate for the non-maniacal chile-head....

Larry Hunter (hunter@nlm.nih.gov)


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