Spicy Brownies

In search for an easy, big, nut-free, and interesting cake to bring to feed my students on Tuesday, I was intrigued by this recipe in the cinnamon section of Baked Elements. Spicy brownies with cinnamon and a chili kick? Sounded like something worth trying.

Of course, I don’t have ancho chile powder. Don’t know if they sell it here, what it’d be called, or where I would even start to look for it. So my friend Google suggested I substitute a mix of cumin and cayenne pepper, which I did. But then when I tried the batter it had a mega kick and I thought I might kill the students with spice. Then I was convinced they wouldn’t like the brownies because none of them liked the ginger rhubarb cake I love so much. I attribute that to them having less sophisticated palates 🙂

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(Photo credit: Sabrina; clockwise from top: chocolate chip cookies, Ali’s cupcakes, vanilla malt bundt cake, spicy brownies, cinnamon carrot cake)

Well, I was surprised. They all loved it. Some of them thought they weren’t spicy at all. Others got over the initial shock and then reached for seconds, thirds … claiming the kick at the back of the throat was addictive. A colleague tried one of the last remaining ones and declared it to be the perfect blend of a burger and a brownie. Needless to say, they were completely consumed before the end of the day.

Spicy Brownies

From Baked Elements

Yield: 12 large or 24 small brownies

Baked note: Are you feeling less spicy and more nutty? Our peanut butter brownies at Baked are as popular as our Spicy Brownies and it is very easy to adapt this recipe to make them. Simply omit the chile powder, cinnamon, and ginger and add 2/3 cup slightly warmed smooth peanut butter and 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract to the brownie batter after adding the eggs.


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona)

1 tablespoon ancho chile powder (I misread this amount and substituted 1 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin and 1/2 tablespoon cayenne)

2 teaspoons freshly grated cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

9 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60-72%), coarsely chopped

2 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

5 large eggs, at room temperature


Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, chile powder, cinnamon, salt, and ginger and set aside.

Place the chopped chocolates and the butter in the bowl of a (large) double boiler over medium heat and stir occasionally until they are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler. Add both sugars and whisk until completed combined. Remove the bowl from the water and let the mixture come to room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there is just a trace amount of the flour mixture visible. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remove the brownies from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting and serving.

The brownies can be stored at room temperature, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.

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