Spicy Chocolate Loaf Cake

Chocolate and chile are a perfect match in this low carb, sugar-free loaf cake featuring Mina Harissa.

Chocolate and chile are a perfect match in this low carb, sugar-free loaf cake featuring Mina Harissa. 

I love chocolate.

I actually know people who don't. I even have them in my own family and I have to admit, I think it's kind of odd.

Anyway, when I lived in Encinitas, I took chocolate making classes at Chuao Chocolatier taught by the founder of the boutique chocolate shop, Chef Michael Antonorsi. I had the best time learning how to work with chocolate, about various flavor profiles, and pairing chocolate with boozy goodness.

Chef Antonorsi likes spicy. Chuao sells several chocolates that are spiced with chipotle, cayenne, or pasilla chile. They even spike their hot chocolate made with water, not milk, so as to not interfere with the chocolate and chile profiles. At the time, I was a bit too chicken to try it.

However, growing up eating mole, I am not foreign to the concept of chocolate and chile. I do love the combination. In mole, you don't taste the chocolate per se. The chocolate merely serves to enhance the various chiles used, tempering them and adding a depth to mole that I find non-chocolate mole lacks.

When I started experimenting with Mina Harissa (here and here), I knew that I wanted to make my own version of a spicy chocolate treat. That's how this Spicy Chocolate Cake with Mina Harissa was born.

This cake is for definitely for chocolate lovers. It gets its chocolately-goodness from 4 different chocolates: unsweetened natural cocoa powder, Dutch process cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate bar, and mini semisweet chocolate chips. Most people have Hershey's Natural Cocoa Powder in their pantry. Not everyone has Dutch process. If you are one of those people, feel free to substitute more Hershey's for the Dutch. However, I strongly urge you to keep both kinds in your pantry. The Dutch process is dark (it's what Oreo cookies are made with) and gives a smoother, intensely chocolate finish to baked goods. Using the two together has been my new favorite way to use cocoa in baking. (Here's a good primer on the difference.)

In my quest to continue enjoying my occasional baked treat that won't spike my blood sugar, I've grown a collection of various slow glycemic loading flours. The main flour I used is my organic sprouted whole wheat. Love it. But I didn't want the cake to be overly dense so I wasn't keen on making it entirely out of the whole wheat. Plus, I wanted to knock off some carbohydrates that a cake made entirely of whole wheat would have by incorporating some zero carb almond and coconut flours.

I made this cake several times, tweaking the recipe with each experiment. The first attempt resulted in a cake that was too dry, a typical outcome when using whole wheat and coconut flours that suck up all the moisture. After adjusting for the flours, I turned my focus to the heat.

The thing about Mina Harissa that I love is that it doesn't scream spicy when added to dishes; it's more of a slow burn, the heat building with each bite. The first time, I could barely taste the heat. I wanted the first note to be chocolate, yes, but I did want some heat. Attempts after varied from too much to just about right to perfect. It's a slow building heat that creeps lightly down the back of your throat not at the first bite but ever so slightly after the second, a little more after the third, fourth bites. Once you finish the cake, there's a soothing warmth in the back of your throat that I absolutely loved.

I had several people taste my experiments along the way, providing invaluable feedback as I developed this recipe. This final result is everything I wanted it to be when I first dreamed up the idea of making this spicy cake.

Until next time friends! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
xo, Ani

I’m using a cup for cup sugar replacement in this recipe but if you are not insulin resistant, feel free to use granulated white sugar and regular confectioner’s sugar. I use a blender to incorporate the harissa into the chocolate and then to aerate the wet ingredients. The first time I made this, I did it by hand and wound up biting into small bits of chile from the harissa. The oven is heated to 425 degrees and once the cake goes in, temperature is lowered to 350 degrees. The reason is that with the heavier flours, I found that the higher heat helps to activate the leavening faster, resulting in a better rise in the cake. Start checking for doneness at about the 40 minute mark; this cake needs to be baked to just set as over baking will dry out the cake and burn the Dutch process cocoa which will make it a little bitter tasting.
Yield: 16 slices


1 cup water, boiled
30g (½ cup) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
20g (about ¼ cup) dutch process cocoa powder
117g (about 4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate bar (70%-82% cacao), chopped
120g (about 1 cup, sifted) sprouted whole wheat flour
46g (½ cup) almond flour
33g (¼ cup) coconut flour
¾ cup erythritol (Swerve granulated)
1 ¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or ¼ teaspoon table salt)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Mina Harissa Red Spicy
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Stevia Leaf Liquid Stevia
1 tablespoon espresso powder
¾ cup canola oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
113g (½ cup) Greek Yogurt
½ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon sprouted whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons Swerve Confectioner’s Sugar, optional for serving


1. Bloom the cocoa powders by adding them to a bowl with the boiling water. Whisk to incorporate well; set aside.

2. Add ¼ cup water to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add chopped chocolate to a small bowl; place over the simmering water being careful that the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Melt chocolate, stirring with a rubber spatula often to keep from burning. As soon as most of the chocolate is melted, remove bowl from heat and continue stirring until chocolate is smooth; set aside.
Place oven rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a standard loaf pan (9 inches x 5 inches) with cooking spray. Line the pan with kitchen parchment so that there is enough overhang lengthwise to provide “handles” to lift out the cake with. Spray the parchment with cooking spray; set pan aside.

3. Sift the flours, erythritol, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together into a large bowl; set aside.
Carefully pour half of the bloomed cocoa into a blender; add the harissa and puree until incorporated, scrapping down sides as needed, about 3-5 minutes. Add the rest of the bloomed cocoa, melted chocolate, vanilla, Liquid Stevia, espresso powder, and canola oil. Blend until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending until smooth after each addition. Add the yogurt and blend until smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture into the flour bowl, stirring well until everything is just combined.

3. Toss the chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon of whole wheat flour in a small bowl until well covered. Add the chips to the batter, stirring to combine. Immediately pour batter into loaf pan. Place loaf pan into oven, close door and immediately lower temp to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake until cake springs back when gently pressed (about 40-50 minutes). 

4. Remove cake from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Using the handles of parchment, lift the cake out and place back on rack to until completely cooled. Dust with Swerve confectioner’s sugar just before serving. 


Disclosure: This recipe is part of an ongoing recipe development project with Mina Harissa and Casablanca Foods. I was provided with jars of Mina Harissa and compensated for my time to develop this recipe. However, recipe and opinions expressed are my own. This recipe contains some affiliate links.


  1. Oh my goodness gravy I cannot wait to try this recipe! I adore chocolate and a chocolate mole is the first thing I look for upon entering a new Mexican restaurant :)

    As ever, pics are glorious and stunning. I have a feeling this recipe will be a go-to-keeper.



  2. Hi Heidi! This cake is delicious. In fact, I'm making more for Thanksgiving for the non-pie eating crowd. Let me know if you try it. xo -- Ani


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