Habanero Carrot Cake From 'Sweet and Vicious'

Chia Chong

If the fire-breathing dragon wasn't hint enough, one bite will prove this cake is packing heat. In her recently released cookbook, Sweet and Vicious: Baking with Attitude, Libbie Summers stirs hot pepper extract into a lightly spicy batter, and spikes the cream cheese frosting with spiced pecans. The fruitiness of the pepper works well with the carrot-heavy batter, further enhanced by traditional cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. And even if you don't have a paper cutout handy, the cake itself is rather handsome, with its unfinished edges and generous layers of frosting.

Tips: The hot pepper extract mentioned in the recipe is a Sweet and Vicious original, which mainly consists of marinating habaneros in vodka for weeks. We didn't see any reason to wait a month to make the extract to make the cake, so we skipped it. There was plenty of spice in the minced habanero, and the spiced pecans on top. But, the extract is a good back-pocket recipe to have when you're looking to add some heat to savory dishes, so having some in your pantry is a good idea.

Tweaks: Habaneros are ridiculously hot peppers, and not to everyone's taste. If the idea of having that much spice is turning you away from attempting this recipe, try substituting a jalapeño for a habanero, and adding that to the batter. Further, grating the flesh of a jalapeño (or any pepper) does a better job of releasing the capsaicin-containing oils, and the texture is better suited for cake batter. Halve and seed a jalapeño, then grate right into the bowl.