Mexican Chocolate Pepita Seed Cake

This past weekend was my father's 50th birthday, and despite his pleas to not have a party, my mother and I planned one anyway. Not just your average party, though, but a fiesta. Chili, chicken fajitas, and guacamole were just a few of the biggest hits, with lots of other Spanish, Mexican, and Cuban-inspired dishes in the mix as well.

I think it's safe to say that anything with a Spanish flare is my family's second favorite cuisine, second to Italian. We love anything with bold flavor combinations and heavy-handed spiciness, including in our desserts!

While recipe planning for the event, I stumbled upon this recipe from Food and Wine: Mexican Chocolate Chip-Pumpkin Seed Cake. It was like the F&W email blast knew this was what I needed in my inbox two weeks ago, and after quickly sharing it with my mom, it was clear this cake was going to be part of the dessert roundup for my dad's celebration.


Pepita seeds and pumpkin seeds are basically the same thing: pepita seeds are already shelled, and are found in a few specific pumpkin varieties. As I said in my last post about pumpkin bread, I can eat these seeds, however you want to call them, by the handful, and it was rather difficult to restrict myself from doing so with this recipe. But I survived, and this cake came out wonderfully. This is another great way to pay homage to early fall.

Note: Mexican chocolate can be found online or in some specialty grocery stores, or you can easily replicate the flavor on your own. I added whole dark chocolate chips to the food processor, along with a tablespoon of triple cocoa blend, two teaspoons of cinnamon, and half to one teaspoon of cayenne pepper, depending on how spicy you want your cake.

Mexican Chocolate Pepita Seed Cake

  • 1 3/4 cup pepita or pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon tequila
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup chopped Mexican chocolate (or chocolate chips with spices & cocoa (see Note above))
  • Powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 350º, and generously grease a 9-inch cake pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper, too. Sprinkle about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the pepita seeds in the greased cake pan, and sprinkle the 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar on top of them. Set the pan aside while you make the cake.

In a food processor, combine the rest of the seeds with the sugar. The mixture will look like damp sand. Add the eggs, tequila, and vanilla, pulsing until combined. Add the flour and the baking powder, and pulse just until smooth. Add the chocolate and pulse until completely combined. Pour into the prepared cake pan, covering the sugared seeds, and bake for about 50 minutes, until firm and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes before flipping out onto a serving dish.

If you plan to eat the cake immediately, dust the top with powdered sugar and serve! If not, turn out the cake on the serving dish and cover with tin foil. Do not powder the cake if you're not going to eat it right away! The sugar will get sticky and melty, or the moistness will make the sugar congeal. I made this cake a day before the party, wrapped it in foil, and then about an hour before the festivities I unwrapped, sugared, and cut into the cake.

It's such a simple cake, yet it's unlike anything I've made before! The tequila gives an unexpected kick to it, and the pepita seeds at both the very top of the cake and throughout provide a much-needed and unexpected crunch! Food and Wine says to omit the chocolate and add lime zest instead for a lighter variation, but you can also change out the pepita seeds for another chopped nut or small seed, and play around with the flavors – switch the tequila for bourbon, throw in almonds and almond extract, or add some lemon and sunflower seeds for a more summery variation. SO many ways to play around with it.

My name is Alexandra Jade, but you can call me Alex, or Trin.  I am a Food Studies major at New York University, and a freelance photographer, journalist, and social media pro on the side.  I run the instagram account @twobrunchgirls.