We tested Mexican chocolate in place of our favorite dark chocolate in chocolate sheet cake and flourless chocolate cake. Here’s why the results were disastrous.
Both Mexican chocolate and European-style chocolate are made from cacao nibs that have been harvested from roasted dried beans, but whereas the European kind is conched to reduce acidity and tempered to yield a smooth, glossy consistency, the nibs for Mexican chocolate are ground in a stone mill called a molino, combined with sugar and cinnamon (and sometimes nuts and chiles), ground to a paste, and poured into puck-shaped molds. Another difference: Supermarket brands of Mexican chocolate such as Ibarra and Abuelita contain more sugar than cocoa solids and don’t cite a cacao percentage.
Mexican chocolate isn’t designed to be eaten out of hand (although some of us enjoy it that way), and it can’t be used as a direct substitute for bittersweet chocolate in baked goods. When we used it in place of our favorite dark chocolate to make a couple of kinds of chocolate cake, the results were disastrous: The extra sugar made chocolate sheet cake tacky, and flourless chocolate cake separated into a runny mess. And neither dessert had robust chocolate flavor. Instead, we recommend sticking to traditional uses for Mexican chocolate: melting it in hot milk or water to make cocoa or stirring it into savory sauces such as mole.