Chili Crisp Is The Ultimate Way To Spice Up Rich Chocolate Cake

Chili crisp is one of the best things that happened in 1990. The autumnal-hued condiment — a glossy combination of infused chili oil, chili flakes, fried garlic, fermented soybeans, and other seasonings — was invented that year by Tao Huabi, the owner of a noodle shop in Guizhou. You might recognize her face from the red label on Lao Gan Ma, the internationally beloved brand of chili crisp that lines supermarket shelves around the world. 

If you're new to the world of chili crisp, you might associate it with savory Chinese dishes like dumplings, noodles, and wonton soup. But recipe developer Tres Truong uses it in a far sweeter application: chocolate bundt cake. Her recipe, which she shared with the chili crisp brand Fly By Jing, makes use of the brand's Xtra Spicy Chili Crisp both in the batter and in the top glaze for what Truong calls a "not too sweet" spin on a classic. 

A time-honored pairing

Truong's take on rich chocolate cake features chili crisp in the otherwise standard batter, but the condiment shines ever brighter in the caramel chili oil glaze that is drizzled on top. Truong combines one-and-a-half teaspoons of chili crisp with melted butter, brown sugar, salt, and a few splashes of milk until the liquid is luscious and creamy. She says the dessert has just a "hint of spice."

As unique as Tuong's chili-crisp-laden chocolate cake is, the history of sweet and spicy flavors goes back centuries, most famously with the ancient Mayan roots of Mexican hot chocolate. There's a reason this flavor combination is so timeless. 

As food scientist Brittany Towers told Insider, sugar mellows out the fieriness of spicy ingredients. "With sweet and spicy, our body processes spice through receptors in our taste buds and the capsaicin in peppers binds to our taste buds," she explains. This is your sign to bust out the chili crisp the next time you're making anything with chocolate. 

Other sweet uses for chili crisp

Chocolate isn't the only sweet ingredient that pairs well with chili crisp. It's also excellent over ice cream. Indeed, Truong cites the combination as an inspiration behind her spicy chocolate cake. 

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is also a fan of spooning the condiment over ice cream. His New York Times recipe for Sichuan Chile Crisp Sundae With Peanut Streusel is inspired by a soft serve trend that swept Chengdu and Chongqing in 2018. While his recipe calls for chili flakes, chili oil, and whole Sichuan peppercorns, he notes that store-bought chili crisp can replace his homemade chili oil. 

Meanwhile, James  Beard-nominated chef Pichet Ong has been known to drizzle chili crisp over Asian pear, guava, watermelon, and starfruit, while Zoë Kanan uses the ingredient alongside miso in her soft and chewy Peanut Butter Chile Crisp Cookies. In short, put chili crisp on everything.