Chocolate and cinnamon are a classic Mexican flavor combination, and this recipe seemed like the perfect melding of the two. But they came out of the oven as a complete disappointment. They baked very unevenly (even though I had them in at the same time as my cake which baked perfectly, so I know it wasn't my oven's fault.) After the specified baking time, the center was still completely raw, so I gave them another 5 minutes to set-up, which seemed to work (even though parts around the edges had bubbled and puffed to a much higher height than the center portion). However, after unmolding them when I went to cut them, the entire outer edge of the pan was literally a brick.
I had already decided not to make the icing from the recipe. Since I was taking these to a party, I didn't want anything excessively sticky or runny, and though this brown sugar topping sounded yummy, it seemed like it would be a big mess when mixed with half-drunk guests stumbling around napkinless and plateless. I also try not to take things with nuts to parties where I don't know if some guests might have allergies. However, the was no way these brownies could go to the party undressed. They certainly stiff enough to "stand alone" but I was embarrased to have my name associated with them.
Will tasted a couple bites from the center of the pan, and with chocolate-lover assurances that "the flavor is really good" (the balance of chocolate and cinnamon) he gave me hope to try to somehow salvage the batch. I decided a frosting of some sort was my best bet, and I had a little leftover "Quick Brown Sugar Frosting" from Joy of Cooking in the freezer. I thinned it a bit with some kahlua and then stirred in a couple dashes of cayenne pepper. I spread on a layer and then dusted the tops with freshly grated cinnamon, and these little guys became quite the hit of the party!
I have long been a fan of chiffon cake because it is so moist and light. It works especially well with bright citrus flavors, and this margarita-themed cake is a particular favorite. The glaze makes it especially fun for an adult-only party, and the liquor in the cake keeps it incredibly melt-in-the-mouth and refreshingly moist.
The only changes I make to the recipe are that I don't bother with cake flour; I actually prefer the texture of all-purpose flour, though I do sift it before I measure it. I also don't bother with the strawberry compote; I've never made it, and I'm sure it's delicious and would probably be a good recipe on it's own, but this cake really needs no other adornment - except perhaps a sombrero and an Mexican sunset!
Most people have very specific qualities in mind when they consider a "perfect brownie" - I happen to like mine fudgey and crackly on top. These were dense, and cake-like in a way, but in a dry way that is unpreferable in my opinion. However, adding the frosting made their heavy structure a benefit, because they could then stand-up to a sweet topping. I don't think I'll make these again, because there are so many types of brownies out there to try, I don't want to waste my time with ones that are less than favorites. But I'm proud of how I was able to save these, and received plenty of compliments from the party guests, so if they sound good to you, it might be worth giving them a try. I suggest using a glass pan (I used metal) which might be slightly more insulated and help them bake more evenly. I also would probably have preferred them a little thinner, so recommend using a 9" pan (instead of 8") but then watch the time carefully as they will bake more quickly in a shallower pan.