Where to get ‘a party in your mouth’ in Columbus
The spicy dessert love affair for most Central Ohioans may have started with Jeni’s legendary Queen City Cayenne ice cream. The blend of creamy cold with that bit of heat left dessert palettes across Columbus begging for more. And, thank goodness, a few local bakers have taken up the challenge to deliver a little heat with your sweet tooth.
Coco Cat Bakery & Chocolates owner Melissa Camp describes her white chocolate with Jamaican curry as “a party in your mouth.” Or, as one friend put it while reaching for his second sample, “This should not be this good. This should not be good at all.” But it is.
Coco Cat, whose production facility is on Leonard Ave. just northeast of downtown Columbus, has delightfully spicy chocolate options, using only dark and white base. “White chocolate is such a great vessel to hold all these herbs and spices,” Camp said.
The product line (available for order at cococatbakery.com) includes candy-bar-style “Coco bars,” truffles, baking chocolate, and more.
Moroccan Spice, their most popular flavor, is cardamom and other spices with a hint of heat from black and white pepper, reminiscent of old-world Christmas cookies. Pilpelchuma, a North African spice blend including smoked paprika, aleppo pepper, and garlic, matches layered flavors with significant heat. Pipe Dream uses Urfa pepper for a mild heat, tobacco-y scent and smoky warmth.
“When I first smelled it, it reminded me of my grandfather’s smoking pipe,” Camp recalled fondly.
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Camp’s 12-year-old son recently joined the Coco Cat family with Tosh’s Funtastic Granola, including a tasty, moderately hot version with peri-peri and aleppo pepper, oregano, Cinnamon Hearts, Hot Tamales, and Atomic Fireballs.
Erin Rosati, owner of Yes You Cayenne in Upper Arlington, turned her childhood love of baking and her penchant for spicy food into a delectable cookie mix.
“I think brownies were the first thing I put cayenne pepper in, and people were like ‘You’re crazy,’” she recalled. “But I loved it. Then I did pancakes, then cookies, then decided to make a mix.”
She contacted the 2019 Fiery Foods Festival, hoping to set up a small stand. “They were like ‘Okay, send us your business name, logo, website, and we’ll get you in as a vendor.’ I was kinda freaking out, thinking ‘I don’t have a logo. I don’t have a business name. I don’t have anything.’ I had a couple months to become a real business.”
Yes You Cayenne’s chocolate chip cookie mix packs enough spice to let you know it’s serious about heat, but is still reasonable enough for the average person to enjoy. Aside from being spicy, it makes a really good cookie, and buying a mix means you can whip up fresh-baked cookies any time you crave them. And the best part: This mix is gluten-free.
Rosati takes orders through direct message on Instagram and Facebook (@YesYouCayenne), with plans to add online ordering and retail sales soon.
Fate Cakes, which recently opened their first retail location in Gahanna, offers a top-notch Cayenne Chocolate cupcake.
“It’s not a flavor we keep in the case,” owner Marie Johns notes, but it’s available for special order online at fate-cakes.com.
For its first eight years, Fate Cakes’ products were home-produced.
“The Ohio cottage [food] law is pretty cool; people are able to do this and make a living, even pre-COVID,” Johns said. Now, the retail location brings greater opportunity for an expanded line of products.
The cayenne in this luscious devil’s food cupcake is definitely noticeable, with a welcoming warmth as well as visible, tiny flecks of brick red. The sweet heat is offset by a generous pile of chocolate buttercream frosting and chocolate chip garnish. It’s perfect for chocolate lovers who like a little spice and like to stay sophisticated.
For home cooks, Krema Nut Company in Grandview has a small trove of spicy treasures. Jazz up your baked goods or fruits with Cashews On Fire!! or Can You Handle My Spicy Hot Nuts? (crunchy peanuts), both with a nice kick of chile caribe, habanero, and black pepper. Or garnish your after-dinner masterpiece with habanero corn nuggets, if you’re feeling adventurous. And be sure to pick up a jar of Hot & Spicy peanut butter, lightly sweetened with dextrose, for some butt-kicking cookies or buckeyes. Just remember to adjust the recipe to account for the higher oil content of natural-style peanut butter.
But for the true hot food junkies, there’s little out there that will knock your socks off. You could experiment with pure capsaicin oil at home (yikes). Or you can pick up a bottle of CaJohn’s Frostbite at the North Market. It’s a clear hot sauce that takes the capsaicin oil and mixes it in a vinegar base. Mixed with ample sugar or strong flavors, the vinegar adds a slight dimension without revealing its sourness, while the oil packs a wallop of heat. Experiment with ice cream or gelato batter, baked goods, frostings, or just make a fiery frozen margarita for dessert.
So whether you like it crazy hot or just a touch, go ahead and dip your toe in the water. Try something spicy and sweet. It’s worth it.
As mentioned in the article, Yes You Cayenne’s cookie mix is always gluten-free. Additionally, Fate Cakes is able to make gluten-free variations of many of their baked goods, including the Cayenne Chocolate cupcakes, by special order.
And what if you aren’t the spicy type at all? Well, visit Bridge Park in Dublin for VASO Rooftop Lounge’s Mexican Spiced Chocolate Mousse. It’s not “hot spicy” at all, but a diabolically delicious (and also gluten-free) collection of flavors and textures. Smooth, slightly bitter chocolate mousse meets the crunch of earthy, lightly toasted hazelnuts, topped with tart, melt-in-your-mouth freeze-dried berries, flakes of sea salt, and a luxurious Luxardo syrup. It truly covers all the bases without even a hint of heat.