The Black Bean Cake

I think that the columnist Liz Smith’s farewell to Rock Hudson—“So long, big boy, have a good rest”—is what I would like on my tombstone, but it will probably be: “He invented black bean cake.” Like red cabbage salad, it is one of those dishes that the public will not let me take off the menu. It is simple, beautiful, easy, and fast. But it has never been imitated with any success, despite many tries. Here is the recipe.


  • 3 cups cooked black beans (opposite)
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 small fresh hot green chili, stemmed, seeded, finely chopped
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • ¼ cup rendered duck fat, lard, or olive oil
  • ¼ cup salsa
  • 24 sprigs cilantro, washed, spun dry


Cook the beans as directed in the previous recipe but, before you grind them, let them drain for about 2 hours. Don’t worry if they look terrible after sitting that long. Save the liquid for soup. Put the cooked beans through a meat grinder or food mill and then mix them with the chili powder, cumin, fresh chili, cilantro leaves, and salt into a paste. Roll the paste into 4 equal balls. Put each ball between 2 pieces of waxed paper and press them into rounds inch thick with the palm of your hand. Set aside.

Whisk the sour cream and milk until smooth.

Heat the duck fat in a crêpe or nonstick pan or on a griddle. When the pan is hot, put in the cakes and cook 2 minutes on each side. Put the cakes on warm plates and spoon the sour cream on the center of each cake. Spoon the salsa on the sour cream. Garnish the plates with the cilantro sprigs.