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This recipe has been calling my name from one of my Pinterest boards for months. Doesn’t that just look amazing? Well, one of my coworkers gave up chocolate for Lent, so I’ve been trying to think of good chocolate-free gluten-free desserts, but for some reason I’ve been stumped. Because I love chocolate, and everything tastes better with chocolate, and it’s my go-to ingredient for shock and awe, “NO, there’s NO WAY this is gluten free!” And besides, once you decide not to do something it’s all you can think about.

Well, I knew that if I wanted to make this cake sans chocolate, I would need ingredients that would still give me a dark, flavorful cake, since it certainly isn’t going to pass for yellow vanilla cake. Then, I thought of gingerbread. I know it’s “not the right season” but I say there’s no season for “delicious,” ammiright? I did some searching and found this recipe, from a very reliable source, and I got to work combining the two. The result was…well, let’s just say only 2 slivers of this cake made it to work on Monday. I made it on Saturday. Yeah, we’re little pigs.

But it was just. so. good. I toasted the quinoa to enhance it’s natural nutty flavor, which played so well with the ginger and cinnamon. It’s light and moist with just the right amount of sweetness, i.e. dangerous. You eat one slice and you think, “Oh, it’s like a little snack, and it’s healthy, so I’ll just eat another piece…” And then it’s all gone. Whoops. (Guess I’m making something else chocolate-free to take to work this week, sorry!)

You must try this, I insist. I know the price of quinoa has gone up recently, but this is so worth it.

2 cups of plain cooked quinoa, cooled
1/2 cup of butter
1/3 cup of milk (I used almond)
2 tablespoons of molasses
1 tablespoon of canola oil
3 tablespoons of maple syrup (optional)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
Dash of clove powder
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

First, you’ll need to cook the dry quinoa. I used one cup, and it yielded about 2 1/4 cups of cooked quinoa, so I would recommend a very scant one cup, closer to 3/4 a cup of dry quinoa, unless you want to cook more to use for dinner. Now, you have 2 options: you can toast the quinoa, which will give you that awesome nutty flavor but will also result in a more textured cake, almost like little bits of nut crumbs, or you can…not toast it, and cook it until it’s soft and almost mushy. At first, I thought it was a mistake that my quinoa was a little crunchy, but my taste testers at work loved that extra bit of texture, and I like it, too, so…I totally meant to do that.

Ok, so that’s just under a cup of dry quinoa, toasted over medium heat in a saute pan until it starts popping, just a couple of minutes, then simmered with 1 1/2 cups of water until cooked through. Set aside to let cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease your baking vessel (I went with a bundt pan, but it was actually a little too big for the amount of batter I had, so something smaller would be a little better). In a large mixing cup, melt the butter in the microwave, on high for about 45 seconds. Here’s where I added the maple syrup, because mine was in the form of candy that needed to be melted down. I say this ingredient is “optional” in the list above because I never have it on hand because it’s too expensive. It just so happened that I did have some maple syrup candies that Marco brought me from a recent trip to Canada that were just WAY too sweet to eat on their own. Like, give-you-a-cavity-just-by-looking-at-it sweet. I had been waiting for the perfect opportunity to melt them down for something yummy like this, so that’s what I used.

maple syrup candy

With the butter and maple syrup, add the molasses, canola oil, milk, and vanilla. Add this and the quinoa to a blender or food processor, and blend away. I added the eggs here, too, and I was concerned about over beating them, which is another reason I had chunkier bits of quinoa in my cake. So, I would recommend not adding the eggs until you have your batter to a consistency you’re happy with. Then add the eggs and blend a little more until they’re fully incorporated.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the spices, sugar, and baking soda/powder. Slowly pour in your quinoa goop and whisk until combined.

quinoa cake batter

Pour into your greased baking vessel, and bake for about 30 minutes, until the sides pull away from the pan and a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely on a wire rack before dusting with confectioner’s sugar.

Gingerbread Quinoa Cake

Marco: What did you do with the middle of the cake?

Gingerbread Quinoa Cake

Boys are so special.

"C" is for Cake!