Flourless chocolate cakes take all kinds of many-splendored forms—but until now, landing on a fudgy-yet-light, classic birthday cake-like crumb wasn’t one of their strong suits.
But this thoroughly modern flourless chocolate cake, from Paula Shoyer’s newest cookbook The Healthy Jewish Kitchen, nails that fudge cake texture—and it doesn’t take some sort of DIY gluten-free flour blend or delicate balancing act of starches to do so.
It simply takes quinoa. Not quinoa flour, but straight-up cooked quinoa—the Peruvian staple pseudo-grain that you can now find in any grocery store in America, and as a regular fixture in weeknight meal-dom.
In this cake, cooked quinoa gives the cake substance and holds the thing together mightily, without any assistance from other starches or flours—and without tasting strongly of quinoa.
Depending on how powerful your food processor or blender is and how long you let it rip, the only trace of quinoa you may detect is a bit of a nubbly texture, which I happen to love. And, unlike flour, it does all of this while leaving a lot of available moisture to keep the cake deliciously chocolatey and squidgy, as Nigella would say.
Quinoa-based cakes like this one swept through the blogosphere over the past few years, most of them directly or indirectly descended from one published in the cookbook Quinoa365 by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming.
When Shoyer heard rumors of such cakes, she set off to research a bunch of different versions (there are, oh, about 12.5 million online now), then went her own way. She needed to make her cake not just gluten-free but dairy-free to keep kosher with meat-based meals, plus she already had a star chocolate cake in mind as a model from her first cookbook, called “Everyone’s Favorite Chocolate Cake.”
So she stitched all of these threads together, adding the fresh orange juice and dark cocoa powder from the earlier cake, swapping in coconut oil, then upping the vanilla to calm the coconut flavor. From another popular recipe of hers, Triple-Chocolate Biscotti, she added some melted chocolate at the end, too, to make this cake even more rich and chocolatey. “You know, I had that kind of brownie thinking in my head,” she told me. When she drove a piece across town to a friend with celiac disease, she heard back, “My girls want a glaze!” And so, a gooey chocolate glaze was born.
Since the book (and the cake) made its debut, Shoyer has tasted the recipe all over the country, baked by different hands. The texture comes out a little differently here and there, depending on the machines people use to blend it—but it’s always a hit.
From all the times we’ve tested and set this recipe out at Food52 HQ—from airier cakes made in our most rickety food processor to perfectly smooth blender versions, I can confirm the same.
Shoyer subscribes to the French philosophy of dessert, that, as she says, “It should be so delicious and gooey and satisfying, you should eat one piece and not need any more.” What I cannot confirm is that nobody will take seconds.
- 3/4 cup (130g) quinoa (enough to make 2 1/4 cups cooked quinoa)
- 1 1/2 cups (360ml) water
- 1 splash cooking spray or melted coconut oil, for greasing the pan
- 2 tablespoons potato starch or dark unsweetened cocoa, for dusting the pan
- 1/3 cup (80ml) orange juice (from 1 orange)
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or other vanilla if for Passover)
- 3/4 cup (180ml) melted coconut oil
- 1 1/2 cups (300g) sugar
- 1 cup (80g) dark unsweetened cocoa
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 ounces (55g) bittersweet chocolate
- 5 ounces (140g) bittersweet chocolate
- 1 tablespoon sunflower or safflower oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or other vanilla if for Passover)
Photos by Julia Gartland
Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]—thank you to Leah Koenig, the author of the Little Book of Jewish Appetizers, among others, for this one!