Paula Shoyer’s Chocolate Quinoa Cake

March 13, 2018
12 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 40 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Serves 12
Author Notes

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 nails that fudge cake texture, thanks to quinoa (surprise!), which, unlike flour, leaves a lot of available moisture to keep the cake deliciously chocolatey and squidgy. 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. Adapted slightly from The Healthy Jewish Kitchen (Sterling Epicure, 2017). To read the whole story, head here. —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Paula Shoyer’s Chocolate Quinoa Cake
  • Chocolate Cake
  • 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
  • Glaze (optional)
  • 5 ounces (140g) bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower or safflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or other vanilla if for Passover)
  1. Place the quinoa and water into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan, and cook the quinoa for 15 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. The quinoa should be fully cooked at this point—taste a little to make sure it's not crunchy (if it is, add a little more water to the pan and keep cooking till it's softened). Set the pan aside. The quinoa may be made 1 day or more in advance.
  2. Heat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 12-cup (2.8L) Bundt pan, sprinkle the potato starch over the greased pan, then shake the pan to remove any excess starch.
  3. Place the quinoa in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add the orange juice, eggs, vanilla, oil, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt and process until the mixture is very smooth.
  4. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, or place in a medium microwave-safe bowl, and put in a microwave for 45 seconds, stirring and then heating the chocolate for another 30 seconds, until it is melted. Add the chocolate to the quinoa batter and process until well mixed. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake it for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  5. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes and then gently turn it out of the pan onto a wire cooling rack. Let it cool on the rack.
  6. To make the glaze, melt the chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl in the microwave (see above) or over a double boiler. Add the oil and vanilla and whisk well. Let the glaze sit for 5 minutes and then whisk it again. Use a silicone spatula to spread the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Serve at room temperature and store any leftovers airtight at room temperature.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

95 Reviews

Carla L. April 16, 2022
Seder tested and rave reviews all around. Even my very picky teen agers requested it for non-Paasover events too. Considering they would never willingly eat quinoa, that’s saying something. It’s very chocolatey, so I swapped the chocolate glaze for a brown butter one instead (for those having a diary meal). It was s nice contrast.
Eva May 30, 2021
I’ll make this again. I actually forgot the glaze, but everyone still seemed to love it and many in our group had seconds (I suspect the glaze would further enhance it). I think it would be great with fresh raspberries and whipped cream.

I’ve made many flourless chocolate cakes and this one stands out in that it has a real crumb (vs. a mousse-like texture or something nutty-nubbly).

If you are looking for other great flourless chocolate cakes, an annual fave is the Torta Caprese, for which you can find a great recipe on F52.
Eva May 30, 2021
P.S. Major points for all happening in the food processor. That really makes this cake a snap to pull together.

P.P.S. I used the weight measurements and found it baked in a 12c Bundt at 50min on the dot. Not a lofty cake by any means, but it delivers on flavor and texture.
rohinibe March 2, 2021
Just baked this. Gorgeous beyond belief! This cake has such a wholesome flavour to it. This ones definitely going to be a regular feature in our household. Thank you Paula! You make dreams come true :))))) I'd post you a picture if I could, it would more than make up for the 1000000 superlatives that come to mind!
Roseepants November 19, 2020
Ok - first - wow. This is good.
The author nails the issue - typically flourless cakes (and often gluten free) cakes typically don’t have a plush texture - but this one does! It’s almost like devils food cake. Delish, and I didn’t even make the frosting, because I felt lazy.
Additional points for being able to make this in the food pro ;)
Will definitely make again - for anyone - but especially to impress gluten/dairy free individuals!
Mimi February 1, 2019
I have a question. I’m vegan and this recipe sounds amazing except for the eggs. I have various egg substitutes depending on the role of the egg. In this case, since there is baking soda, is it primarily to provide moisture or is it also serving as a binder? Has anyone tried this recipe with an egg substitute? If so, what did you use and why were the results? Thanks!
Kristen M. February 5, 2019
Hi Mimi, there's a discussion below about a few recommended egg replacers (the classic flax eggs substitute, or mashed banana—applesauce could be another) but it doesn't look like anyone's reported back yet. If you try it, please let us know how it goes!
Rachel L. April 16, 2019
Chia as an egg substitute is kosher for passover.
Darlene July 14, 2019
I made this using a mix of warm applesauce and VeganEgg replacer. I used the equivalent of 3 eggs of the replacer and then 1 pouch of applesauce. It made a very dense cake, but was safe for everyone to eat.
ArielJoy June 7, 2018
I currently am living in Ecuador and Quinoa is a staple of my diet. It is important to soak Quinoa for 8 or more hours before you rinse and cook it to remove the Lectins. THEN, rinse the Quinoa until there are no more bubbles in the water (the Saponin which tastes nasty and bitter) and the water is almost clear. This process takes approx. 7 changes of rinse water.

NOW your Quinoa will be ready to cook, will taste good, and I am surmising will not be hard in the cake.
ArielJoy June 7, 2018
Addendum to my comment above: Even the Organic Quinoa that I buy, prewashed, needs to be soaked and rinsed. I discovered this quite by accident when I inherited some Quinoa from a friend who was leaving the country and it was the best and cleanest tasting I had ever eaten. She told me that the farm where it was grown and processed washed it 7 times.
Leah C. October 12, 2018
Thank you for this tip. I tried it and the bitter taste disappeared. The only problem is that instead of the fluffy quinoa as in the video, my quinoa was very soft and sticky. How do you adjust the water:quinoa ratio once it has been soaked?
ArielJoy February 2, 2019
Good question. My answer is not a complete solution to the "sticky" problem but it does help. When the timer dings (or your 15 minutes are up) remove the pot lid and place a paper towel/tea towel/dish towel on top of the pot; then replace the lid. You will find condensation inside the dome of the lid and the towel will prevent the water from dripping down into the quinoa. NOTE: I find that this condensation continues to form for hours. So I just leave the pot on the stove and check the underside of the lid sporadically, draining the water from it, and when I no longer see the water from the condensation in the dome of the lid, I consider it to be finished. This should also be done with rice.

This having been said, I have never had my quinoa turn out "light and fluffy" but using the towel stopped my quinoa from being "sticky".
Sabrina E. May 11, 2018
I am a novice baker and quite timid when it comes to cakes. I followed the recipe word for word (but had to add a couple of tablespoons of water to get the batter to mix well). The cake was SUPERB! What an amazing idea! One of the most delicious chocolates cakes I’ve ever had!!!
Tracy April 15, 2018
My quinoa was well cooked but also became crunchy and hard once the cake was baked. I’m assuming all the moisture pulled out of the quinoa into the cake.
Holly B. April 14, 2018
Really delicious! Baked it in a 10” spring form and got 16 lovely, dense, fudgey slices. I found the batter too thick to make in the blender with out a lot of scraping and swearing, planning to use the cuisinart next time! Great recipe!
Catherine G. April 8, 2018
This cake was wickedly amazing! We loved it.

Only question is that we still could detect the quinoa balls in the cake-- were they supposed to be completely pulverized?

Makes me wonder if quinoa can be used in other gluten-free things. Thank you for sharing this!
Willa T. April 2, 2018
Any nutritional info? Calories?
Janet Y. April 1, 2018
Is this supposed to rise? I used a 10 cup pan and it still only filled half way. Made a very small, very dense cake. Tasted good though!
Kristen M. April 2, 2018
It doesn't rise a whole lot—it should be pretty fudgy, not light and airy. Did it look like the slices in the photo? Glad you liked it!
Slc2989 April 1, 2018
The measurement equivalents don’t seem to line up. 1 cup of cocoa powder isn’t 80g, 3/4 cup of quinoa isn’t 130g, etc. Which do you recommend following?
Kristen M. April 2, 2018
I just double checked the weights against the original recipe and our standard Metric Conversions chart (which is based on the USDA's conversions), and they're correct as listed—though especially with powdery dry ingredients like cocoa, weights per cup can vary quite a bit depending on how they're scooped in, so grams are always safest.
tess March 31, 2018
don't know what i'm doing wrong here but cake seems to never get done--takes well over 50 minutes and then still isn't fully cooked on inside. outside is crunchy looks burnt but not--just tastes crunchy and gets pretty hard. then cake falls apart when i turn it over to release from pan. bottom is stuck to pan and the rest slides out. Help! It tastes really good. no problem with quinoa taste or crunchy grains in the texture.
Kristen M. April 2, 2018
Tess, I'm so sorry to hear it—did a toothpick come out clean? That's the best indication, more so than time, since ovens and pans can vary. What did you use to grease and dust the pan? I hope you were able to salvage the good-tasting bits.
tess April 2, 2018
i've taken to calling it the broken cake because the bits that survived turning it out of the pain are so delicious! made it for easter and piled whipped cream on top and it was devoured. toothpick never quite came out clean like a regular cake after 70 mins of baking. edges were black and just a hair from tasting burnt so i had to take it out. i used the coconut oil to grease the pan and use chocolate the first time and potato start the second time to "flour" it. i think the pan may be to blame--my oven is a workhorse and pretty even with heat. any other thoughts would be helpful! also, i pulsed the quinoa by itself and that helped my batter to not overwhelm the food processor and gave a really smooth texture.
Katie March 30, 2018
When I added the oil and vanilla extract (kosher for Passover), the glaze totally seized up on me and became unusable. Any ideas why that might happen? (Luckily I had extra ingredients and made a ganache with chocolate and non-dairy creamer instead...)
Kristen M. April 2, 2018
Hi Katie, I'm sorry this happened and so glad you had a backup. Though this didn't happen in any of our testing, I'm guessing it's because of the vanilla extract, maybe exacerbated by a higher percentage cacao in the chocolate or higher heat? Here's a helpful article from Alice Medrich on what to do when chocolate seizes, if this happens to anyone else:
Rebecca S. June 5, 2018
The chocolate seizing was most likely from the water content in the vanilla, if you didn't use one with an alcohol or glycerin base. Next time try just the oil, or butter and you should be fine. My frosting also seized up, and I realized that was the problem.
Sabina B. March 29, 2018
Can I do this in a springform pan instead?
Kristen M. April 2, 2018
Yes, you should be able to, and I've seen other shapes of similar quinoa cakes online (though I haven't tested them myself)—the timing will vary, so just watch for the toothpick test!
Linda March 28, 2018
I'm planning to make this for Passover - I have tricolor Quinoa. Can I use that instead of the white one?
Jennifer March 29, 2018
I guess so. Just make sure it is cooked really well so you don’t end up with crunchy little grains in your cake. When I’ve made tricolor quinoa in the past, it seemed like the colors didn’t cook all at the same rate. No harm in over cooking for this recipe- you may need to add a little extra water if all the grains aren’t expanded and soft. The cocoa turns everything really dark brown, so the colors won’t show.
Jennifer March 27, 2018
This cake is scrumptious! I made a trial one for family before making one to that I'm planning to freeze to take to a Passover meal this weekend. Made the first one with a food processor, and tried using the blender for the second. The batter consistency is more like brownies than cake, and it was way too thick for the blender. Ended up having to transfer everything into the food processor to finish it. Big, gooey mess, and wasted some of the batter in the nooks and crannies of the blender. Lesson learned! Also, if you're planning to transport the finished product, I recommend putting on the glaze several hours beforehand, as it takes quite some time to set. Thanks for the recipe- it's a real hit!
Gail V. March 25, 2018
I just made this and the 12” Bundt makes a smaller cake. Next time I will definitely use a 10”.
Gail V. March 25, 2018
I asked Paula if Quinoa flour would work and she had never made the cake that way, so she was not sure