Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Quinoa Flour {gluten-free, vegan}

It has been a very long while since I’ve posted anything here. Please excuse the dust. However, I have a wonderful reason for my time away…

Our sweet son, Cecil!

This time last year he was still growing in my belly. I was elated, engrossed, and understandably monomaniacal about it all. Hence, the reason for my absence around these parts.

Then, in early January, he arrived.  We’ve never known such love.

He’s almost eight months old now(!) and fantastic, such a delight. And this new role, the wonderful chaos of it all, has nearly become second nature. For me, that means there is time to not only make dessert, but occasionally take a photograph, as well.

So, what better way to celebrate and begin anew than with a cake?

This recipe has been a long time coming. I have been tweaking it for a couple of years, tinkering away with the combination of whole grain flours, the ratio of liquids, different sweeteners, etc. I think I finally have it dialed in.

First, I love this cake’s thrift and convenience. Since the ingredient list consists of pantry goods, you can make it on a whim, no dashing out to the store for some last-minute perishable. I like to think this is the kind of cake our great-grandmothers would have made, perhaps when times were lean, but there was still reason to celebrate.

You’ll find no butter, milk, or eggs, a rare feat for any cake. Instead we have just the right amount of vinegar, oil, and water, a wet slurry that when combined with a bit of baking soda creates some sort of miraculous leavening concoction. Aside from being vegan, the cake is gluten-free, too. I’d rather not dwell too long on what’s missing, though, because this is not a glass-is-half-empty kind of cake. It is, in a word, exemplary: moist, dense, super chocolaty, with a lovely crumb.

The use of quinoa flour adds an almost undetectable, nuanced compliment to the cocoa, not to mention a hefty nutritional boost. You just taste complexity. I’ve talked about this combination before: chocolate + quinoa flour.  It’s a real favorite of mine.

Please, do give it a try and let me know your thoughts. I think it might just become one of your favorite cakes, too.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Quinoa Flour
Truth be told, we’ve been known to have a little sliver alongside our morning cup of joe…just an idea. Also, I offer a range for both the quantity of water and the baking soda. If you live at sea level you’ll likely need the higher range of each, or 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. I live at an extremely high altitude so I almost always need less liquid and slightly less leavening. One last note, this batter, when immediately poured into your baking dish, is pretty thin and pourable. If you wait, the batter begins to thicken.

Dry mix:
1/2 c. quinoa flour
1/2 c. brown rice flour
1/3 c. potato starch
3 T. tapioca starch
1/3 c. cocoa powder
3/4 t. xanthan gum (a heaping 1/4 t. if using Bob’s Red Mill xanthan gum)
3/4 – 1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Wet mix:
1 c. turbinado sugar (or white sugar)
3/4 – 1 c. water
1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil like grape seed
1 T. apple cider vinegar (white vinegar works also)
1 1/2 t. GF real vanilla extract

  1. Preaheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  3. In a larger bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.  Let the wet mix sit for a moment to give the turbinado sugar a chance to dissolve. This is when I oil my pan.
  4. Add the dry mix to the wet mix and whisk until fully incorporated.
  5. Pour the batter into an 8″ round, oiled pan.
  6. Bake 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so.

Raspberry-Oat Bars {gluten-free}

We’ve been enjoying these raspberry oat bars a lot the last few months. They helped get us through Winter’s dearth of fresh fruit. They are arguably the perfect balance between health food and decadent dessert, with a not-too-rich pecan shortbread base that doubles as a streusel topping and a thick layer of raspberry preserves in between.

GLUTEN-FREE RASPBERRY OAT BARS
Adapted from Karen Demasco’s The Craft of Baking *

The first time I made these bars, the cookie base came out a little thicker than I prefer.  So, I’ve since scaled the dough portion of the recipe back by a quarter, which also creates a slightly higher ratio of preserves to dough. Just the way I like it.

Also, my first batch was a little salty.  I read later that Demasco uses a particular brand of kosher salt in her baking.  So, if using table salt or sea salt, it is necessary to decrease the salt by close to half, which I’ve noted below.

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (for vegans: Spectrum organic shortening or Earth Balance margarine)
3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour (for GF: 1/3 C. sorghum flour, 1/3 C. + 1 Tbl. brown rice flour, 3 Tbl. potato starch and 3 Tbl. tapioca flour, 1/8 tsp. xanthan gum)
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal (for GF: use gluten-free oats)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup good quality raspberry preserves **

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil an 8 inch square, metal baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  • Melt butter in saucepan or glass bowl in microwave.
  • Toast pecans on baking sheet in oven 5 minutes, cool.
  • In a large bowl mix together the flour, xanthan gum, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt and baking soda.  Stir in the gluten-free oats and chopped pecans. Pour in the melted butter and mix until well combined.
  • Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom the oiled pan, until firmly and evenly packed.
  • Spread the raspberry preserves over the dough (an offset spatula like pictured above is perfect for this step). Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of dough evenly over the preserves.
  • Bake until golden brown about 40 minutes.  Allow to cool to room temperature.
  • For easier cutting, transfer the cooled pan to the freezer for 20 minutes to harden. Remove bars from freezer, then from pan and cut into 2″ squares.

** I made these once with Smucker’s strawberry jam and the results were very disappointing.  The jam layer turned a funny brown color and became very wet.  I suspect it was either the high fructose corn syrup in Smucker’s, or the fact that I substituted strawberry for raspberry, but either way, from now on I’ll stick to a true, high quality raspberry preserve WITHOUT high fructose corn syrup.  You tend to get what you pay for with a pricier preserve.

Plum Crumble with Crystallized Ginger {gluten-free, vegan}

We attended a very popular music festival last weekend.  There were bands galore.  Surprisingly, I had even heard of many of them and I am notoriously out-of-the-music-loop.  However, despite the amount of fun I was supposed to be having, I couldn’t help but wish, every few minutes or so, that I was back home, snuggled up under the soft light of a lamp, finishing Anna Karenina, with a cup of tea and a few warm bites of this crumble.

Try the crumble and then perhaps in a small way you can empathize with my feelings of dissent.

The tart plum skins, when left intact, melt into the rest of the dish to create a warm, strikingly crimson-colored pudding. Finely-diced candied ginger lends a soft hum of spice, all of this beneath a crumbly, almost-cookie top.

PLUM CRUMBLE WITH CRYSTALLIZED GINGER
Adapted from Marian Burros

I scaled back the amount of crystalized ginger to my tastes from 2 heaping tablespoons to 1 1/2 tablespoons. If you quite like ginger go all the way; otherwise, I would recommend the moderate approach.

Look for firm plums, not too ripe, but not rock hard, either. Also, the recipe calls for Italian prune plums. They are rather small and oval. The first time I made this I was able to find exactly that variety. However, since then, I’ve simply substituted a more everyday type easily found in stores, the round ones with skin almost as dark as an eggplant. The results were just as good.

Prep the plums:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons brown or white rice flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 scant tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
12 purple Italian or prune plums, cut in half and pitted, or 6 regular dark purple plums, quartered and pitted

For the crumbly top:
1/3 cup sorghum flour (or brown rice flour)
1/3 cup white rice flour
3 tablespoons potato starch
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted clarified butter, melted (or butter, or Spectrum organic shortening)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the plums, beginning with the brown sugar through the ground ginger. Add the sliced plums to the bowl and using your hands, stir to coat. Place the plums in an ungreased 9″ pie pan or 8″ square baking dish. Sprinkle the candied ginger over the plums. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl mix the remaining dry ingredients for the crumble topping. Pour in the melted oil and using your fingers mix and shape to form little crumbs and clumps. Scatter handfuls over the plums so that they are thoroughly coated and covered.
  • Bake 35 to 45 minutes, or longer, until the top is a nice golden brown and the plum filling is tender.

Confetti Kale Slaw {gluten-free, vegan}

We whip this up all the time and scarf it down almost as quickly.  This kale slaw also makes a great addition to any Tex-Mex spread like enchiladas, fajitas, tamales, etc.

CONFETTI KALE SLAW

Kale is a tricky dark, leafy green to eat raw because it can be quite bitter and tough.  That’s where the avocado and lemon juice come in.  By massaging the guacamole-like dressing into the kale, the heat from your hands along with the lemon juice break down the tough, bitter leaves, resulting in a much more mellow flavor.  The avocado adds creaminess and you punctuate the newly tender green with sweet bell pepper and the warmth of a little onion. All these ingredients work together to make a pleasantly tangy, creamy, sweet and spicy salad.

Serves 6-8 as a side

  • 2 bunches of kale, chopped into thin 1/4″ x 1″ strips
  • 2-3 ripe avocados
  • juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced

In a large bowl mash up the avocados with the lemon juice, olive oil and a little salt and pepper until you achieve the consistency of a somewhat smooth guacamole.

Add the chopped kale and massage into the avocado spread, continue working in the avocado until the salad has shrunk by about half and the kale is flexible.

Add the bell peppers and onion, mixing thoroughly with your hands. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. I usually end up adding more lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

You can serve immediately. We like to let ours sit in the fridge a few hours and allow the flavors marry.

Blueberry Cardamom Breakfast Cake {gluten-free, vegan}

This cake is a year-round staple for us.  It is full of whole grains, dotted with plump blueberries and sweetened just right for a breakfast dish. My favorite part is the crunchy raw sugar top, and of course, the spicy warmth of the cardamom.

BLUEBERRY CARDAMOM BREAKFAST CAKE
When it comes to vegan baking, especially cakes, I always err on the side of a dryer batter than a wetter one. A cake with too much moisture results in a sunken gooey mess which is impossible to salvage.

I love the rumpled irregular surface of this cake. It looks so old-fashioned and rustic, the lumps only add to its charm.

Dry ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour (for GF use – 3/4 cup millet flour, 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/2 cup sorghum flour (or more brown rice flour), 1/2 cup tapioca starch, 1 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/2 mashed ripe banana (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup butter or ghee, at room temperature (for vegans substitute – coconut oil, Spectrum organic shortening or vegan margarine)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup warm water or milk of choice (rice, almond, cow)

Additions:

  • 10 ounces fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon or more raw or turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil a 9″ round cake pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. In a stand mixer combine the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until combined.

Fold in thawed and drained blueberries. Scrape batter (which will be quite thick) into the oiled pan. Sprinkle top of cake evenly with 1 tablespoon raw or turbinado sugar.

Bake 50 – 60 minutes until firm to the touch and a tooth pick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cover the cake with aluminum foil if it begins to brown too quickly (40 minute mark for me).

* If you’re not gluten free omit the xanthan gum and substitute 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour for the gluten free flours, but I would highly recommend at least keeping the millet flour, because it really lends a unique and complimentary flavor.  If you go that route you only need 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour.