Cake with frosting seems like it’s almost not allowed right now, but this is not just any cake and this is not just any day. Coronavirus be damned.If you’re scratching your head wondering what today is…well, it’s Earth Day, and that is important. But there’s also something that I don’t talk about much on here because it seems mostly irrelevant to the daily operation of a food blog…but it’s actually completely relevant because there would be no E2 Bakes without it. Today marks seven years since I took a drink or a drug. Yep, I’m that sober home-baking food blogger that nobody warned you about.
I’m serious when I say there would be no E2 Bakes without my sobriety. I talked about having a blog for years before actually committing to it, and for no other reason than that I was held back by my own addiction issues. I didn’t start baking with any regularity until I quit drinking, and then I spent more than a year just learning and practicing before I hit “publish.” But here we are, four and a half years and a lot of learning and practicing and baking and failing and succeeding later. This blog is not what keeps me sober, but it certainly helps.Quitting drinking and putting mind-altering substances in my body is the kindest thing I’ve ever done for myself and the people I love. I’ve gained so much more from that one decision (and many moments of grace and a lot of trudging) than I will ever be able to adequately express, least of all the ambition to run a baking blog. And, well, now you know why there is never liquor in my bakes or wine in my sauces–I can’t post something I can’t test.
I don’t normally mark this day on here because I celebrate elsewhere, but with everything on lockdown for the foreseeable future, things have changed. So, how does a food blogger celebrate being sober for seven whole years all in a row? With cake, of course!Layer cakes are out for now and flour is difficult to find, but chocolate and frosting (and sprinkles!) are always welcome in my kitchen. Today’s cake is one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever had—so tender and chocolaty! If I weren’t telling you right now, I bet you’d never guess that it’s made with a cup of cooked quinoa instead of flour. For real.The batter—which includes cocoa powder, a hint of coffee, eggs and milk—is made in a blender to eliminate any whole pieces of quinoa. I wouldn’t recommend making most cake batters in a blender, but since this cake is naturally gluten-free, there’s no need to worry about overmixing or tough cake. Score!Chocolate Quinoa Cake bakes up in 30 minutes and is thin enough that it cools within an hour. I topped it off with a small batch of chocolate buttercream and dug into my stash of rainbow sprinkles for the occasion.Oh yeah, that’s the stuff.As for quarantine substitutions:
-this single layer cake is the perfect size for my celebration needs right now, but it can be both halved and doubled. I haven’t tried it as cupcakes.
-if you don’t have a square pan, you can use a round one.
-no parchment, no problem. Grease the pan and dust with cocoa powder. If you’re concerned about releasing the whole cake, you can slice and serve directly from the pan.
-the ingredients for this cake are pretty set, but feel free to swap the oil for melted butter and to leave out the espresso powder and vanilla, if you don’t have them.
-use any color of quinoa you like. I used white.
-as far as frostings go, the sky’s the limit. Make any flavor you want, go for whipped cream or ganache, or keep it simple with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.
-you can freeze this cake with or without frosting. It’ll keep triple-wrapped in plastic for several weeks. Thaw it overnight in the fridge before enjoying.Whew! Okay. Now that you’re armed with everything you need to make a kickass gluten-free chocolate cake, go find something to celebrate. I promise you will.
Chocolate Quinoa Cake
makes one single-layer 8- or 9-inch square cake
1 cup cooked quinoa (measured like flour)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons milk of choice
1/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch process)
1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee granules, optional
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
For garnish (optional):
rainbow sprinkles (jimmies and/or nonpareils)
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square pan. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.
Place all cake batter ingredients in a blender (or a tall cup for a stick blender). Blend for about a minute, or until no whole quinoa remains. Scrape down the sides as necessary.
Transfer batter to prepared pan. Tap full pan a few times on the counter to release any large air bubbles. Bake 30-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes back clean or with only a few crumbs (not batter).
Let cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Run a thin knife along the edges of the pan and invert onto a rack. Cool completely.
Make the chocolate buttercream. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Beat in confectioner’s sugar, followed by cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla and heavy cream. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until very fluffy.
Place cake on a serving plate. Top with buttercream and spread to the edges. Scatter sprinkles over the top, if using.
Cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days or in the fridge for up to five.