Not the Same Old Flourless Chocolate Cake

While in pursuit of a new twist on a Passover-possible dessert, I stumbled upon something really cool: a chocolate loaf cake made with amaranth and quinoa flours.

Quinoa (KEEN-WAH), a leafy plant (chenopodium quinoa) that is native to Andes mountainous regions in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, has become very trendy in U.S. culinary circles as a versatile, gluten-free, high- protein "grain" which isn't a grain at all. In fact, the seeds are more like a cereal, which can be boiled in water like rice and dried and ground into flour. Not only is it high in protein, it's a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. For celiacs, quinoa flour is a gluten-free dream come true, and in the course of my research, have learned that it's considered acceptable Kosher for Passover fare.

Chocolate-quinoa-amaranth cake. (Kim O'Donnel)

The very savvy Bea Peltre, the blog mistress at La Tartine Gourmande, takes this clever choco-quin idea a step further with the addition of amaranth flour, made (similarly) from the seeds of this green leafy plant with Native American roots. If you're from or have traveled through the Caribbean, you may know amaranth as callaloo, in Mexico you may know it as quelite and in China, yin choy. I haven't asked Bea why she mixed the two, but I'm thinking it's because amaranth flour has a milder aroma and sweeter flavor than quinoa flour, which is somewhat malty and, on the tongue, slightly crunchy.

Like quinoa, amaranth is gluten free. Because of its chemical makeup, it would seem Passover-possible. However, I have not found an authoritative decision on the matter to date. If you know more, please share in the comments area below.

The cake results are delightful, yielding a brownie-style loaf that earns high marks for its chocolate-y intensity. Because it's not super sweet, it works well for breakfast, particularly if sliced thin, and I think this might be a beautiful mid-afternoon Passover snack with coffee.

In the recipe, below, you'll see my note about the use of butter versus Earth Balance non-dairy spread, but I'll leave those details for you to ponder and decide if this is appropriate for your family during Passover. Whatever you decide, give this one a whirl at some point. It's got me inspired to do more baking with these terrific alternative flours.

Merci, Bea!

Today's Eco-Bite: King Corn, a documentary that ran the indie theater circuit last fall, is coming to your television screens this week. As part of PBS's "Independent Lens" programming, "King Corn" will air tomorrow, April 15, at 10 p.m. ET on Washington public television network, WETA, and rebroadcast next week. Check PBS for listings in your area.

Amaranth, Quinoa and Dark Chocolate Cake

From Beatrice Peltre's blog La Tartine Gourmande

4 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, about 70 percent
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
(KOD note: I used equal amounts of Earth Balance spread, which is non-dairy and certified Kosher, but alas, because of its soybean oil content, is not Kosher for Passover for Ashkenazi Jews, who do not eat kitniyot, which includes beans and legumes, during Passover... although I've been told derivatives of kitniyot are okay for some. Use as you see fit.)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons amaranth flour (1 ounce)
3 tablespoons quinoa flour (1 ounce)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup pecans, chopped coarsely (1 ounce)
3 eggs
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a rectangular loaf pan (about "2 x 7 3/4") and line it with parchment paper.

Melt chocolate with the butter (or non-dairy spread) in a double-boiler (or a bowl placed on top of a pot full of simmering water).

Separate egg yolks from whites.

Beat yolks with sugar and vanilla until very light in color.
Add the melted chocolate to yolk mixture and mix until well incorporated. Add nuts and flours to batter until smooth in texture.

Add a pinch of salt to egg whites and beat them until you have stiff peaks. Gently fold into cake batter, making sure not to overmix and deflate. (Check out this great egg white-beating tutorial.)

Pour the batter in the mold and cook for about 45 minutes. Check if cake is done by inserting the blade of a knife or a skewer. It should come out almost dry, but not totally (the cake is moist).

Remove the cake and let cool slightly before unmolding. Let cool on a rack.

By Kim ODonnel |  April 14, 2008; 11:46 AM ET Baking , Gluten Free , Jewish Holidays
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Kim, this looks great! Any chance of getting your chickpea curry recipe that was mentioned last week?

Posted by: sava | April 14, 2008 12:25 PM

The first flourless cake I made eons ago was Maida Heatter's Queen Mother's Cake--made with ground almonds and eggs. Easy to make and delicious. (I don't know whether or not it is kosher, tho.)

* * * * *

There have been a lot of posts asking about Kim's chickpea curry recipe. I'm sure Kim's recipe is fab, but until she gets time to share it with us, you can just try Googling "chickpea curry" and you'll get a ton of other recipes to look through and try in the meantime.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 1:24 PM

wow, that's some incredible computer skill you offer there, anon. maybe folks actually want kim's, instead of an anonymous one that they don't trust from the internet.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 1:40 PM

goodness, now we have to badger Kim because she mentioned that she might give us a chickpea curry recipe at some point in time. Get real, people, she provides a wonderful service, but she does not work for us. thank you

Posted by: dc | April 14, 2008 2:16 PM

thanks for this recipe -- sounds great. any suggestions for the rest of the flours? even if i buy the smallest bags, using only 3 tablespoons means i'll have a lot left.

Posted by: Beach girl | April 14, 2008 2:21 PM

This looks really interesting! I would like to try making this for my wheat-allergic daughter, but she's also allergic to eggs (makes baking rather challenging). Do you think the eggs are too integral to this recipe for me to try substituting flax meal? 3 eggs seems like a lot to sub for...

Posted by: va | April 14, 2008 2:35 PM

Hello Kim,

Thanks so much for trying my recipe. Needless to say that I am delighted, and honored, to read that you enjoyed the cake as well. I love the information you give about the grains too. I cannot thank you enough for spreading the word about baking with alternative flours. They are really wonderful, healthful and give great taste, and texture to baked goods. Yesterday for example, I made another chocolate cake with teff flour and almond butter: scrumptious!

Merci encore!

Posted by: bea at La tartine gourmande | April 14, 2008 3:12 PM

I second the question about egg replacement! Kim, if you have any insight I'd really appreciate it. Thanks so much

Posted by: Baltimore | April 14, 2008 3:16 PM

Baltimore, Va.: Tweaking this recipe to make egg-free would require some time back in the kitchen, so I'm afraid I don't have an answer for you on the spot. May I suggest you contact Jules Shepard, the GF baker in Maryland I've written about? She does a lot more egg-free experimentation than I do. She can be reached at
Bea, thanks for stopping by and saying hello! Please keep me posted of your alternative flour-adventuring.
Beach girl: I just spotted a recipe for quinoa-corn muffins from Ania Catalano's new book on baking with agave nectar. Promise to post it this week. Any other quinoa baking ideas are most welcome, by the way.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 14, 2008 4:20 PM

"Quinoa was determined to be Kosher L'Pesach. It is not related to the chameishes minei dagan-five types of grain products, nor to millet or rice. Quinoa is a member of the "goose foot" family, which includes sugar beets and beet root. The Star-K tested quinoa to see if it would rise. The result was as Chazal termed, sirchon; the quinoa decayed - it did not rise. Furthermore, quinoa does not grow in the vicinity of chometz, nor does its growth resemble kitniyos (see Igros Moshe O.C. Vol. 3, 63). Therefore, quinoa is 100% Kosher L'Pesach. It is recommended to purchase from manufacturers that do not process Chometz grains. Consumers are urged to carefully check grains before Pesach for extraneous matter."

Posted by: Cathy | April 14, 2008 4:33 PM

It didn't seem that the comment about alternate chickpea curry recipes was meant unkindly. Kim promised to post her recipe, and there have been a number of "reminders" for her in the weekly chat and blog since then so I'm sure she hasn't forgotten. But she's had a lot of other questions, not to mention the aftermath of the "roti" rage--which I *think* was all the poster was trying to delicately point out.

Wonderful GF recipe today. The cake looks so dense and moist!

Posted by: alex | April 14, 2008 5:39 PM

Hi Kim,

I just wanted to tell you I got selected to be on Emeril Green!! I read your blog just about every day and found out through your post of it. I made sure to tell them so, when they asked how I learned of it.

Needless to say, I'm super excited and can't wait!



Posted by: FlaNBoyant Eats | April 14, 2008 8:08 PM

Hi Kim!

Thanks for this great post and the highlight on Bea's blog. She's a true artist: in the kitchen and behind her camera.
Quinoa flour has a great and warm taste, I used it in muffins:


Posted by: Babeth | April 16, 2008 8:56 AM

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