Chocolate quinoa cake

I was inspired to make this cake after watching a recent episode of BBC1’s Country File. It was featured by a farmer growing quinoa in the UK and evidently succeeding. The culmination of the clip was the said farmer and presenter enjoying a slice of his gluten free chocolate quinoa cake.  I had hoped the recipe would be featured on the Country File website but not so.  A bit of searching on ‘tinternet revealed a number of recipes which, on a closer look, were actually all the same recipe and all in US quantity measurements. A recipe with metric quantities was definitely needed.  So here is is.  And it’s a cracker …



Ingredients for the cake:

160g quinoa, uncooked weight (should amount to approx. 450g cooked weight)
325 ml water
100 ml milk
4 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
150g butter, melted and cooled
300g golden caster sugar
120g cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ salt

Ingredients for the decoration (optional):

This ganache has more cream to chocolate than a ‘traditional’ dark chocolate ganache (which tends to have equal quantities of chocolate to cream) and also uses double cream (instead of whipping cream).  The result of the chocolate to cream ratio and the use of double cream is that the ganache won’t set firm like a traditional ganache but thickens to be nicely spreadable as a frosting onto the cake.  If you use whipping cream it won’t thicken enough.

As the ganache will take several hours to thicken and set, I recommend you make it first or even the day before.

This quantity is enough to frost the sides of the cake too as in the picture.  If you only want to do the middle and top, then reduce the ganache cream and chocolate quantities by a third.  Please note I haven’t included instructions or ingredients to make the chocolate twirls I used to decorate mine.

450ml double cream
270g chocolate – 170g dark & 100g of milk
180g full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
180g white chocolate



1.  Start with the ganache.  You can make this the day before as it will take several hours to thicken and set before you can use it.  Heat the cream to just boiling in a small saucepan.  Decant to a plastic bowl and set aside to cool to 38°C.  When the cream is about 45°C, you can start melting the chocolate.  Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place into a plastic bowl and gently melt in the microwave on short bursts of power until it is 32°C. Or you can melt it in a bain-marie but don’t use a glass bowl as it retains the heat too much.  Use either a stainless steel bowl or heat proof plastic bowl.

Tip:  The reason for the temperature of the cream and the chocolate is that chocolate doesn’t like temperature shocks.  The ganache will be more stable and less likely to split on mixing if the temperature of the cream and chocolate are close together.  

2.  When the cream and chocolate reach their target temperatures, pour the cream into the melted chocolate. Mix gently until the cream and chocolate is fully incorporated.  Cover with cling film so that it is touching the surface of the ganache and leave to cool at room temperature until it thickens.  NB:  This can take several hours.  I always leave my ganache to set overnight on the kitchen counter. Avoid putting it in the fridge as this can cause lumps when you mix it and will result in an uneven finish on your cake.

3.     Now make the cake.  Rinse the quinoa using a fine meshed sieve.  Put in a medium saucepan with the cold water.  Bring the quinoa and water to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the covered saucepan on the hob for another 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork to loosen.  Weight up 450g into a plastic bowl and set aside to allow the quinoa to cool.

4.    Melt the butter on a low heat and leave to cool.

5.    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease & line the bottom of two 20 cm round cake tins with parchment paper.

6.    Combine the milk, eggs and vanilla in a blender or food processor. Add the cooled 450g of cooked quinoa and the melted butter and continue to blend until smooth.

7.    Sieve together the sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and stir until well combined.

8.    Add to the contents of the blender and mix well.

9.    Divide the mixture evenly between the 2 tins and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

10.    Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely in the tins before turning out.

Tip:  You can freeze the sponges at this point.

11.    When the cake is fully cooled frost and decorate as desired.  If frosting the sides, follow the instructions I provide here about first applying a ‘crumb’ layer to ensure a smooth and crumb free finish.

12.  If making the cream cheese frosting, ensure the cream cheese is at room temperature before using otherwise the white chocolate will seize when combined with it.  Beat the cream cheese in a bowl for a few minutes until smooth (I use an electric hand beater for this).  Melt the white chocolate in a heat proof bowl (not glass) either on a bain marie or in the microwave.  Gradually add the chocolate to the cream cheese beating after each addition until smooth and fully incorporated.  Pipe onto the cake as desired.






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