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No.124 Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes

Applied Health Journal

Applied Health Journal

Topics of Health and Natural Healing
Issue 124
ISSN: 1525-6359

Flourless Chocolate Quinoa Cake & Cupcakes

chocolate quinoa cupcakes

Flourless Chocolate Quinoa Cake & Cupcakes

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is often referred to as a grain although other sources classify it as a seed. Botanically it is the fruit of a broadleaf plant in the same family as spinach and beets.

What's great about quinoa?

Quinoa is rich in potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and contains more iron than any other grain. It contains 50% more protein than other grains. (As a percentage of total calories, 12% to 18% of the calories in quinoa come from protein.) Unlike corn, wheat, and most other grains, which are missing the amino acid lysine, making their protein incomplete, quinoa is considered a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids. The World Health Organization rates quinoa’s protein quality on a par with that of milk.

Washing for success

Before cooking, quinoa seeds should be rinsed to remove the saponin, a bitter resin-like coating that helps discourage birds and insects from eating it. Saponins can irritate the lining of your intestines and leave a bitter aftertaste if not removed. Quinoa is often rinsed before it is packaged and sold; still, I suggest a thorough rinse at home. The presence of saponin is obvious by the production of soapy looking "suds" you will see when you swish the quinoa seeds in water before pouring them through a fine mesh strainer and rinsing until the water runs clear.

Quinoa in cake?

It sounds strange but it works. For this recipe, cooked quinoa is pureed with the fat or oil, sweetener, and eggs in the recipe to make a smooth batter. You shouldn’t see any trace of the quinoa seed in the final batter. For this you will need a blender, Vita-Mix, or food processor.

Prep: 30 minutes   Cooking: 22 to 45 minutes Yield: 2 (9-inch) rounds or 24 cupcakes

This recipe for Moist Chocolate Cake comes from the book Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming (Whitecap Press, 2010). I converted the sugar in the original recipe to palm sugar. I added the variation for using honey as well as for other fat and oil sources and the soaking option. I also added the frosting, which I think makes the cake. It makes great cupcakes!

Note: The version of this recipe I found on line called for cooking the quinoa in 2 cups of water. The original recipe in the quinoa cookbook called for 1 1/3 cups water, which I only recently discovered. I have not tried making the recipe with quinoa cooked with less water. If you do this, reduce the cooking time to 10 minutes.


2/3 cup uncooked white or golden quinoa, uncooked

2 cups water 

1/3 cup milk or unsweetened nut milk; omit if using honey

4 large eggs or 6 small to medium-size eggs* 

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled or substitute non-hydrogenated palm shortening* or avocado oil* 

1 1/2 cups white or cane sugar or substitute coconut palm sugar* or see honey* variation below

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoon non-aluminum baking powder 

1/2 teaspoon baking soda 

1/2 teaspoon finely ground unrefined sea salt (Redmond Real Salt* or Celtic Sea Salt*)

  1. Place the quinoa in a bowl. Add water to cover it then swish it around and pick up a handful of grain at a time, rubbing it between your palms. Repeat several times, then pour the quinoa through a fine mesh strainer and rinse it until the water runs clear.
  2. Combine the quinoa with 2 cups of water (for cooking). If possible, leave the quinoa to soak, uncovered, at room temperature for 2 to 8 hours or overnight. 
  3. To cook, bring the soaked or unsoaked quinoa and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes (reduce to 10 minutes if using 2/3 cup quinoa and 1 1/3 cups water above). Turn off the heat and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for another 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow the quinoa to cool.
  4. Melt the butter (or other fat or oil) and allow to cool unless you’ve had it sitting at room temp for several hours and it feels soft.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two 8-inch round or square cake pans (see variations below for cupcakes). Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and grease again.
  6. Combine the milk, eggs and vanilla in a blender or food processor. Add 2 cups of cooked quinoa and the butter (or other fat or oil) and continue to blend until smooth and creamy, like pudding, with no discernable grains of quinoa. You’ll need to stop the blender and scrape the sides several times. If using honey in place of sugar, add it to the blender or food processor now and blend again.
  7. Combine the sugar (if using), cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add the contents of the blender or food processor and mix well, stopping to scrape the sides with a spatula.
  8. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake on the center rack of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes (until a knife or skewer inserted comes out clean).  Remove cakes from oven and cool completely in the pans before removing and serving.  You could make a two layer cake with frosting or just serve each cake as is.
  • To use honey in place of sugar: Omit the sugar. Add 3/4 cup honey + 1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract powder or clear stevia extract liquid and omit the milk, and then reduce the baking powder to 1 teaspoon, and increase the baking soda to 1 teaspoon. 
  • Flourless Quinoa Chocolate Cupcakes: Bake for approximately 20 to 24 minutes or until the cupcakes test done with a toothpick.
Healthy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting 
Prep: 15 to 20 minutes Yield: enough to frost two 8- to 9-inch layer cakes
This is a variation on a recipe Lauren Benning posted on her blog, HealthyIndulgences. I changed the sweetener and the milk.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened or 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated palm shortening (I use Spectrum or Tropical Traditions palm shortening)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons palm sugar, or slightly more as/if needed
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 cup unsweetened plain or vanilla almond milk or unsweetened canned or aseptic coconut milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon finely ground, unrefined sea salt (I use Redmond Real Salt or Celtic Sea Salt)
1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract liquid (plain or vanilla flavored); double if desired
  1. Cream the butter or palm shortening in a small bowl until fluffy. 
  2. Powder the palm sugar in a coffee grinder or Magic Bullet for a minute or two, until extremely fine in texture (reminiscent of powdered sugar). Let sweetener settle in grinder before opening the top, then pour out and measure what you need. 
  3. Stir powdered sweetener into butter/shortening with a spatula, then beat until smooth. 
  4. Slowly blend in the cocoa powder (unless you want to redecorate your kitchen), vanilla, and sea salt. Beat in the milk. Add stevia, starting with 1/8 teaspoon. You'll probably use less than 1/2 teaspoon. Just keep tasting and adjusting the sweetness to your liking.
  5. Frost cake and serve or cover. Refrigerate any unused frosting and allow it to come to room temperature and soften before using.


Chef Rachel

The Healthy Cooking Coach

 Chef Rachel Albert is a natural foods chef, cooking instructor, freelance food and health writer, healthy cooking coach, author, speaker, blogger, and food lover. Learn how you can cook up a healthier, more productive -- and delicious -- life by following the tips and techniques in her cooking classes, cooking parties, easy-to-follow cookbooks, one-on-one coaching, magazine articles, or her blog. Learn more about Chef Rachel at The Healthy Cooking Coach.

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