Once upon a time, I had a craving for a coffee cake. I wanted something cake like, I wanted it to be olive oil based, and I didn’t want it to be too sweet. I scoured the internet and my cookbook collection and found something suitable only to discover we were nearly out of flour. And thus, this olive oil chickpea chocolate cake was born. You can just skip to the recipe card here.
There’s a few odd ones in here. Let’s look at the specifics of them, shall we?
Olive oil has just enough saturated fat to provide its own structure, especially when well beaten with eggs and sugar. This particular recipe we developed only uses a half a cup of sugar in total, which isn’t much, but, it’s enough to really force air into the olive oil and eggs when beaten together. Don’t skip this step. This is what makes a cake light and fluffy. Yes, you can use extra virgin olive oil. In fact, I encourage it. The flavor and texture that result from using olive oil in baking have no comparison. Just give it a try.
How to use it
This is the real star of the show. I’ll just say chickpea flour, or garam, is literally ground up dried chickpeas or garbanzo beans. It’s actually been used in some cuisines for quite some time – it’s not a new-fangled healfh-food thing (though, I’ll admit, that’s how I first discovered its use in the kitchen). You can read more about the use of chickpea flour on Wikipedia, or, even better, head to your local library, and go down that rabbit hole if you like. Here though, I’ll just mention chickpea flour needs to hydrate. I feature it both in this cake and in my waffles. Most recipes can use chickpea flour 1:1 instead of all purpose or whole wheat flour. There is a trick to it though: let the flour hydrate. Without sufficient hydration time, the end product will have a grainy, unpleasant mouthfeel.
Whenever you’re hydrating a flour in a recipe using baking soda (as this one does), take a minute to consider how and when the baking soda is activated. Baking soda reacts with an acid to produce carbon dioxide, which allows the bread to rise. Because the chickpea flour must hydrate, I don’t add the acid (apple cider vinegar) until right before pouring the batter into the baking pan.This ensures the baking soda is working when I want it to and not spent before the cake is baked and thus has more structure built into it.
Where to find chickpea flour
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I find my chickpea flour at all of my favorite grocery stores with the gluten-free flours. It may also be hanging out with specialty flours (not just gluten free), or in the ethnic aisle. If your favorite grocery store doesn’t carry it, you might try your local Asian or Middle Eastern Market. If you can’t find it locally, you can order it online. My favorite producer is Bob’s Red Mill. Alternatively, you can buy some dried chickpeas and pulverize them into a flour. Gemma from Bigger Bolder Baking has an amazing tutorial on doing just that right here.
I’m including this because there’s just not very much in here for a cake. The sugar content is just enough to balance out the bitter chocolate, and no more. We even eat this for breakfast with a bit of yogurt on top. Yep. I said breakfast. You can go ahead and put it on your plan today.
Depending on where you find/buy this spice mix, it may contain varying spices. However, most will have cumin, coriander, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg in some varying proportion. It’s really quite delightful. I highly encourage stocking this in your kitchen regularly.
The easy one is the flour. Yes, you absolutely can use all purpose flour instead of chickpea flour. You can also use whole wheat flour. I haven’t tested this with almond meal or hazelnut meal, but, I’d wager this would work out okay, too. The other easy one is the garam masala. You can use just cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, a blend of your favorite spices, or even omit it entirely.
If you’re here regularly, you know that we don’t have dairy or egg sensitivities in our house. As a result, these substitutions are harder for me to recommend. That being said, replacing the milk with your favorite non-dairy beverage of choice will probably work out just fine – just make sure its unsweetened. And the yogurt can be switched out for your favorite non-dairy yogurt. For replacing eggs, I would start with the applesauce trick.
There’s not much that’s flat-out optional in this cake. Of course, you can always omit the spices. However, I would encourage a substitution over an omission for a more well-rounded cake.