When I was pregnant with our second child, my husband wanted to bake me a cake for my birthday. Our first child (then three) wanted it to be chocolate. Normally, there’s minimal consideration on our part as to what to do. In a normal year, Sam would have pulled out our favorite cake recipe from King Arthur Flour’s whole grain cookbook (that’s a treasure trove in and of itself, and I’ll come back to it another day), whipped up some buttercream frosting, and called it a day.
Pregnancy, however, did a number on me. With gestational diabetes, my options were limited. And I was always a stickler to the diet – even when the morning sickness was so bad all I could stomach to eat was crackers (Sam did find some high protein/low carb cracker recipes for me), olives, and steak. I kept to the low-carb GD diet because it was better for me, and better for the baby.
With these special needs in mind, Sam went hunting for a cake recipe that could work. He needed a recipe that used minimal sugar and higher protein content than the average wheat-based cake. Though we have nothing against gluten in our home, he started by looking at gluten free and paleo recipes as they limit the wheat.
Let me tell you a little secret about gluten free recipes: the carb contents are often astronomical. The recipes rely on rice flour and potato starch, which increases the carb count. And the paleo recipes tend to rely on almond meal (flour), which, if used intentionally, can make a delicious, dense cake with an almost fudge-like mouth feel. But, if the almond meal is just replacing good old fashioned all-purpose or even whole wheat flour, the results are disastrous; almonds are primarily protein and fat, and don’t absorb liquid like a startch does. Plus, you can’t share the cake with your friends with nut allergies.
Sam, ever-devoted and stubborn to the core, kept digging for something that wasn’t anything we’d seen before. And, somehow, he found it: Making Thyme for Health’s Best Ever Chocolate Quinoa Cake. He showed it to me when I got home from work. We were both a bit skeptical. The instructions call for cooking whole-grain quinoa, cooling it, and tossing it in the food processor or blender with eggs, oil, sugar, baking soda, and milk. We thought this would create a rather wet batter that would be too dense and fall apart. We also had no idea what to expect for mouth-feel.
We shrugged our shoulders and decided to go for it. Worst case scenario: we could always have a small serving of ice cream.
Sam got to work. He cut the sugar quantity in half and reduced the milk content as well (reduce a dry ingredient and you either need to reduce liquid or increase another dry ingredient). He also used cow’s milk instead of almond or coconut. Otherwise, he followed the recipe.
And the cake was perfect. It was rich, fluffy, and didn’t send my blood sugars sky rocketing. The thing rose just like an all-purpose cake. And it didn’t fall apart upon cutting into it
We’ve sense made the cake at least a few times a year since he first found it in 2015. We’ve made it with the amount of sugar the recipe calls for (it’s quite sweet this way, but, not over-done), with butter instead of coconut oil. We’ve event tried it without the chocolate. It doesn’t quite work. The mouthfeel breaks down, and, you can indeed tell that the cake is made with something other than good old fashioned whole wheat.
We’re not a vegan family, and eggs are a pretty big part of our diet. However, I have recommended the recipe to others who are vegan and/or have an egg allergy or intolerance to work with, and, it’s worked out quite well with the good old fashioned applesauce replacement.
I really really love this cake. I can’t say enough good things about it. It does take a little bit more prep and planning, because, well, the quinoa must be cooked and cooled in advance. However, this can be easily done several days in advance.
Tell me, do you have a favorite replacement or different recipe? Share below in the comments. We may try it out.
As always, I’m not a doctor or dietitian, nor do I play one on TV or in real life. Always consult with your medical professionals before changing your diet or relying on words from people on the internet.