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I needed to make a birthday cake this past weekend and wanted to try something different. I found this recipe in Lorna Sass’s Whole Grains Every Day Every Way cookbook. I have never used cooked quinoa in a baking recipe before and was really surprised at how versatile this grain is. If you don’t like crystallized ginger you can add raisons or any other dried fruit, or none at all. Normally I don’t ice my cakes but as this was a birthday cake, I thought it would look more festive and decadent with some extra sweetness. I iced the cake with a simple Betty Crocker cream cheese frosting and included the recipe below.

Quinoa Cake with Crystalized Ginger

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1 cup spelt flour, plus more for the pan (or substitute with your flour of choice)

1 cup packed brown sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup coarsely chopped Brazil nuts, toasted (or walnuts or pecans)

4 to 6 tablespoons coarsely chopped crystalized ginger, to taste

1/2 cup golden raisons

3 large eggs

1/2 cup orange juice

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing the pan

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the quinoa and cook until the grains are translucent and tender (there should be a white dot of uncooked starch at the center), 11 to 14 minutes. Drain thoroughly in a fine-meshed strainer. Spread the quinoa out on a large platter to cool.

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Butter and lightly flour a rectangular baking pan that measures 11 by 7 inches. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, salt, nuts, ginger and raisons.

In a small bowl, combine the eggs, orange juice, butter and vanilla extract. Stir the liquid ingredients and the quinoa into the dry ingredients until just blended. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of pan. Rotate the pan halfway through for more even baking.

Set the pan on a cooling rack. When cool, cut into squares and serve. Note: I used two round cake tins and iced this as a birthday cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, milk and vanilla in medium bowl on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until smooth and of spreading consistency. Frosts a 13 x 9 inch cake or fills and frosts two 8- or 9- inch cake layers. Refrigerate any remaining frosting.


Sass, L. (2006). Whole Grains Every Day Every Way. New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers.

Zeman, A. (1991). Betty Crocker’s 40th Anniversary Edition Cookbook. New York: Prentice Hall.