Ok, before we imaginary plunge our faces into this amazingly moist, fudgey, dense and deeply richly chocolatey cake, I want to take a moment (or a thousand, probably) to talk about something kind of serious.
As many of you know, I’m a social worker. This means that I spend all day trying not to judge people and “meeting them where they are”: emotionally, physically, and socially. For the most part, this comes fairly naturally to me (although if ‘dark humour’ were a criminal offence, most social workers would be sentenced to life, amirite?), but since I’m human before & after I am a social worker, I also definitely have moments/days/months/years (jk?) when I am privately frustrated, annoyed, and exhausted about humans and all of our so many millions of never-ending PROBLEMS.
This is why you so often hear about “compassion fatigue” and “burnout” among social workers, nurses, personal care workers, and other health professionals. Like a protective callous slowly developing over your heart, as much as you might inherently have empathy for others, eventually you can become desensitized to the sensitivities of others. It sounds cold, but it’s actually adaptive, in a way. It’s how we survive.
That, and drinking.
(Jk, but also seriously, my job is at least 50% why I spend all of my evenings watching Food Network and avoiding humans whilst burying myself in dogs).
Anyway, fortunately, people in helping professions are also encouraged relentlessly to be reflective, to mind their privilege, and to cultivate self-awareness in order to set aside the biases inherent to the social position they occupy. Therefore, it isn’t difficult for me to admit that I can be an insensitive dink at times.
One of my more powerful and recent “dink lightbulb” moments occurred in regard to people with “gluten sensitivity”. For quite a while, in my mind, it was just that – a faux diagnosis shrouded in air quotes. Food allergies, thankfully, have never been part of my medical repertoire (imaginary or otherwise). I generally have a very sturdy digestive system and don’t have any real intolerances as far as eating goes. I also get really irritated by the fad diet industry and its exploitation of our vulnerabilities; I hate seeing otherwise very intelligent and rational people (women, mostly) getting swept away in its claws. Thus, I am pretty critical/rational about the politics of eating. Whereas issues like severe nut allergies (e.g., anaphylaxis) have always seemed blatantly serious (because: death), other sensitivities (gluten, lactose, etc) seemed to me like they could be taken as more of a “suggestion” than a legitimate medical intolerance.
Sure, you might get a tummy ache, but how much could a few tablespoons of flour really hurt you?
That was my attitude: I was dismissive at best, and at worst, defiant. I was almost weirdly determined to prove that gluten intolerance wasn’t a thing, even though it had zero impact on my life either way.
Then I met Laura: A tiny, adorable, feisty (okay it now sounds like I’m describing a kitten, but I swear she is a human), kind, loving, free-spirited, open-minded and inside/outside beautiful (ALSO: SINGLE! #callher) social worker who came to work with me for a year.
Almost immediately, Laura disclosed that she was gluten intolerant.
Almost immediately, I was annoyed.
I’ve always loved baking and bringing samples to my coworkers, as a form of therapeutic self care. But now I would have to make sure that nothing I baked contained wheat. (And heads up, wheat is in like, everybakedthaaang). I was going to have to research new recipes. I was going to have to buy super expensive weird flour blends and that creepy “gum” stuff that’s supposed to make things taste like they have Normal Flour in them, but is not actually effective.
All my baked goods were going to taste like sand, you guys.
As a result, I got reactive. It was as if I was the one who would have to deal with the agonizing consequences if gluten even so much as graced my lips. Not in a super aggressive way – but probably in a noticeable way – I feel that I pushed Laura, at times. I found myself verbally asking out loud, things like “What does gluten actually do to your body, though? Like what are your symptoms?” with a certain tone, as though a) she owed me any justification for her illness or b) somehow she had to be at risk of immediately dying for it to register as an actual problem.
But in her own special abrupt yet gentle way, she helped me see the light. She talked about joint pain, energy levels, how gluten even affected her mental health and her whole immune system and her organs and basically allthethings in her life.
Slowly, I began to understand. This was a real thang.
Slowly, I found recipes that we could all enjoy (but then she would complain about sugar being toxic – #eyeroll ;)).
And then, one day, this cake.
I don’t even remember how I discovered it, but it was a game changer.
Even people who adore gluten LOVED. IT.
…even more than Normal Chocolate Cake.
…Which I don’t even make anymore, because this cake is actually all you need. In life. Ever.
Forget money. Forget relationships. Eat this cake instead of all those things.
Not only does it not have any gluten; it doesn’t require any expensive flour blends or xanthan gum.
But it’s so dense and moist and deeply chocolatey, you insist. What’s the secret ingredient?
Well it’s already in the title so there’s no point in furthering the dramatic pause.
It’s quinoa, y’all.
As in, cooked quinoa.
That stuff that looks like little ball-shaped rice and has a bunch of protein in it.
All blended up to heck with other wholesome ingredients like coconut oil and cocoa powder (and sugar).
Quinoa cake for sister. Aka gluten lover.
Quinoa cake for departing colleague. Gluten lover from another mother.
Quinoa cake for lady pimp. Probably enjoys gluten.
Quinoa cake for lit-rally everyone.
Get it in you.
Also, peanut butter frosting. Is kind of my go-to for this cake.
But it’s also amazing with chocolate fudge frosting.
…Peanut butter chocolate ganache.
…Chocolate Mint ganache.
…coconut cream frosting
Recipe adapted from: Making Thyme For Health
- 2 cups cooked quinoa*
- 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk (or preferred milk)
- 4 whole eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
- 1 cup white sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- *about 3/4 cup dry quinoa = 2 cups cooked. Make sure to rinse the quinoa before cooking. Don't skimp on water - you want the final quinoa to be fluffy/moist & not at all crunchy. Add a bit more water than called for, if you're unsure. Let quinoa cool before using in the cake.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and then line two round cake pans (or a 9x13” pan) with parchment paper.
- In a food processor, combine the eggs, almond milk (or preferred milk) and vanilla extract then blend for ten seconds to combine.
- Add the cooked and cooled quinoa along with the melted and cooled butter and coconut oil (could also use all regular butter) then blend until completely smooth, about thirty seconds to one minute.
- Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl (cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and alt).
- Add the wet ingredients in the blender to the bowl with the dry and mix together until well-combined.
- Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool. Frost as desired. (For peanut butter frosting: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/84429/fluffy-peanut-butter-frosting/)