Michael Atanasio, manager of food and nutrition at Overlook Medical Center, says he likes “to challenge people in terms of thought and creativity.” He certainly put his chef, Todd Daigenault, to the test when he asked him to come up with a cake that could be made healthier with the addition of quinoa. But the chef came through with not one but two versions, including the recipe found below. “While we were revising the patient menu, my chief clinical dietitian and I wanted to do something different with desserts,” Atanasio explains. “So I asked Todd what he might be able to do with quinoa. He didn’t disappoint, and the cakes have really gained popularity.” He admits the cakes aren’t fat free, but the quinoa does add a tasty benefit to dessert. The cakes are now being produced by a local bakery, which bakes them and portions them into clamshells for sale “much cheaper than we could do here.” Atanasio adds that Daigenault is experimenting with a gluten-free version by using chickpea flour.
3 cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
4 oz. cooked red quinoa
¼ cup blueberries
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and line with parchment paper two 9-by-4-inch round pans.
2. In medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Cut butter into 1-inch pieces and place in large bowl of electric mixer, fitted with paddle attachment or beaters. Beat for 3 minutes of medium-high speed until butter is light and creamy in color. Stop and scrape bowl, them cream butter for additional 60 seconds.
4. Add sugar, ¼ cup at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Scrape sides of bowl occasionally. Add eggs one at a time.
5. Reduce mixer speed. Stir vanilla into buttermilk. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape sides of bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer. When batter is complete, gently fold in quinoa and fresh blueberries into batter.
6. Spoon batter into prepared pans and smooth tops with knife. Lift pans and let batter drop onto counter lightly to burst any air bubbles. Allow batter to settle.
7. Center pans onto lower third of oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until cake is lightly browned.